DRESDEN, TN – When Stacie Freeman and Julie Hill founded Global Citizen Adventure Corps one year ago, they wanted to offer travel service-learning experiences to their home communities in West Tennessee and throughout the Midsouth and Ohio Valley. They believed in partnering with international nonprofits to meet the needs as identified by those who lived in countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras. Serving alongside these partners, they knew, would be a cost too great for many of the students in the Title 1 schools and economically disadvantaged communities from which they hoped to draw participants. Establishing Global Citizen Adventure Corps as a nonprofit to offset the costs via scholarships and keeping travel costs low has meant more than 80 individuals have participated in the seven trips completed during school breaks this year.
In early October, the latest group of 12 GCAC participants returned from Honduras. There, they partnered with MDM Honduras, a nonprofit working in the San Matías community for the past 15 years. San Matías is a small community nestled in the mountains of Honduras about 30-40 minutes northwest of the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The 15 villages have a population of approximately 3500 people.
With members of the GCAC program hailing from South Fulton, Union City, Dresden, Gleason, Paris, Savannah, Charlotte, and Elmwood and including students, a doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, and business leaders, the opportunities for cultural exchange were vast.
Witnessing the scarcity of jobs alongside the existing ones averaging a daily wage of approximately $5, the group quickly understood that while they shared a rural background, the U.S. visitors knew little of the hardships of daily life in the mountains of Honduras.
As one GCAC-scholarshipped participant noted, “One thing that has really impacted me on this program is how welcoming and joyful the people here are, despite their circumstances. Back at home I am from what is considered a low-income household, but I never go without. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or if my phone will be cut off.”
“This is one reason I love serving,” she added. “I am so blessed and honored to be able to come to Honduras to be able to give people things that they need. I will always strive to help others, no matter my circumstances.”
During their six days in-country, the group divided their service hours between assisting with a clean water project and helping open a new medical clinic. They delivered 65 clean water kits to families, more than a quarter of the 200 delivered monthly, and saw 63 patients.
The kits included two buckets and a small filtration system and relied on gravity as the area water was poured in the top of the two buckets and then drained through the system to become clean water in the second.
The medical facility consists of two rooms with a concrete floor, metal roof, one exam table, a couple of small desks and some donated medications. But the simplicity of the conditions still represented a dream come true for the local doctor. Dr. Roxana Amador had dreamed of helping her community since she was 9 years old.
Opening day meant that Dr. Ray Compton of Paris; Carson Stover, an ER nurse in Union City; Misty Vanlandingham, a biology teacher from Dickson; and Amber Minton, the University of Tennessee at Martin head cheer and stunt coach and a member of Union City’s Crosswind Church (GCAC’s connection to MDM Honduras) had a full day of seeing patients, many of whom had walked for an hour or more.
Stover found clarity in the steady stream of doing intake and providing triage in what the group called the Medical Brigade.
“This experience in Honduras has helped solidify, not only my passion for service, but my desire to assist with the medical needs in poverty-stricken countries. I have been on several international mission/service trips, but GCAC has provided me with an amazing opportunity to serve the local people. This trip has reinforced my desire to be a medical doctor to not only serve my community but also the world. I now plan to take at least one, if not multiple trips, each year with GCAC.”
As co-leader with Freeman on this trip, Compton was laying the groundwork for returning in the lead role with future GCAC programs. He noted, “I’m taking home how much work needs to be done and how much has already been done.”
Freeman, who teaches the corresponding online course through Bethel University, providing the opportunity for students to receive transferable college credit when they sign on for GCAC programs, said the success of the nonprofit will depend on more individuals like Compton assuming similar leadership positions.
“To realize the dream that my co-founder Julie Hill and I have for GCAC to multiply in high schools and colleges across the south and Ohio Valley, to expand our reach into Europe and Africa, and to introduce more individuals to the power of changing perspectives and, quite possibly, life in our local communities, we need educators and others who share our passion to come along beside us,” she said. “We will model and walk with each one until they are ready to take the lead. We are looking forward to the day when our students graduate and return as global citizens ready to lead new students on a new adventure.”
Along with the service, additional experiences included Honduran dance lessons, learning how to make homemade tortillas, a historical and cultural walking tour of the first capital, and a visit to a National Park including a hike to a waterfall.
Before returning to the U.S., participants shared with Freeman their thoughts regarding the impact of the trip:
“When spending time in another country, you can quickly realize the difference between their community and your own. While working here these past few days I’ve gotten to get to know cultures I’d never expect to see and, at the same time, showing this community things we do in the States they wouldn’t think of. This helped us bond closer.” – Chloe Isbell, Bethel University student, Charlotte, TN
“Traveling widens your vision of yourself and the world, you gain new experiences, skills, friends, and lifelong memories. Serving people is a gift in itself. Not only are you helping people, but you know you did something that made a difference.” — Andrew Carpenter, Bethel University student, Savannah, TN
“I have learned that material items are less important than experiences. People want to be self-sufficient and want respect and dignity. These attributes are important in all cultures. It is important to learn from people of all walks of life. Everyone has something to teach and learn. I always learn more from those we try to help than they learn from us.” – LeAnne Moore, Dresden, TN
“It is important to meet and spend time with different types of people because they have a new outlook on life than we are used to. We learn through experience, so it is important to have experiences with other cultures to understand the world as a whole. The world is big and only experiencing small towns in the Southern USA is not enough to gain empathy for others in situations we haven’t seen.”
“This trip wasn’t to a glamorous resort or decadent cruise ship, but it was definitely the most beautiful trip I’ve ever been on. The people were so kind and full of praise despite the circumstances they are in, they gave me so much more than I could ever give.” — Violet Gillian, UTM student, Elmwood, TN
Global Citizen Adventure Corps is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating global citizens through education, service, and travel. By offering transferable college credit and donor-funded scholarships, GCAC actively builds pathways between rural high schools, universities, and a robust network of global nonprofit partners to provide travel program opportunities to underserved students. For more information visit http://www.globalcitizenadventurecorps.org.
When Dr. Roxana Amador (center) was 9 years old, she dreamed of opening a clinic to bring medical care to her Honduran mountain community of approximately 3500 people. Her dream came true in October and Global Citizen Adventure Corps program participants were there on opening day, assisting in diagnosing and caring for 63 patients, some of whom had walked an hour or more. Seen here are Carson Stover, an ER nurse from Union City, Dr. Ray Compton, a surgeon from Paris, TN), Roxana Amador (San Matias, Honduras), Misty Vanlandingham (Dickson, TN) and Amber Minton (Union City, TN).