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A life-changing experience

Posted 6/17/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

For most college students, college courses are a way of learning the things they need in order to get their dream job. But for some students like Alex Veeder, some courses offer a lot more.
Veeder, a 2007 Watford City High School graduate heard about the God’s Child Project and the volunteer network at North Dakota State University during freshman orientation and right away, she knew it was something she wanted to get involved with.
“We are blessed to be born with the families we have,” says Veeder. “People don’t ask to be poor. It is something that can happen to anyone and as long as I can help, I plan to.”
The God’s Child Project was founded in Bismarck, N.D. in 1991 by Patrick Atkinson. The project’s goal is to help orphaned and abandoned children. Originally intended to last for only three years, since 1991 the project has grown to where it now provides Guatemala, Central America's largest and most comprehensive charitable services. 
“This is an amazing project,” states Veeder. “When you donate money you never know where it is actually going. But with God’s Child it all goes to the children I’ve seen that firsthand.”
The God’s Child Project sponsors several very worthwhile charities in Guatemala, Central America. God’s Child’s main charity is the La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados which is located on the outskirts of the very poor San Felipe neighborhood of Antigua. These programs focus primarily on providing health and education services to the poor, although they are also active in community development, legal advocacy, social change, and in particular, working with the women and the families in their communities.
“The kids in the God’s Child Project didn’t ask to be poor and this is their only chance at having a good life and making something of themselves,” says Veeder. “The hardest part is that the project can only help so many kids and there are a lot more that need help.”
Volunteering for God’s Child is something that anyone can do on their own or with a group. Veeder’s trip was part of a class she took during her sophomore year at NDSU.
“It was a three credit class that met once a week,” says Veeder. “We talked about different types of service and ways to help people. During the course we learned our strengths and weaknesses so we could work together as a team.”
At the end of May, the group traveled with the God’s Child Project to Guatemala where they stayed with local middle-class host families.  The families spoke little if any English and ran their homes as bed-and-breakfast (and lunch and dinner) type community houses. 
“Living with a host family really enhanced the cultural experience,” adds Veeder.  “They were really good to us and we had a pretty nice place to stay. Staying with the host family was great because we got the chance to really see how they live and eat what they eat. It was an experience I will never forget.”
The group’s main project while in Guatemala was to build a house which was well worth the three days of grueling hard work that it took.
“We built a house for a mother and her six children, and even though it was a lot of work it was also really rewarding,” adds Veeder. “Even though their lives are really tough, all of the kids we encountered were so happy, especially the family we built the house for.”
Other projects throughout the trip included clothing distribution and visits to malnutrition centers where the group interacted and fed children.
“It was a rewarding trip, but it was also really hard to see these kids who just want to be hugged or touched because they don’t get that very often,” comments Veeder. “I also realized how much I take for granted, especially when we handed out clothing. We each brought two suitcases full of clothing and toys to give out, and then we set up in a parking lot to distribute the clothing. Each person got five pieces and they didn’t get to pick. We just told them what we thought would fit and that’s what they had to take. It was really hard.”
At the end of her 11-day trip, all Veeder could think about was sponsoring a child and going back next year to do it all over again.
“Out of the 12 of us that went, six of us are already making plans to go back again next May,” says Veeder. “We want to go as a group again so we can build a house and help as many people as we can. I urge anyone who has the time and wants to help to check into the God’s Child Project because it is really worth it.”
More information on the God’s Child Program can be found at www.GodsChild.org.