Life Study

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"They live with families while they're down there; mostly it's homes with dirt floors," said Debbie Young, director of the Institute of Service Education for Teens.

"Hopefully, it'll open the door to a cultural understanding, a global sensitivity."

Young founded ISET nine years ago in Boulder and brought her organization to Steamboat when she moved here a year ago.

The non-profit group takes teenagers to third world countries where they work with communities on projects that meet the basic needs of those communities.

In February, the teenagers will be working on a potable water project and building safe indoor stoves for families in Champaigny and El Trapeche, Nicaragua. The rural villages of 600, and 100 people respectively, are located near the border of Honduras. They are located outside of Halapa, a city with about 25,000 people.

"Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world," Young said. "It rivals Haiti for poorest country in this hemisphere."

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Cantwell, with her blonde hair and athletic build, should stand out in El Trapeche. The Steamboat track star said she is excited about the trip, despite news that the town's two new toilets are basically holes in the ground with cement walls, and one of those doesn't have a door.

"This is what they live with every day," Cantwell said. "It's their custom. I'm gonna try to live how they live."

Young has prepped her ISET students well. None of them expect even a little bit of the accommodations they take for granted in the United States.

"Their school bus is horses or mules that pick the kids up," Cantwell said

Fellow student and cheerleading captain Kari Good admits she's spoiled, and talked of her one trip to Latin America with deprecating humor.

"We went to Cozumel and stayed in a five-star hotel. This is like no stars," Good laughed.

"This will give us a greater appreciation of what we already have."

While there, the teenagers will help locals build a holding tank for water. The water will come from pipes that send water down from mountain springs.

The workers will then put in pipes that run from the holding tank to people's homes.

The teenagers will also work on building new stoves for homes, with pipes that send smoke out of the houses.

"Most stoves used in a third-world country have stoves in the house without pipes, so you can imagine the respiratory illnesses," Young said.

Young said culture shock is expected when the teens get there, but they'll also be surprised when they return to Steamboat.

"It's so simple there (Nicaragua), that when you came back, it's overwhelming to walk into a place like City Market," Young said, referring to a local supermarket.

Sixteen-year-old Drisana Young is a veteran of third-world trips. The daughter of the ISET founder made her first trip in the womb and since then has been to Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.

She said the other teenagers will be shocked at the poverty but will realize that many of the people in Latin America don't see it that way.

"The people, they are so incredibly happy all of the time," Drisana said. "They work on the land. They're happy even though they are so poor and they give you what they have."

With five children of her own, Debbie Young took on the responsibility of ISET because "I understand how important it is for them to be aware of the world they live in so they can make a difference in their lives and others in the world."

Young, who is a teacher and administrator by profession, works for First Impressions, an early childhood care and education center.

Since ISET is so new to Steamboat, Young and the teenagers are just now looking for ways to raise funds.

"We meet every Monday and the kids are trying to come up with money on their own," Young said. She said the teenagers are considering everything from charging for slide shows to creating services like baby-sitting, cleaning or any kind of handiwork.

Their first big fund-raiser will be a silent auction and spaghetti dinner at Holy Name Catholic Church, Feb. 10 at 6:30p.m.

They're also sending out letters for donations. Anyone interested in joining ISET or making donations should call Debbie Young at 871-4766.

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