It was before dawn. Students from different districts within Southern California awoke to meet the bus scheduled to take them across the international border between the United States and Mexico.
On Saturday, September 7, 43 high school aged members of the Global Youth Mission (GYM) embarked on a daylong trip to volunteer at a church in Tecate, Mexico. Consisting of students from Los Angeles, Fullerton and Irvine, the group assisted real doctors who had volunteered to provide both medical examinations and prescriptions to impoverished individuals.
Founded in 2010, GYM is a unique organization designed to encourage students to discover and contribute solutions for problems in developing countries. GYM has gone on several trips to Mexico since its founding. In a time span ranging from six months to a year, students assist in medical tents, mess halls and with activities.
Before the trip began, each student was asked to bring toys, art supplies and planned activities for the children of Tecate. With these items, some students led group activities with the young children who were waiting with their families for medical attention.
“What I liked most was seeing the faces on the girls and older women after we painted their nails,” said Northwood High Senior Annie Hwang. She continued, “It was eye-opening to see how they were so grateful about everything.”
Campbell Hall Junior Ashley Ahn said, “This was my second time. The first time I went was in March, and I couldn’t really communicate with the people there.I felt helpless not knowing what the children were trying to tell me. I knew I would have to go back, this time with more Spanish skills.”
Ahn continued, “This time, I felt like I could really communicate better and even joke around with the children.”
Other Spanish-speaking students volunteered to translate the exchanges between the patients and English-speaking doctors. The remainder of students helped at the church’s pharmacy by assorting, counting and packing vitamins into plastic bags that were labeled and distributed to patients waiting in line.
GYM Co-President William Chung said, “Though Spanish was necessary to an extent, language barriers didn’t stop anyone from interacting with one another.”
Despite temperatures well over 100 degrees, many hard working students were oblivious to the heat. As they played with the children, the student volunteers were reminded of how fortunate they were.
Third-time trip volunteer and GYM member Alice Jung said, “I went again this time because I feel that even the smallest contributions might help people in need. Every time I go, I’m reminded of how lucky I am and how thank I should be for living such a comfortable life.”
Jung concluded, “I think that everyone… now knows how truly blessed they are to be living with such leisure.”