Experience diversity, culture, and service by becoming a humanitarian


By: Gabriella Gonzalez

University of Utah Student and former Youthlinc participant, Jacob Draper, who has completed two humanitarian trips, Draper said he wanted to become involved in humanitarian work so he could help others.

In an email interview Draper said, “I have always been taught to be grateful for what I have. I know that I have more opportunities than many other people in the world, so I wanted to give back a little of what I have been given.”

Aside from doing good service that’s associated with humanitarian trips, there has been controversy about if international humanitarian trips cause harm. An article from The Guardian, by Ian Birrell talks about the potential harm of these trips. One concern is, “westerners take pity on the children and end up creating a grotesque market that capitalizes on their concerns.”

However Youthlinc, A Utah-based Humanitarian group, that’s headquartered in Salt Lake City, organization’s mission statement is to “create lifetime humanitarians” not just to send people off on a trip and never expect them to do service again.

Youthlinc director Judy Zone, in a recent email interview, states why she thinks Youthlinc is different than the other Utah humanitarian groups (Youth Making A Difference (YMAD), Humanitarian Experience for Youth (HEFY), and Choice Humanitarian just to name a few), and why youth should consider a humanitarian trip. “Youthlinc requires 80 hours of local service, and attendance at monthly meetings during the school year where students work with mentors to actually plan- and then implement – a wide variety of service initiatives.” Youthlinc’s mission is to “create lifetime humanitarians.” Youthlinc’s website states the program’s vision:  “Youthlinc invests in the service ethic of youth in order to foster individuals in our society who understand local and global needs, and who are deeply committed to work to relieve those needs through personal service, partnership, and good will.”

Zone created Youthlinc because of a trip she went on with her daughter to Kenya. Zone was inspired seeing “a young person make the connections between local needs and international needs.” The next year she worked on creating Youthlinc. She knew she had to create a program that had a  “curriculum based in research in what works to engage students, create leaders, and lifetime humanitarians.”

Youthlinc started as a small group but grew to have hundreds of service students traveling each year to Madagascar, Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, Thailand and Nepal. Each member of the teams are required to apply for Youthlinc, be accepted and attend mandatory monthly meetings during the school year, and complete 80 hours of local service before they embark on their international service trip. Forty of the 80 hours have to be performed at the same location, and 40 of the service hours can be miscellaneous service.

Youthlinc teams perform different construction service projects in each country such as one team might build a fence, while another team builds a kitchen and clean water systems for a school. But according to Youthlinc’s website, Youthlinc’s teams have committees that must do the following:

  • Construction Committee- all Youthlinc team members are a part of this committee and each location has different projects.
  • Community Health Committee- this committee teaches health lessons and donates medical supplies to the service site.
  • Education Committee- “gather supplies and plan and prepare lessons to be taught at primary and secondary schools.”
  • Cultural Exchange Committee- “plan activities to help the group understand and interact with the communities where [Youthlinc] serves.”
  • Business Development Committee- teaches basic business and helps create a small business that will benefit the community.
  • Vocational Training Committee- “teach various skills—sewing, baking, barbering, computer skills – as requested by villagers.”

Draper shared his favorite service projects the team did while he was a part of the Thailand June 2014 team and Nepal 2015 team.

Draper said in Thailand his “favorite project was doing the home visits and seeing exactly how the people lived, and helping paint and reconstruct the playground at a local Thai school.”

Home visits are called “cultural exchange” on the Youthlinc website. The website states that the reason Youthlinc does the cultural exchange is because Youthlinc “encourages [their] young people to learn about the culture and society through structured and casual interaction with people.”

Youthlinc also “encourage[s] the Cultural Exchange to oversee Cultural Conversations, or dialogues that take place within the homes of the villagers. Through the process of having cultural conversations—or interviews – [Youthlinc’s] team members are able to powerfully connect and find commonalities with, learn from and honor the people they will be serving.”

Draper’s favorite service project in Nepal “was hauling rocks to build a rock wall. It doesn’t sound that fun but we were able to really bond as a team doing that because we were all singing and laughing together.”

Draper said he plans on going on another humanitarian trip with Youthlinc in the future.

Abi Scoma, a former Youthlinc participant and assistant team leader, in a recent email interview shared why Youthlinc is important to her.

“Youthlinc gave me an opportunity to be a leader, to be a giver and to most importantly to receive. To receive the goodness of those across the world, it changed my heart and made me better,” Scoma said, “I owe everything to Youthlinc and I am so grateful for it.”

Zone said one important thing participants should know before they apply to Youthlinc is, “That it’s a local and international service year, [participants] will gain valuable leadership and project management skills. This is not a program where you meet your teammates at the office and fly off not really knowing what you are going to do in country. The service year experience really does make you a lifetime humanitarian. And it is a lot of fun.”

Youthlinc offers a Young Humanitarian scholarship every year to a student who has shown and developed humanitarian attributes, and who has made a difference in their community. These scholarship applications are reviewed and narrowed down to a recipient of the scholarship.

Deanna Morley, a former judge for the scholarship said, “As I reviewed the applications for the Youthlinc Young Humanitarian Award, I was awed by the extensive hours of service and compassion that came of it. The passion that these young adults had drove them to go above and beyond community service. They are true leaders and examples of what we should strive to be in our lives.”


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