Categories: Volunteers

Youth worker reaches out to African nation

Aaron Brink of Youth Unlimited meets a young Burundian during a mission trip last year. Brink is organizing a return trip this year.

Burundi is a small landlocked country that probably wouldn’t get any kind of attention if it weren’t for the fact that it is one of the 10 poorest nations in the world, one that’s suffered from devastating civil unrest and genocide much like its neighbours Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Aaron Brink is working to improve the circumstances and lessen the hardships so many Burundians face. The 24-year-old St. Albert native works with an international organization called Youth Unlimited. The Christian group started in 1919 and operates under the premise that youth are God’s instruments of change.

Brink is a program director with the local chapter of YU in Edmonton and St. Albert. For the second year in a row, he’s taking part in a trip abroad to that impoverished African nation and he’s bringing along a few of his friends. Together, they will be taking part in an outreach effort. The global initiative is called Daring to Reach Orphaned People, or DROP.

“We’ve partnered with several different organizations that are working in the country of Burundi, doing aid work and construction, all different sorts of good things,” he said.

The trip from July 21 to August 11 will see 10 youth and 10 adult leaders to do whatever needs to be done to put the people and the country back together.

“We’re going without an agenda … basically going and saying, ‘We’re here to serve you and help in any way that you need help.’ This year looks like a lot of building projects.”

He added that construction on a school is already shaping up, as is a house that is needed for a widowed mother who works at a nearby orphanage.

Simon Orleski has already signed up. The Grade 12 student at Edmonton’s W.P. Wagner High School went last year and just knew that it was too much of a valuable experience to pass up this year. The only proviso is that the youth volunteers must be mature.

No problem, Orleski says.

“I really enjoyed myself. We met the community there so that was very good,” he said, adding he knew how significant his participation was because they got to meet and travel with local leaders as well.

While there last year he helped build new homes, a school’s soccer pitch and day camps for an orphanage. Orleski just wants to do more. For him, it’s about actually being there and helping others personally.

“You can only do so much with money, right? If you’re actually there, you can give them love.”

To help fundraise for the group and the trip, the local chapter is holding its 23rd annual golf challenge at the Highlands Golf Club. It costs $200 to get in and it starts at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 6. You can register on their website but if you just want to skip the game and donate to the cause, you can do that online as well.

For more information about Youth Unlimited Edmonton, the fundraiser or the mission to Burundi, please call 780-437-3000 or visit www.youthunlimitededmonton.com.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.