CLARENDON HILLS — Jenna Blodgett is hopeful that her experiences while spending a week in Ethiopia in early August will shape her future.
“It wasn’t until I got home that I really felt it,” she said. “I expected to see very poor people living without much, but it was way worse than I expected. They have so little, but they were the happiest people I’ve ever met.”
The 17-year-old Hinsdale Central senior was one of 10 teens from around the country chosen to participate in an Aug. 2-9 study tour trip for a first-hand look at how funds from World Vision are used to help improve the lives of those in an impoverished Third World country.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance to children and families affected by natural disasters and civil conflict, works with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocates for justice on behalf of the poor.
Blodgett’s connection to World Vision came through the organization’s annual spring 30 Hour Famine, which she has participated in at Community Presbyterian Church of Clarendon Hills. Participants stay overnight at the church and raise money through donations by not eating for 30 consecutive hours. Those who raise the most money can apply for a study trip. Blodgett raised $575 earlier this year.
“We know we’re going to get to eat after 30 hours, but that’s not the case for a lot of people in Africa,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett, who plays both soccer and basketball at Hinsdale Central, was both excited and nervous about her trip to Africa.
“I’ve always had a drive to help people, and I kind of had Africa in my head” she said. “I wanted to really get to know them and hear their stories. I went to Greece as a young child to visit relatives, but other than that I had never been out of the country.”
Blodgett said it was a huge culture shock for her seeing how people live in Ethiopia.
“Especially coming from an area where we all have so much in comparison,” she said. “It really makes me appreciate what I have, and I want to be very careful about not wasting things.”
Blodgett and the other teens from World Vision spent much of their time with children, some very young and some around their own ages.
“We had a translator with us, but they don’t speak English there, so the kids really didn’t understand us, and we didn’t understand them,” she said. “We did a lot of high-fives and peek-a-boo.”
Blodgett said she plans to let others know about World Vision and the work it does to help others.
“We met a farmer who couldn’t provide for his family at all,” she said. “World Vision gave him funds for farming, and now he can provide for his family and for others. It’s really incredible.
For more information about World Vision, or to make a donation to the organization, go to www.worldvision.org.