Senior helps to Build classrooms in Service Trip to southern Africa

Valeria Silva , Special Sections Editor

“I really like serving and I really like traveling,” said Sarah Holden.

Franklin senior, Sarah Holden, traveled to Southern Africa and Mozambique to help build schools with the help of the Humanitarian Experience for Youth.

HEFY, which is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, is an organization that gives American volunteers the chance to help people in poverty

For the last 20 years, they have gone to multiple locations and provided people with access to healthcare, education, and social services.

HEFY’s mission is to change lives through service— the lives of the volunteers and the lives of the ones being served.

“[This whole experience] really made me feel blessed to live in the United States and to have simple things that [other people around the country may not have]: like AC, food, or an education,” Holden said.

Holden is very involved in the many activities that the school has to offer. She is Fusion Dance Company’s captain, part of the Spanish Honor Society, and is in the Compassion Club.

Since she is so involved in school, her interest in this once in a lifetime opportunity was no surprise to her parents.

“[My parents] were super excited for me to go and they were so supportive,” Holden said.

HEFY provides a trip to Mozambique that includes a safari in Kruger National Park, a swim in the Indian ocean, and the main activity— building two classrooms for the students studying under trees and insecure structures.

The first activity under Sarah’s schedule was a safari in North Africa, where she got to experience the wilderness, as well as the difference of cultures between the United States and Africa.

After the safari, they went to Mozambique and started to tackle the whole reason for the trip– the building of classrooms.

“We would leave the hotel at around 8 a.m. and we would leave the worksite at around 7 p.m.,” Holden said.

HEFY started bringing work groups to this country because they discovered that in Maputo, Mozambique, there is one elementary school that about 2000 kids ages six to 14 rely on, but the school is very small.

There are a few classrooms that the community built themselves with sheet metal and tin, but they leak when it rains and many of the students don’t fit in the classroom.

When the group got to the work site, there were workmen who had already started building the classrooms with other groups.

The workmen then explained how to correctly mix and lay bricks in order to successfully build the classrooms. Each of the volunteers were given different jobs and Sarah had a very important part.

“My job on the worksite was to mix the cement, which was actually very hard to do,” said Holden.

She was also given the job of laying down bricks and plastering the wall to make insulation for the building.

As one may guess, she wasn’t sleeping on nice hotel beds or eating restaurant food, but instead she slept in a hut and ate the same thing every day.

“In South Africa we stayed in these little huts, which was really cool, and in Mozambique we stayed in a hotel that I shared with four roommates,” Holden said.

All of the volunteers that attended the trip ate chicken and rice every day, which they could barely force down by the end of the trip.

“I can’t really eat [chicken and rice] anymore without getting sick,” Holden said.

After they were done building classrooms for the day, they would visit different families and hear the stories that they would share. Not only does visiting families and hearing their story make it a very heartfelt moment, but Sarah also made special connections with the kids that were watching her build classrooms at the worksite.

“I had a very special connection with the kids that go to school at the worksite and I was able to earn their trust week by week,” Holden said

Being in Africa for two weeks and getting to meet new people can end with everyone making new memories that you will remember for the rest of your life.

“I love being with the kids at the worksite so much, they are all so funny and cool,” Holden said.

This whole trip with HEFY is done without a cellphone. Every person who volunteers has their phone taken away so they can focus on what is happening right in front of them, and not what is happening around them.

The first day that Sarah went without her phone she was always aching and wanting to check it, but as the two weeks past she found herself not needing her phone.

She mentioned that when she got her phone back, she hated it and didn’t like that she could just use it when she wanted.

“[Not having my phone] made me make better connections and friendships with the people on my trip”, Holden said.

Not only did she put herself out of her comfort zone she also made huge impact on the kids at the worksite.

With the help of her group, she was able to build two classrooms so that kids don’t have to learn underneath trees, or all squished into a small room.

She was able to meet more people from all over the United States that have that same mindset as her— helping people around her.

“If I could do this all over again, I would”, Holden said.