Student Humanitarians Serve Beyond Mililani

Daisy Ann Hipolito, Features Editor

      Though MHS is rooted on an island in the middle of the ocean, Mililani Trojan students are still able to find ways to serve not only locally, but internationally. Over the past two summers, Seniors Ian Bede, Malia Boksanski and Memphis Hoeft went the extra mile and participated in service trips located in a variety of third world countries including Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Ghana.

      “When you like to serve people it kind of just shows the love that you have for humanity and how much you want to serve others it just makes you happy too and makes other people happy and the people watching you, it makes them happy too. So overall just anything that you do with service makes anybody happy,” said Hoeft.

      The three seniors all went on their service trips separately, with Boksanski serving in the Domincian Republic in July 2018, Hoeft serving in Ghana in June 2019 and Bede serving in Cambodia in July 2019. Two of the three seniors, Bede and Hoeft, went in affiliation with Humanitarian Experience For Youth (HEFY) while Boksanski went in affiliation with Global      Leadership Adventures. Both companies the students travelled with focus around giving younger generations opportunities to serve in places further than their own backyard, providing a variety of service locations that aren’t limited to those visited by the seniors. “It’s a nonprofit service organization that offers humanitarian expeditions to youth ages 16-19,” said Bede. Boksanski added, “A guy from the Peace Corps made it for teenagers or high school students to get involved if they’re interested or if they’re interested in the Peace Corps or going in that direction in the future.”

      While the students were in their respective country, they participated in a variety of interactive service activities that allowed them to work with their peers as well as interact with the local community. The visited locations welcomed the humanitarians with open arms and watched them make a change. “The main thing that we did was we built this community center but the insulation of it was all plastic bottles. We dug a bunch of latrines, which was super fun, and then we planted a bunch of banana trees,” said Boksanski. Bede added, “Service I did was building classrooms at a school which includes things such as laying bricks, mixing cement, plastering walls and painting.” 

     The students served long hours for around three weeks. Boksanski served a total of 70 hours, while Hoeft and Bede served for a total of 120. “There’s five different groups that go there and each group does a different part of building a building so we built a school for this community called Assin Foso,” said Hoeft. “We were the first group so we built the foundation, like we dug trenches and all those kinds of things and we did some concrete and all that so that the next group can come in and start building up from there.” 

     In addition to serving the community, they were able to learn more about the community that they helped, along with their people, culture and lifestyle. They served in communities varying from Nueva York Chiquito in the Dominican Republic, Assin Foso in Ghana and Battambang in Cambodia. “The most memorable experience from the trip was the kids that were there. They were all really nice and they all had the best attitude towards everything, even though they have like nothing and they wore the same clothes everyday and stuff when we saw them. They were all happy and loved living and just being alive and being there,” said Hoeft. Boksanski added, “A lot of it was also learning about culture and getting involved with the community and talking to people and playing games and stuff like that. I didn’t think I’d go in there and, I even told my mom, ‘I’m just gonna go there and meet these people and say hi.’ But even the people I worked with and the community, I got really close and I feel like it really had a big impact on me.”

     Besides the physical products they had left behind, the students strived to leave behind even more than that. For many, service is not only about doing what’s right; it’s about leaving an impact. “The legacy that I wanted to leave was to show the people of Ghana that the youth that came there were hard working and that we love to serve anybody and everybody and to show them that even though we aren’t the same people, we can still come together and do stuff together and become a community,” said Hoeft. Boksanski added, “We’re just like friends. We understand that we are equals and we’re just coming in to help one another out. We’re not giving anyone special treatment or being like, ‘We’re in a better situation than you so we’re gonna help you.’ We’re just here to do what we can.”

     The trips only lasted about a month over the summer. Comparing life in their respective country to life back home was eye opening for all who participated. “I learned to appreciate the small things in life because when we were there we didn’t have any water really, like fresh water. This one kid gave me an apple and I couldn’t eat it because it could have contamination and stuff. It was really sad but that was one thing I really appreciated,” said Hoeft. Bede added, “My biggest problems seem insignificant when compared to the people of Cambodia.  I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to be able to eat any given night or if a storm is going to blow my house over.”

     Service means many different things to many different people. To these Mililani seniors, service is an outlet for them to do what they can, both locally and internationally. “I don’t necessarily think it needs to be someone going somewhere or someone helping out somewhere. It could just be someone, it could be small things it could be big things, like making a new friend,” said Boksanski. Hoeft added, “I love the feeling I get when I serve other people. It makes me happy and it makes them happy too.”

     All three seniors would like to go on more service trips in the future and plan on continuing to serve around their community.