ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Going on safari is only a portion of the adventure that awaits three New Mexico teens who have been chosen to travel to South Africa.
Genesis Gallegos, 14, Gavin Foreman, 15, and Rae Lynn Stockton, 15, who participate in Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico, have been selected to head across the globe as part of a service project with the Boys & Girls Clubs in South Africa.
There are three sites in South Africa and the New Mexico teens will be partnering with one of the branches to do various renovation projects at the club as well as interact and do cultural exchanges with the youth and teenagers that attend the Boys & Girls Clubs in South Africa.
The teens have each been a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico for many years combined.
The trio has been busy fundraising for the trip by selling baked bread and seeking donations on an online system similar to GoFundMe called classy.org. They have also been accepting donations at Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico branches in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Some donations have trickled in. The goal is to raise $6,000 by May 1.
If the teens are able to overachieve that goal the additional money would help reimburse parents for immunizations, which were not covered by health insurance, as well as the cost to expedite passports. It also could help purchase luggage, hoodies and other needs, according to Rebecca Sisneros, development and marketing coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico.
“These kids have to fundraise about $2,300 each for the entire trip but that includes airfare, room and board, transportation,” said Christian Naea, chief program officer. “There’s actually a foundation based out of Santa Monica (Calif.), the Pacific Youth Foundation, picking up the remainder of the trip.”
In order to be considered for the trip the teens’ application process also included an essay on what this trip would mean to them and how they would use it to benefit the community.
“We also do grade checks throughout the year to make sure they are doing good in school because education and academic success is an important tenet of the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Naea said.
The teens head out to South Africa on July 8 and return on July 21. This is the first time the teens have traveled outside the United States.
“As soon as we land, we land in Johannesburg, and we’re going to take a six-hour drive to Kruger National Park,” Naea said. “The first thing we are going to do is go on safari for three days. So they’re going to get to go on early morning safaris around 6 a.m. and evening safaris and see the big five: elephant, hippo, lion, buffalo and rhinoceros.”
From safari the teens will be driven back to Johannesburg and hop on a plane to Cape Town. They will be in Cape Town for a few days and learn about apartheid. They will visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was interned for years.
The teens also have their own agendas on what they want to take away from the trip.
Stockton, who wants to be an architect, is interested in the architecture of South Africa.
Foreman is interested in the cuisine, particularly Kudo burgers, which are made with a type of deer meat.
“I’m really excited to do the service project because I want to make a lot of friends from the Boys & Girls Clubs in South Africa and I feel that it will be a great way to understand other people and like see how they react to some things that I would react to and basically see their culture,” Gallegos said.