Megan Riedel and Jen Riedel: Teen sisters help ease hunger in Haiti
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Two teenage sisters from Rancho Bernardo are among those who have seen first-hand how efforts here to feed the hungry are appreciated overseas.
Megan Riedel, 18, and Jen Riedel, 16, went on a Friends & Family Community Connection spring break mission trip to Gressier, Haiti. Activities included visiting those who receive food packages locals here assemble during FFCC food packing events.
Both have participated in the events. Jen said it was meaningful to meet the beneficiaries. Megan said she now puts faces to the project. “I know how much it helps the people,” she said.
“I wanted to go because my sister went last year and I heard all the stories of her being there,” Megan said. “I wanted to experience it too.”
Jen, an incoming Rancho Bernardo High junior, said she learned about the trip through the Fight Against Hunger Club at RB High. The club president had gone and told her about them.
“I was interested because I want to help and go to a different country,” Jen said.
Getting parents Janice and Richard Riedel to let the then-freshman travel overseas without them took “a lot of convincing” because of safety concerns, Jen said. To raise money for the $2,000 per person trip, she made and sold bracelets to family and friends for $10.
On that first weeklong trip, Jen said volunteers started building an orphanage, which included shoveling a lot of dirt, pouring cement and building walls for the dormitory. She described the work as “pretty hard … but worth it.”
This year volunteers worked on construction projects for additional orphanage buildings.
“It was really cool, to see something I helped build,” Jen said about visiting a year later after children ages 2 to 12 had moved into the orphanage.
On both trips, participants distributed and installed water filter kits so residents have clean water to drink. Since $60 of the $70 cost is covered through donations, Megan said recipients only pay $10.
Megan said volunteers also played with the orphans and read them stories even though the children speak Creole and volunteers English. Megan said the children understood the gist of the stories and when working with locals, translators provided assistance.
While volunteers had rooms with beds for accommodations, Megan said living conditions were nothing like those here. They used mosquito nets because “bugs were everywhere.”
“You hear about how bad poverty is, but to actually go there and witness it yourself is life-changing,” Jen said.
“(Living conditions) were a lot worse than I expected,” Megan said. “I appreciate what I have a lot more. … It puts things in perspective. I appreciate my education, which a lot (of Haitians) can’t afford.”
Jen said she wants to return to Haiti and go on a FFCC trip to Tanzania. “Anyone who is thinking about going on the trip definitely should because it is definitely worthwhile.”
“I definitely want to go back,” Megan said, though she does not know when. She graduated from Rancho Bernardo High in June and is continuing her education at the University of Colorado Boulder.
For FFCC event and trip information, go to www.ffccsd.com.
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