Students volunteer across the nation and the world

Senior Isaiah Drake of Spring Lake Heights spent summers helping Nicaraguan children.

Courtesy of Isaiah Drake

Senior Isaiah Drake of Spring Lake Heights spent summers helping Nicaraguan children.

Emma Wilenta

Some teens may dream of traveling for lavish vacations, but for senior Isaiah Drake of Spring Lake Heights and junior Sara Cole of Matawan, their travels have a different motive: service.

Drake has traveled to Managua, Nicaragua twice, once in 2014 and once in 2015, as a member of a team from his church, Grace Bible Church in Wall. Drake said their goal was to serve the locals and share the love of God.

Drake said the trip in 2014, which was his first time traveling out of the country, was the best experience of his life. He recalls that the children he encountered in the poverty stricken capital of Nicaragua were the ones that touched him the most.  

“It was the children that broke my heart,” Drake said. “They would cross the highway to get a cup of cereal and a pouch of milk. Their clothes were tattered and many walked barefoot.”

Throughout his weeklong stay, Drake and the group from his church bonded with and formed relationships with the community’s children.

“I had the opportunity to take Polaroid pictures with the kids and give them it to show that I would be praying for them even when I got home,” Drake said.  “It showed that I loved them. I told them the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Cole traveled to Albany, N.Y. and Detroit, Mich. as a member of a volunteer team. She repaired homes and worked at a free health fair. There she realized that traveling to a new place to volunteer was more rewarding than volunteering locally.

“I was out of my element, I was put in a situation where all of my efforts were funneled into helping others,” Cole said.  “I felt like part of a bigger machine in each city. In local volunteering I feel like I’m not doing something with a big enough impact.”

Cole’s experience broadened her view on the world and how she was able to contribute.

“Being further from my family and comfort, I had to reassess my place in the world and how to best improve it,” Cole said.