In November, the United Nations was host to a group of local students and their advisors for a special presentation of their very successful Nicaragua 2010 Project and Trip. The high school students belong to the Rhinebeck Interact Club, a service organization sponsored and supported by the Rhinebeck Rotary Club. The Rhinebeck Interact Club was chartered just 4 years ago with a handful of youth and has since grown exponentially.
This year, as part of its commitment to international service, the Rhinebeck Interact Club and Rhinebeck Rotary partnered on The Nicaragua Project. This initiative was designed by students and adult advisors in partnership with Rotary's international committee. The goal of the Project was to raise funds to improve the conditions at an impoverished rural village school in La Ceiba, Nicaragua. The vision of the initial planning team expanded to include water purification projects, vegetable gardens to enhance health and wellness of residents, and the much-needed construction of new classrooms for Nicaraguan children. In addition, the entire Rhinebeck community provided an outpouring of support by donating financial resources, materials, shoes, clothing and school supplies to maximize potential for the Nicaraguan children and families.
The Project culminated with a trip to Nicaragua, at which point Interact Club members and adult advisors, along with two former Quinnipiac University students who represented the Albert Schweitzer Institute and have a tradition of similar accomplishments in that region, provided hands-on support to complete the aforementioned projects. Also instrumental in the planning and execution of the Nicaragua Project was a group called Alianza Americana of Leon, Nicaragua. The entire Project and Trip represented the incredible power of working together, crossing international borders to further an important humanitarian cause.
Students who participated in the United Nations presentation were: Sarah Turpin: Interact Co-President and Nicaragua Project Leader, Anna Katomski: Interact Co-President, Sean Phelan, Rachel Bassett, Gwenn Gideon, Lindsey Drew, Griffin Swanwick and Andrew McGettrick.
In addition to the above, there were 16 other Rhinebeck Interact members (total 24), and five Rhinebeck Rotary members (Joe Phelan, Kathy Dewkett, Bill Dowden, Maureen Gates and Rotary President Louis Turpin). The meeting took place in one of two temporary UN General Assembly rooms (the original UN General Assembly was under renovation), and the students were seated in the actual seats of the UN members (including Nicaragua).
This presentation team has shared their Nicaragua experiences in a variety of venues since returning from Leon, including an interview on Radio Rotary, presentations to the District 7210 World Service Committee, presentations at other Rotary Clubs such as New Paltz, and community organizations such as the Ulster County Chapter of the American Association of University Women.
Louis Turpin, Rhinebeck Rotary President, shared: "These amazing young people have a true passion for world service, and that passion is evident in not only their backbreaking efforts in the heat of Nicaragua, but also in the way that they share their experiences with others. Their desire to place service above self is infectious, and bodes well for the future of our world". Sarah Turpin, Interact Co-President and Nicaragua Project Leader, expressed similar sentiments from a student perspective: "We built far more than classrooms, gardens and water systems in Nicaragua, we built friendships and understanding with truly wonderful people. We naively went to this impoverished developing nation expecting to change their lives, only to have the people that we met there open our eyes and change our lives, forever."
Rhinebeck Interact has recently distributed its holiday appeal, accepting donations for the 2011 Nicaragua Project. In addition, plans are underway for their annual Blue Jean Bash, scheduled for January 22, 2011 at 5:30 at the Church of the Messiah Parish Hall in Rhinebeck.