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Learning south of the border
Fort Providence students travel and volunteer in Mexico

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 2, 2013

Four Fort Providence students mixed adventure with philanthropy during a trip to Mexico.

NNSL photo/graphic

Roland Nadli, left, Garrett Bonnetrouge and Bradley Thom stand on the beach at Mazatlan, the final stop on the Fort Providence students' trip. - photo courtesy of Shawna McLeod

Roland Nadli, Erin Nadli, Garrett Bonnetrouge and Bradley Thom along with chaperones Shawna McLeod and Shanna Hagens spent three weeks in Mexico beginning on March 25. The trip, which allowed participants to earn Spanish language and culture credits, was open to students in Grade 12 at Deh Gah School.

Bonnetrouge said one of the things he learned from the trip is that if you are ever offered the chance to go to Mexico, even if you have to work hard to get there, it is worth the effort.

Extensive fundraising

The students did extensive fundraising to be able to go on the trip, including running a bottle depot weekly, and holding bake sales and popcorn sales, sliding and skating parties and loonie auctions. Through their efforts, the students raised more than $22,000 for the trip.

"All the fundraising was worth it because Mexico was just amazing," Bonnetrouge said.

The group started the trip with four days of mountain biking in Copper Canyon outside of Chihuahua City.

"It was amazing scenery," said Thom.

"It seemed so unreal looking at it."

The students peddled between 24 and 36 kilometres daily through the canyon both uphill and downhill. The final day was Bonnetrouge's favourite because the group started at 1,646 metres above sea level and dropped to 366 metres, all within 36 km.

"You didn't have to pedal once," said Thom.

For both Thom and Bonnetrouge, however, the best part of the trip came next. The students flew to La Paz where they started a four-day guided sea kayaking tour around islands in the Sea of Cortez on March 31.

"It was like canoeing on the sea," said Bonnetrouge, 18, who'd never been kayaking before.

While kayaking, the students saw humpback whales, dolphins, sea turtles and manta rays. On the final day, they went swimming and snorkeling near a sea lion colony. During the kayaking tour, the group spent each night camping in tents on a different beach.

Experiencing new things

After experiencing so many new things, the students turned their attention to helping others for the final portion of their trip. The students flew to Mazatlan on April 4 where, after two days of exploring, they began volunteering in five different orphanages with a group of volunteers from around the world.

The students painted, gardened and assembled furniture, among other tasks.

"It was pretty cool experience helping out orphans," said Bonnetrouge.

Although they couldn't understand each other because of the Spanish/English language barrier, Bonnetrouge said he enjoyed playing with the children at the beach. They seemed to have a good time, he said.

Shawna McLeod, who is a librarian at Deh Gah School, said she was very impressed with the four students. They worked really hard to fundraise to be able to go on the trip and behaved well while in Mexico, she said.

"I'm just so proud of them," said McLeod.

"They were really amazing."

Having now been to Mexico, both Thom and Bonnetrouge said they would like to go again.

"It was really cool," said Thom.

"I would recommend it to other students as well."

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