Sanpete native students join humanitarian effort
A trio of local students attending Southern Utah University (SUU) is planning to travel abroad on a humanitarian trip as part of a graduation requirement called Education Designed to Give Experience (EDGE).
EDGE is a unique program designed for SUU students to organize a service project and make a difference on a local, national or global scale, but to receive their diplomas, students must complete their planned project.
Jens Howe, 25, of Ephraim; Ben Lund, 25, of Ephraim; and Seth Gergetz, 25, of Manti have chosen to raise money and hope to become sponsored so they can venture to the underdeveloped country of Guyana, South America to restore weathered homes of Guyanese people.
Howe served a two-year LDS mission in the country from 2010 to 2012 and said he saw first-hand the daily struggles families faced.
Guyana sits on the northeast coast of South America and borders Brazil and Venezuela. Like many countries nestled near the Amazon, its residents experience a harsh rain forest climate with an average of 70 to 110 inches of rainfall per year.
During his mission, Howe said he helped families make home repairs regularly because they lived on a mere $300 per month and could not afford to fix the water damage on roofs and exteriors after purchasing food and other necessities.
“When the EDGE project was assigned, I remembered the families I met in Guyana,” Howe said. “This is why my fellow friends and I have chosen to make a difference by planning the trip to buy materials to repair these homes.”
“When I heard the story, I was on board,” Lund said. “I have always wanted to help people in some way to ease their burdens and make a lasting impact on their lives. I felt that putting a good solid roof over their heads will be a reminder that someone out there cares about them and their family.”
The majority of the population works in the agriculture industry, which is one of the country’s primary economic resources, and the Demerara sugar (natural brown sugar) industry accounts for 40 percent of production, according to GuySuCo, a government-owned sugar corporation.
But unlike industrialized nations that have resources for farming equipment, Howe explained how workers have to use machete’s to chop down sugar cane before manually loading up thousands of pounds onto boats and trucks. He says the position is one of the country’s most physically demanding jobs with the lowest pay.
Although countless families in the poverty-stricken country are in need, the trio said time and funding would be limited, so they have chosen to help three people who left a mark on Howe’s heart during his mission.
The first is Martin King, a sugar cane cutter, who Howe said is one of the happiest people he has ever met, despite the difficult line of work he is in.
Second is who Howe refers to simply as Mr. Jacobs. Jacobs is a gold miner, which is one of the country’s most dangerous jobs because of the location of mines.
Mines sit far from civilization, so medical assistance is not readily available should emergencies happen and Howe says workers are exposed to malaria and other dangers of jungle wildlife on a daily basis.
Robin Parris, who Howe explains as a humble woman with a heart of gold, is the last of the families he and his team hope to help unless they receive more funding through donations. “The more we raise, the more people we can help,” the group told the Messenger.
The team has estimated the cost to repair three homes will be around $4,500, which includes the cost of lumber, metal roofing, hardware and other tools necessary to make homes safer for the Guyanese people.
Gergetz served an LDS mission in Africa and said the living conditions were similar to those of the Guyanese people.
“Because of my past experience with poverty, I was super excited to have the opportunity to make [Guyanese] lives just a little bit easier,” Gergetz said in an interview. “We have been talking about doing this for a long time, and now it’s finally becoming a reality.”
The team plans to leave in December and is counting on the community to help make the dream a reality.
The service project is being realized through Dare to Donate, a non-profit organization fundraising platform.
To donate to this cause, please make checks payable to Dare to Donate and send to 2569 N. Freeway Dr., Cedar City, Utah 84721; or locally at 100 N. 250 West, Ephraim, Utah, 84627. Cash or money orders may also be sent to the addresses above.