September 24, 2008

Students to Travel to Village in Africa

By Jack Komperda

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About 20 students, faculty and staff from Wheaton Academy will be traveling to Zambia this June to visit the small African village they've sponsored for the last six years.

Most of the students taking the trip are members of the school's Project LEAD team, a group of teens charged with organizing donation efforts for World Vision, the Christian relief agency working with the village.

The West Chicago area evangelical Christian school has donated roughly $600,000 in the past six years, money which has been used to help build a two-room schoolhouse, a medical facility, youth outreach center and several homes.

"The fact that we've been able to sustain this for so many years has really surprised me," said Chip Huber, dean of spiritual and student life at Wheaton Academy. "The school community has brought a tremendous amount of energy and passion to this effort."

The two-week trip will be the school's fourth to the African village and will allow students involved in the fundraising efforts to see the results of their work.

"I've learned so much about the poverty and welfare of people in that country, but I feel like I know nothing about it," said Ben Westrate, a senior who will be among the students traveling in June.

Westrate and fellow classmate Erica Nellessen have spent much of the last school year organizing dozens of fundraisers, big and small, that will be sent abroad to help Kakolo village.

Among their projects are a fall fine arts showcase which netted the school $10,000 and an upcoming 5K run and pageant next month in which the school's boys compete for the title of Mr. Wheaton Academy.

"The guys have really gotten into it," Nellessen said.

The school expects to raise more than $100,000 this year, part of which will most likely be used by World Vision to help build an addition to the village's schoolhouse.

The school was recognized last year for its work by the Association for Fundraising Professionals.

Huber said many of the school's alumni have continued their philanthropy efforts well after graduation.

"One of the big goals is to expose kids to the poverty in the area," Huber said, "so they're spurred to action."

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