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Arviat teens have the urge to help

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Arviat teens had a "life changing experience" in the Dominican Republic last month, while they volunteered in an all-boys orphanage.

NNSL photo/graphic

Kristen St. John, left, Katrina Kablutsiak and Lori Karetak were in the Dominican Republic last month volunteering in an all-boys orphanage. - Nicole Veerman/NNSL photo

Accompanied by Lori Karetak, Kristen St. John, 17, and Katrina Kablutsiak, 16, made the trip to the Dominican Republic at the end of the July to volunteer with the Outreach 360, formally known as the Orphanage Outreach program.

Outreach 360 has been working with orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children since 1995. The volunteer program focuses on education.

While in the Dominican, the women spent half the day working in an orphanage, teaching English and Bible study and the other half of the day working in a summer camp.

Kablutsiak said it was challenging to teach English to people with very little understanding or knowledge of the language. It helped that there were other volunteers who could speak both English and Spanish, so they were able to translate, she said.

"We just worked together and taught them," Kablutsiak said. "We were just teaching basic words, like colours and numbers, using flash cards."

The women also spent some of their time working in the fields, hoeing and planting trees. St. John said it was fun, despite the heat.

"It was different. It's something I've never done, but it was a lot of fun."

Both St. John and Kablutsiak said their favourite part was working with the kids.

"I loved all the boys and all the people and the activities we did and what we worked with," said Kablutsiak. "It was just amazing.

"I miss every one of them. We were all pretty close. It was so much fun just spending time with them."

St. John said she misses them, too. She hopes she'll be able to return to the orphanage again during her Christmas vacation or next summer.

"It's a really nice place. The people are really nice. They're all there for each other. And those kids - I miss them a lot," she said. "I just love kids and I just wanted to go out and help.

"It was just a life-changing experience that's hard to describe."

St. John said the most eye-opening experience was seeing Haitians come to town twice a week to buy their groceries at a market.

"There's this market open Mondays and Fridays and people from Haiti walk across the bridge from where they live and buy their food and they have these really big bags that they just hold on their shoulders and they have to walk all the way back home.

"It just made me really think about how much we have up here and how much we take it all for granted, and they have nothing and they have to work hard like they do every day. It was heartbreaking for me."

Both women said they went on this trip because they wanted to see something new, while also helping kids.

"I love helping people and working with little kids and just playing with them and meeting new people," said Kablutsiak. "I'd love to do it again. It was amazing."

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