The mudslides that destroyed towns in Guatemala still linger in the mind of Graham Anderson, even years later. The Weston senior visited the village of Chuk Muk as part of a project with Builders Beyond Borders . Mudslides created by Hurricane Stan in 2005 left an impression that Anderson won't forget.
"There was an open field that was pure mud,'' Anderson said. "There was a canyon coming down the mountain where the mud had cleared all the trees. Residents told us there were still hundreds of family members buried there. Without a doubt, it's the most vivid memory I have of my three previous trips."
Anderson is among a group of about 40 kids from Weston, Westport and other Fairfield County towns who will leave Saturday for Ecuador for a weeklong yearly project for Builders Beyond Borders. Anderson, who won a national championship in rowing with teammate Max Meyer-Bosse for Saugatuck Rowing Club in June, is making his fourth and final trip with the group.
"It's great to see the satisfaction on the faces of these people when they see what we do,'' Anderson said. "They've had so many false promises. To have a bunch of teenage kids from Connecticut come down and build things for them is a big deal."
Several groups from B3 visit South American countries each year and build homes, schools and community centers. Anderson's travels have also taken him to the Dominican Republic and Peru. A student adviser goes with each group, and planners and builders help students with the projects. "It's not just a bunch of kids going down trying to build a house from scratch,'' Anderson says.
He followed in the footsteps of two older brothers who also worked with the group. One brother, Nick, will return this year from China to go with Graham's group as a student adviser. Graham recalled his first glimpse of the dire conditions in Guatemala. "Since my brothers had done it for four years, I had a sense of what the work was going to be like,'' Graham said. "When we first walked in to see where the people live, it was a big culture shock. It's like nothing you've experienced before."
Students have to raise money to travel with B3. Anderson also misses training time as the spring rowing season approaches. "My rowing coaches are upset about it to an extent,'' said Graham, who will continue his rowing career at Columbia University. "They have to accept that I'm leaving for a week. The understand that this is something I love to do."
Does your high school athlete participate in a worthwhile community project? Let us know! Send an email to email@example.com .
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.