A group of Mission Secondary students is preparing for an eight-day cultural exchange in the Bahamas to build a composting centre at South Andros Secondary School in March 2024.
“People go there all the time to vacation — it’s like Hawaii or any other tropical resort area. But when you really look into it and what we’re doing, there are some areas of the Bahamas that are super impoverished and poor and they need that help,” student Julia Bartlett said.
There are 27 students from Mission Secondary’s global education class going to the Bahamas in March, along with four adults. The global education program takes students worldwide to build projects with the local people.
The idea for this particular trip was sparked while teacher Kevin Matheny was watching HGTV’s Island of Bryan, a show about Bryan Baeumler and his wife Sarah renovating a resort they bought in the Bahamas.
“When the series first aired before COVID-19, I contacted the resort to see if we could collaborate on a project with my students on the same island. They were interested but were busy building their resort at that time,” Matheny said.
Matheny planned to take a class in March 2020 but COVID-19 derailed those plans. Four years after their intended arrival, they will build a composting centre at a school that’s a five-minute drive from the resort. The students will construct the project over eight days.
“The high school on South Andros has a farming program because the cost of food is high to ship onto the island. So, they are educating students on how to grow their own food, but they also burn the remains after they’ve harvested. They would rather compost and reuse, so we are building a building to help support that,” Matheny said.
The MSS travel class previously built a computer classroom in 2017 in Fiji, a canteen /kitchen in Cambodia in 2018, renovated a community centre in Chile in 2019, funded projects in Belize and Zambia during the height of the pandemic, and built a library in Vietnam in 2023.
Five students from this year’s class were also a part of the trip to Vietnam earlier this year.
“When you go on a trip like this and you go out of the country, you’re just with this group and you’re not on your phones, you become really close with the people around you, even if it’s just for a week or so,” student Jessika Cherry said.
Students will be cut off from their phones and Internet throughout their stay in the Bahamas.
“I just think that being there and not being on your phone gives you a different perspective of everything and it makes you have real-life connections. I wouldn’t have connected with a lot of people that I did,” student Mitra Abtahi said.
The students have been fundraising for the trip since May 2023 and some have worked summer jobs to raise the money to go on the trip.
Fundraisers have included bottle drives, a coin drive and a raffle that remains ongoing. The Baeumlers of Island of Bryan, the show that generated interest in the trip, have donated a five-night stay at their resort for the raffle.
Students also had the chance to meet Bryan Baeumler for roughly 20 minutes in October.
Raffle tickets can be purchased online at www.rafflebox.ca/raffle/gemss.
Another bottle drive is slated for Jan. 6th at the Mission Secondary bus loop where people can drop off post-holiday recycling.