This year, 12 Juneau teens plan to enact positive change in Nepal.
In December, the group of high school students will fly to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and for two weeks, work 10-hour days rebuilding schools either damaged or destroyed in the April 25, 2015, earthquake. The earthquake had a 7.8 magnitude and struck northwest of Kathmandu, which resulted in the deaths of over 8,700 people and damages exceeding $10 billion USD, nearly half of Nepal’s GDP.
The group, Juneau Teens for Change (JTFC), sat down recently at Thunder Mountain High School to discuss their upcoming trip and fundraising efforts.
“There’s so much negativity in the world right now. We want to put some positivity back into it,” said co-founder and co-chair of JTFC Cora Gehring.
JTFC was created by students passionate about serving the global community. They started as a part of Interact, a high school based community service group sponsored by members of the Glacier Valley Rotary Club.
“Interact has a history of international travel, but since it is a school affiliated club, only small groups of dedicated students were able to travel. In our five years of service, we have traveled to Uganda, Bali, and soon, Nepal,” Gehring said.
In the past, the group has sponsored a student from Nepal to study abroad, have created shelter boxes for relief organizations, and have travelled to Bali to teach English.
“There’s a lot of issues trying to international travel with a school group. So we just sort of looked at it and went ‘let’s just do our own thing.’ So we made it our own, built it from the ground up …” said co-founder and co-chair Kayla Simpson.
While almost entirely comprised of TMHS students currently — there’s one Juneau-Douglas High School student — the group is open to other high school students in town joining for future trips. It’s the students’ hope JTFC will continue after they graduate.
The group first began planning for the Nepal trip in November 2016. They decided to go through Projects Abroad, a volunteer aboard organization which encourages young people to work on projects in developing countries. For the Nepal project, Projects Abroad will provide the students with accommodation, food, airport pick up and drop off, work-related transportation, travel and medical insurance, in-country induction with a staff member, as well as other forms of support; they do not cover the flights or visas. The group plans to stay an extra two days to site-see.
To pay the Project Aboard fees as well as the cost of travel to Nepal, it’ll cost each JTFC member about $3,200 per student. The group’s fundraising goal is 40,000. They’ve raisied money through bake sales, a family dance, individual donations, and even by selling hot chocolate at sports games, said member Anna Rivest.
As of print time, JTFC has raised $1,638.95
“I feel like this has helped a lot of us come together and do stuff by ourselves. It’s one of our first real adult experiences. We organized almost every aspect of this trip by ourselves. We have advisors and we have chaperones who help us get connections but for the most part almost everything has been done completely by ourselves,” Simpson said.
Currently the students are approaching locals businesses to sponsor them while planning upcoming fundraising events. JTFC will be hosting the annual Community Garage Sale at Centennial Hall on Oct. 28 (fees for tables spaces go to them; sales from items go to whoever rents a spot for the sale). A full table costs $30, and $20 for a half table. More information will be available in early October.
JTFC will also have a stand at the Public Market on Nov. 24-26 selling mini-donuts, hot chocolate, and handmaid gifts.
The reason for why the students wish to volunteer varies.
“I think for a lot of us it’s going out and traveling, leaving the country and going to see a new environment in an area we’ve never been before. The fact that we’re going there to rebuild a school and help… just being there and helping out with (earthquake repairs), it’s a really big deal for a lot of us” Bridget Gehring said.
“It’s also not only experiencing their culture, but like for me at least, with all the natural disasters going on, it’s just really cool to be a part of helping that become better and helping people who were getting put through stuff like earthquakes and horrible flooding and stuff like that. So it’s really cool to be submerged in that environment because here in Alaska we’re really secluded so it’s pretty cool to get out there,” Rivest said.
“It’s an eye opener. You see a lot of need and how blessed we are here. We have so much and those people over in Nepal have so little” Miguel Cordero said.
For more information on the upcoming fundraising efforts, you can contact JTFC at email@example.com or by calling (907) 957-2399 and (907) 321-0212. Their Go Fund Me page “Help Us Help Nepal!!” can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-help-nepal. Their website is https://juneauteensforchan.wixsite.com/jtfc.
Clara Miller is the interim managing editor of the Capital City Weekly.