Streetsboro teenager volunteers on trip to Burkina Faso, Africa

by Andrew Rogers Correspondent Published:

In a landlocked country of Western Africa called Burkina Faso, hope sprouts in the form of goodwill and charity.

Hannah Roble, 17, of Streetsboro, along with Michael Spaans, 18, of Hudson and Bethany Jablonski, 17, of Twinsburg decided to make a difference and take a trip there.

Like many of those who are eager to help people struggling all around the world, Roble and her fellow travelers needed a way to get to such a faraway land. This help came in the form of the Hope Community Church in Hudson, which Roble and the others attend, and the program they provide, Engage Burkina, that enables ambitious young people like Roble to exercise their philanthropic impulses.

According to her mother, Leesa Roble, Hannah is naturally inclined to help those who need it, and in this case, people who have less than she does in a completely disparate area of the globe.

"Hannah sees how people live in other parts of the world, and she always wants to help," said Leesa.

The Rev. Paul Hunneycu, pastor of Hope Community Church, orchestrated the trip in a fashion optimizing the small group's impact on the area they were visiting. The trip was largely funded by donors to whom Hannah penned a thoughtful thank you letter.

The threesome visited a Compassion International site, an international nonprofit that provides aid to children globally who are living in poverty. The three teenagers also visited a shelter home for women at risk for falling into prostitution and built a roof for a local church.

Hannah has an especially soft spot in her heart for those born with disabilities. While the group attended the Compassion International event, they distributed special needs bikes that are peddled with the hands rather than the feet, as polio often robs children in Burkina Faso of their ability to walk, she said.

"They don't even have a family to love them here in Africa," said Hannah, explaining children who develop polio are often abandoned because they require resources that are scarce.

"One of the young ladies that helped take care of us could not afford a surgery to remove a tumor that would save her life. It would only cost $400 in American dollars," said Jablonski. According to Jablonski, her parents were supportive of her trip to Africa, because her older sister had gone and her parents then saw the impact these trips can have.

"I want to become a nurse, and I thought it would be great to go see the medical needs in other countries," said Jablonski.

Spaans explained that he was made aware of the Envision program trip by Hunneycut. Spaans speaks highly of his experience, but advises would-be aid volunteers to be mindful when considering embarking on such a journey yourself.

"Short-term mission trips often do not accomplish much and can be categorized as 'poverty tourism,'" said Spaans.

Leesa explained that she wasn't thrilled about the idea of her daughter traveling to such a distant, and in many cases dangerous, destination.

"I was apprehensive to allow Hannah to travel to Africa," she said, but Hunneycut told her he'd been on many trips to Birkina Faso and that's it's one of the safest spots in Africa.

Hunneycut is still active in organizing mission trips and has extended his program to the Cleveland area to engage teens in that area in the philanthropic travels he provides.

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