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March 29, 2013

Y groups launch new outreach efforts

Cape Ann teens involved in YMCA programs have traveled near and far in unique programs — one involving international community service and another giving them an inside look at state government.

In a first-of-a-kind trip for the regional YMCA, a group of nine teens — five from Cape Ann — who went on the organization’s first international service trip to help a reforestation project in Nicaragua.

Rockport Teen Center Director Nikki Marin said she always dreamed of taking a community service experience to an international level. This past February school vacation week, the teens traveled with YMCA staff from Cape Ann and Marblehead to Central America where they planted trees.

“By reforesting this area of Nicaragua, it will raise the water table, which in the long run will bring more clean water to the area,” explained Marin.

Participants from the Cape Ann YMCA were Michael Collins, Andrew Widtfeldt and Shannon Gallagher of Gloucester; and Katharine Boucher and Alexandra “Ali” Steer of Rockport.

The YMCA of the North Shore also launched its first service-learning trip in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The group has organized a yearly trip to New Orleans to repair homes damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“After three very successful years of the New Orleans trip, we were finally ready for an international trip,” said Marin. “Between going to the YMCA World Council in Hong Kong and the YMCA International Conference in San Francisco, I learned a lot about different international opportunities. In the end, I decided that El Porvenir program was our best choice.”

El Porvenir works in remote rural villages that lack access to most basic services and are too small to receive assistance from other organizations, according to its website.

Marin also talked to several Cape Ann residents through the Rockport Rotary club and her church in Magnolia who worked with the program and who gave the organization high marks. El Porvenir’s mission focuses on improving the lives of poor people in Nicaragua through sustainable self-help water, sanitation and reforestation projects.

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