Grants Awarded to Local Youth for International Community Service

Monday, June 2, 2014

SHEFFIELD, MA — Young people from four counties are fanning out around the globe for service learning trips this spring and summer, thanks in part to grants from the Alice and Richard Henriquez Fund/Youth World Awareness Program, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Thirteen youth, as well as two schools and one community group, have received a total of $17,400 for travel grants to Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America from the program, which supports humanitarian work in foreign countries by young people ages 14-22.

Grants were awarded to:

In northwest Litchfield County, CT:

Gillian McGuire, Sharon, Conn.: For an intensive introduction to the Mandarin language through immersion in Chinese culture. The program includes a home stay with a host family, Mandarin language classes and travel with fellow students to cultural and historic sites around the country.

Meredith Torrey, Norfolk, Conn.: For travel in July to Kenya as part of a Norfolk Church of Christ work camp with Soteni International, an organization focused on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and reducing its impact on families while providing love, guidance and resources to those affected by the disease.

In Berkshire County, MA:

Cameron Abderhalden, Emma Merritt and Jake Parkinson, of Lenox, Mass.: To participate in the Haiti Plunge, a program started 30 years ago by nine Berkshire students that engages youth in the sustainable development of a nine-village rural agricultural co-op set deep within the mountains of the Cabaret region of Haiti. Over the years, activities have included building schools, bakeries and roads, planting trees, increasing access to safe drinking water, teaching English and providing assistance in a medical clinic. The trip took place from April 18-27, 2014.

Katelyn Campetti, West Stockbridge, Mass.: For a service learning trip to Nicaragua that took place from March 7-15 with Esperanza Granada, a nonprofit education organization that works with children in some of the country’s poorest barrios. Projects included the construction of a school and volunteering as a teacher's assistant.

A group of high school students from the Great Barrington Waldorf High School received a grant to travel to Cuba on April 6 for a 10-day immersion program that included home stays; community service with orphans, and children and adults with Down syndrome; sports, music, dance and cooking lessons; and seminars on the roles that race, gender and the ration system play in Cuban society.

Kevin Hoctor, Becket, Mass., and Ava Naylor, Sheffield, Mass.: For a service learning trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti that took place from March 15-23, 2014. Eleven students participated in team-building exercises, leadership training and presentations on Haiti’s history and culture, followed by five days helping to establish a computer center at the Ansemble Vwasen Jacquet Elementary School. The program is part of the school district’s efforts to turn students into “engaged and curious learners and problem solvers who effectively communicate, respect diversity and improve themselves and their community.” Kevin was also supported by a grant from Berkshire Taconic’s Central Berkshire Fund.

Katherine Lister, West Stockbridge, Mass.: For a nine-week project in Barranquilla, Colombia, through Amigos de las Americas, that includes a university course on community development, a home stay and work with local youth on projects that promote environmentally sustainable practices, sports and fitness, children's rights and creative expression. The program runs from June 13 to August 14.

Nine eighth-grade students from Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington are traveling to Cusco, Peru from June 20 to July 7 to participate in three service-learning projects—two at neighborhood youth centers in high poverty areas of the city and one at a school for deaf children. The students will also attend Spanish classes at Amauta Spanish School in the mornings, and lodge with Peruvian host families for the duration of the trip.

Sophia Randolph, Richmond, Mass.: A Harvard student, Sophia will travel to Haiti from June 27 to July 30 with the English In Mind Institute to teach English to adults and work in an orphanage.

The Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program for Girls (ROPE), a mentoring program in Pittsfield, received a grant to support travel for 15 of its members to Accra, Ghana from June 20-30, 2014. The first international trip for many of the largely African American and Latina youth, the program will partner with Ghana Educational Collaborative, a co-ed, government-run school, for structured learning to explore the relationship between education level and economic growth, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and the similarities and differences between apartheid and the civil rights movement.

In Columbia County, NY:

Jenifer Benn, Hudson, NY: Jenifer will return to Uganda through Operation Unite's Youth Exchange as a trip coordinator, part of a group that travels in July to support schools and an orphanage in the following efforts: a primary school literacy program; a craft and game project using age-appropriate play; a solar oven project providing meals to patients in a hospital lacking meal service; a project providing solar light sources to families for use during power outages; and a project to begin building a public library for the town of Pallisa.

In northern Dutchess County, NY:

Mason Garnot, Millbrook, NY: For volunteer work through Soccer Unites Limited, a U.S. nonprofit that sponsors disadvantaged schools in South Africa by providing soccer uniforms, cleats, socks and equipment, and running organized leagues and tournaments, complete with trophies, medals and coaching. Mason is a photographer and plans to arrange an exhibit of work from his trip, scheduled from July 7-15, at the Millbrook Public Library

Evelyn Grainger, Millbrook, NY: For a service learning trip to Guatemala, from July 16-23. Evelyn will return to the small town of Concepcion through the organization Partners in Development, where she will provide hands-on support for construction, medical and education projects. After winning a raffle for a previous trip last year, Evelyn has invited family and community members to join her this year.

Mason and Evelyn were also supported by grants from Berkshire Taconic’s Millbrook International Travel Fund.

Grants were awarded by a committee of local residents who evaluated applications based on the potential impact of the experience on the applicant, the ability of the applicant to carry out the project and the likelihood that the project will have a positive impact on the community. The next deadline for Alice and Richard Henriquez Fund/Youth World Awareness Program grant applications is February 1, 2015. Applications are available online at To donate to the Alice and Richard Henriquez Fund/Youth World Awareness Program, please visit and select “Youth World Awareness.”

About Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
For over 26 years, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has built stronger communities and helped donors make a difference through charitable giving in northwest Litchfield County, CT; Berkshire County, MA; and Columbia County and northeast Dutchess County, NY. Each year, the foundation distributes over $8 million through grants and scholarships to nonprofits and individuals in the arts and education, health and human services and environmental protection. Berkshire Taconic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. You can make a difference. We can help.



Justin Burke
Marketing Director
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
413-229-0370 x123


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