Five years ago Erda resident Brequelle Smith had a sixth grade teacher who inspired her to serve others and have a global vision.
Brequelle will launch that vision June 30 with her humanitarian dream, from the Salt Lake International Airport, with layovers in Los Angeles, California; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and the Seychelles, before continuing on to Madagascar. There she will help implement a $32K Rotary International grant to build wells, add water pumps and install toilets at two different schools.
Her freshmen year at Stansbury High School, after moving from Salt Lake City, many of her best friends went to Kenya as humanitarians and she felt a little left out. In November she decided to one-up those friends and apply to go to the country known for lemurs and a little-known language—Malagasee.
Brequelle, now a junior at SHS, and 23 other Utah high school students will be spending two weeks in Madagascar, representing a Salt Lake City based aid group. Youthlinc, the humanitarian agency, focuses on training teens and creating lifetime humanitarians by sending them to improve conditions in impoverished areas throughout the world.
The group is not only undertaking a mission to educate and improve life for the children, teachers and adults in third world countries, but also to improve the participant’s local communities.
In addition to her international service, Brequelle was required to donate 80 hours of community service locally. She spent most of these hours at Cottage Glen Assisted Living Center in Tooele.
Youthlinc required Brequelle to fundraise $3,300. She sent out donation requests to local businesses and followed up. This is where her father, Matt Smith, said she blossomed.
“In observing the process, it was amazing to see her approach businesses,” he said. “At first, I literally had to push her out of the car. But she really grew through this experience, especially through the service she did locally.”
Despite her fears, Brequelle found local donors were ready to help. Nigh-Time Donuts was the first to donate, and more soon followed, including: Blue Rock Family Dental, Factory Flooring Direct, Anytime Fitness, Rosewood Family Dental, Broken Arrow Construction, Water Master Car Wash, Mike Nunley’s All State Insurance and the Oquirrh Motor Inn.
The sixth grade teacher who inspired Brequelle is Britnie Powell at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education in the Rose Park area of Salt Lake Valley. Powell has served on 13 different humanitarian missions, beginning as a college student and holds the record for number of Youthlinc trips.
Regarding Powell, Brequelle said, “I just really appreciated the way she could connect with me on every level, and she respected my opinions and thoughts.”
Last year was the inaugural service mission to Madagascar, Powell’s husband Justin, said. This is the most remote, underserved country Youthlinc helps, he said.
The group built simple dirt floor shack schools and its teaching focus was on English and health, last year. They also taught students to count to 20 and worked on simple math.
“They taught them songs in English and set up a system to educate not just the kids,” she said, “but teachers, too.”
This year, aside from facilitating water and bathroom facilities, the students traveling to Madagascar will “finish building and furnishing a classroom which was started last year, teach sewing, candle making, business lessons, square foot gardening and run English and math camps,” said Matt Smith.
Students will work in two villages after being bused 20 miles from a hotel in a nearby city. Neither Ambo with1,000 residents nor Mahereza with double that number has electricity.
Youthlinc has monthly trainings to prepare the students for their experience. At February’s business committee meeting, Brequelle said, four other country’s business committees attended. Mentors taught the students how to use repetitive actions and skits to communicate the steps of a task.
“To sit in on a lesson was very helpful,” she added, since this is how they will be instructing the villagers how to garden, sew, take videos and set up businesses.
Each student is working on a lesson plan to teach the students in English. Brequelle’s will be on the solar system. She will be relying heavily on acting out what she is teaching, and the students will learn the English names of our solar system’s planets.
Other skills Brequelle’s business group will be teaching is how to set up a videography business to document weddings and other milestone events for profit and square foot gardening, where students will set up a school garden.
“The soil is really poor there,” Brequelle said. “The women of the village will share their knowledge of gardening with the group and we will merge their knowledge with ours.”
The business committee is currently working on fundraising for video equipment the group donates to the 15-18 year-old students.
Other committees in which Madagascar Youthlinc serve are: vocational, education, health, and cultural committees. Additional countries in which the 13 Youthlinc delegations will be serving are Cambodia, Peru, Thailand, Guatemala and Kenya.
Brequelle said of her care center experience. “I have really gained a love of service, being able to work with people who aren’t able to care for themselves. I will continue to do that for the rest of my life.”
The SHS cross country runner and track team member plans to study elementary education with an emphasis in special education at Snow College beginning Fall 2018. She then plans to serve a church mission. Her typhoid shot will have expired by then, but her passport will still be good. Perhaps by then she will know how to say “Sister Smith” in Malagasee.