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Lending hands in far away lands

t King’s West students to embark on Spring Break mission trips.

Spring Break often equates to late nights, daytime television and sweeping homework planners under the rug. But for 42 students at King’s West School, the 2008 break will be much more: a global mission to foster friendship and rebuild broken communities around the world, mending lives tattered by poverty.

Two groups of King’s West students will travel to Third World communities around the globe — 17 to Magdalena, Guatemala and 25 to Bucha, Ukraine — on mission trips, beginning March 27 when the school is dismissed for Spring Break.

“We work on improving living conditions,” said Josh Shaver, a member of the Magdalena team who also travelled to Guatemala last year. “We built chicken coops, planted seeds and vaccinated pigs.”

This year for the first time, King’s West joins Students International — an outreach program dedicated to bringing communities together cross-culturally — on the Guatemala mission, expanding the pool of student-participants from what it’s been in previous years.

Students International groups works to improve agribusiness, technology and community health, among others, in third-world areas around the Globe.

“What I’m looking forward to is the culture shock,” said Kelsi Campanilli, also a senior at King’s West. “I really want to immerse myself in something completely new.”

During the mission, which will be from March 28 through April 6, students will live with Guatemalan families in groups of two or three per household. They’ll learn one culture while sharing their own and work to help the town prosper, building long-lasting relationships.

“The people are so appreciative of you being there,” said Kathleen Mitchell, a teacher at King’s West who will join the Guatemala team. “The adults and children are so grateful that someone is coming down to make a difference.”

And while relationships between American students and the Guatemalan people are built, friendships within the King’s West family also will be strengthened.

“I think for us, as a senior class, it will be a bonding experience,” Campanilli said. “I’m really interested to see how we all change.”

The 25 students traveling to Ukraine will visit orphaned children in Bucha. It is the seventh year King’s West will send students to the orphanage.

“We play with them, we talk with them, we really get to know them,” said Kristina Moreng, a junior who visited Bucha last year. “It was really eye opening.”

The Ukraine mission team will stay in Bucha through April 7, joining upwards of 200 children at the orphanage.

“There’s a relationship that’s being built that’s long-lasting,” said Gwen Mansfield, one of five King’s West teachers who will lead the mission.

Three translators will be on hand to help break the language barrier — most of the orphans have little-to-no exposure to English — but Mansfield and past participants believe there are others way to communicate.

“Since we didn’t know the language, we had to use love as a language,” junior Paige Mitchell said of last year’s experience. “We had deeper connections (than language).”

While students will develop lifelong friendships with people they would otherwise never meet, they also will bring back a greater understanding of the world beyond Kitsap County.

“It’s real. They really live like this,” Moreng said. “It’s so different than what you’d expect.”

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