By Karen Painter


FACEBOOK: @youthlinc

INSTAGRAM:  @youthlinc

While in high school, Alice Barnett traveled to Nepal a year after

a tragic earthquake. “While everyone was struggling to rebuild

their homes and make ends meet, they gave us their food and

other kinds of offerings in thanks and praise. It was one of the

most rewarding and memorable times in my life,” she said.


Barnett went to Nepal with Youthlinc, a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It teaches students leadership skills and a desire to serve others through their programs. Each year the organization serves humanitarian missions to Cambodia, Peru, Thailand, Fiji, Kenya, Nepal, and Vietnam, with a new mission to Jamaica this summer.









“Our Service Year program is unlike any other travel abroard

program,” says Justin Powell, Youthlinc’s Executive Director.

“These trips are not for sightseeing, but to serve others in

countries that do not have as many privileges as we do. We work

hard, but have fun doing it. Many students who go through our

program come home absolutely transformed.”

Powell says this was the case for him after his wife, Britnee,

convinced him to serve as a mentor on a trip to Thailand in

2008. She was the team leader and had been involved with

Youthlinc since 1999. “After that first trip, I was hooked!” said



Since then, the Powells have been on twelve trips with

Youthlinc and started taking their seven-year-old son when

he was six months old. Now he and his twin sisters have taken

seven trips between them. “We want our family to be focused

on service and can’t think of a better way to teach our children,”

said Powell.


The Service Year program is open to high school and college

students. Students apply and are accepted in the fall of each year. Once accepted, applicants are placed on a team with peers and mentors from across Utah. Each team meets monthly to prepare for their two-week international trip the following summer.


For each international location, there are six different teams: construction, community health, cultural exchange, education, business development, and vocational training. All team members help with construction projects while at their international sites. They build projects based on the community’s needs. Last summer, they built restroom facilities for a small village in Fiji and renovated schools in Peru, Cambodia, and Thailand.


In Jamaica, the construction committee plans to help villagers

on the southeast side of the island create a well with funds from

grant money and other donations.

The community health team will address the village’s most

pressing medical and health needs by holding health fairs

and donating needed medical supplies. Last year in Peru they

taught classes on personal hygiene and first aid and donated

deworming medicine to the local families.

“We do not operate an open ‘come one, come all’ clinic. It is

not sustainable, but the knowledge and understanding we teach

them is sustainable,” said Powell.

Powell says the cultural exchange group will organize an

opening and closing ceremony and meet with villagers in their

homes. He believes students may learn about slavery when

discussing Jamaican family history with the villagers. “I believe

our students will learn a lot from this and maybe it will help

them as they return to America and open doors for them to talk

about it at home,” said Powell.


In Jamaica, the education committee will teach lessons and

donate school supplies. The business development committee

will find and strengthen business opportunities. Finally, the

vocational training will teach skills such as baking, sewing, and

barbering. In Peru last summer, they taught villagers to sew life

jackets and to create a community garden.


While Service Year students are a part of a committee, it is

not all they need to do to prepare for their international trip.

Each student must personally fundraise the money for their trip

(sometimes up to $4000) and give 80 hours of service in their

local community.


“This program is rigorous and requires work, but anything

that is worth doing requires work. When the students start

to make service a part of their weekly plan, they are on their

way to making a lifestyle change and becoming a lifetime

humanitarian,” says Powell.


Madison Sudweeks, a senior majoring in social work at the

University of Utah joined when she was 17. She served locally at

the Hser Ner Moo community center tutoring and mentoring

refugees and immigrant youth. Sudweeks went to Cambodia

twice, Guatemala, and Peru.


“Before Youthlinc, I was focused on school and sports and

didn’t really know how to be involved in my community, but

my experience changed my life and ignited a passion in me for

service. I’ve worked in an afterschool program for four years

now and I plan on working to support others in my community

for the rest of my life. I want to work to make the world a better

place,” said Sudweeks.

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