High school students prepare for mission trip to Haiti

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many families in West Michigan are excited for spring break which is just around the corner, but a group of high school students will be in Haiti. There won't be any lounging by the pool or fine dining, but they say it is better than a vacation.

For one week, a group of around 20 students from West Catholic, Catholic Central, Allendale and Kenowa high schools are going to be working hard fixing homes, distributing water filters and teaching Haitians about dental hygiene.

"It makes me think that there is more to the world than just here, which is nice," said Allendale High School freshman Bearenger Petrella.

The students are headed to Seguin, Haiti, about two hours south of the capital Port-au-Prince.

"We are going to be tarping houses and delivering water filters," said Stephanie Kaminski, a senior at Catholic Central High School. "We will be visiting an orphanage for one of the days, and then we are also going to a school, and we are going to do some dental hygiene and show them how to brush their teeth."

Organizer Tim Ryan has been going on these trips with students since 2009 and says it never ceases to amaze him.

"It is pretty amazing, because a lot of kids are going to Florida or Alabama, and they are going down to Haiti," said Ryan. "It is not necessarily comfortable where we are going. It is a tropical island, but where we go -- up in the mountains -- it will be like Michigan weather. It is cold at night, and it is not overly comfortable sleeping. It is very rugged."

"For them to give up a week where they can go somewhere nice, I don't even know what to say to that. It really just amazes me every year. Our trip is always full every year with students wanting to go."

Bags are packed full of toys, hats and other goodies to give to the children in Haiti.

"The biggest thing I learn is not to take anything for granted, because a lot of the kids there, when you hand then something like a Frisbee or a jump rope, they just get so excited about just having something," said Kaminski. "For us here, we want the new type of cellphone, and for them it is just whatever you hand them that they are happy with."

"They are always really grateful and say thank you whenever we give them things" said Petrella.

"It just makes the students realize that we can do something better for the world," said Ryan. "It does not necessarily have to be Haiti, but it can be anywhere in the world."

The students return to West Michigan on April 7, but they will be keeping a blog throughout the entire trip so you can keep up with what they are doing while they are there. To read their blog click here. You can also visit their website and their Facebook page.

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