A thoughtful adventure

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All it takes today is a laptop, an Internet connection and determination to put young adults into the driver seat of their future. Springhill’s Jacob Surrette did just that, and is now part of the global youth development organization Youth Challenge International. Surrette leaves Saturday for South Africa, where he will work with youth for a little more than two months.

SPRINGHILL – Before finding his place in the world, 21-year old Jacob Surrette wants to make it a little bit better first.

The Springhill High School graduate and business student will leave for the United Republic of Tanzania on the South African continent for two-and-a-half months where he will be trained by Youth Challenge International [YCI] before becoming immersed in assisting with the education, health and livelihood of Tanzania youths at one of two YCI locations.

It seems a lofty challenge, one that would take a lot of preparation, but Surrette had surprised his family over Christmas by announcing he took care of all the paperwork himself, was approved and scheduled to leave this Saturday.

“My family, at first, was worried. They didn’t think I was ready but I talked to them and showed them I had everything planned,” Surette said. “When I told them I wanted to do this, that I had done the work, all that was left was fundraising.”

His family has rallied behind his decision, assisting with fundraising and even his grandmother is helping him learn some of the local language to help break down the language barrier he will face in the Swahili-speaking country, Surrette said.  

Like many young adults, Surrette is trying to find his place in this world. He will soon be making decisions in life that will shape his future and career, and YCI presented an opportunity for him to marry some of the life experiences and decisions with the yet-undeclared career he will someday focus on.

“I wanted to do something like this as soon as I got out of school and over the years I started studying up on it again,” Surrette said. “My uncle had some connections and my own research found people around my age who had done this [through YCI].”

The deciding factor to choose YCI over another organization, Surrett said, was that YCI focuses on rehabilitation instead of construction.

“Other programs are more about rebuilding schools and buildings and are manual-labour focused. This program is more about working with kids and teaching them life-skills they will use with those buildings.”

Curiously, his own schooling, which he will put on hold while in Tanzania, helped set the stage for that decision.

“Last semester I had to do a paper on business etiquette in South Africa, on the wrongs and rights, and then here I am, about to go.”

Surrette said he has few apprehensions about going and many things he would like to see and do while there, but the main thing is getting there, experiencing the program and accepting the challenges.

To get there, Surrette put up his own money to secure his seat wit YCI but will continue fundraising while in South Africa to offset the costs. He’s created website through YCI that accepts donations which can be found at http://yci.tigweb.org/ind/jacobsurrette. As his adventure unfolds, Surrette hopes to update his webpage to include photos of his work.

Organizations: Springhill High School

Geographic location: United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa

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