County Central crew to build home in Trinidad

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County Central High School students have been raising money for a working holiday to Trinidad including cleaning ditches.

Trinidad in the midst of a Canadian winter – even a relatively mild one – sounds idyllic. Yet it won’t all be fun in the sun for a dozen Palliser students and their teacher when they take to the tropical island next month.

The County Central High School contingent from Vulcan will be in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago from Feb. 19-28 to roll up their sleeves and help build a home for a needy family.

Habitat for Humanity International has built or rehabilitated more than 600,000 houses world-wide to promote homeownership as means to break the cycle of poverty. Given the nature of that work, teacher Caitlin Mattatall is counting on the students bringing home more than just a nice tan.

“I really want them to come back realizing just how much we have in our country versus other people around the world; to come back and be more willing to help out other people; and be more accepting and tolerant of other people,” says the third-year Biology teacher. “I’d also like to see them really come together as a team and work awesomely together.”

She’s already been impressed by the group, which is comprised of a Grade 10 student, three Grade 11 students and the rest in Grade 12. To cover the cost of the trip – about $4,500 a student – over the past year the students have done everything from cleaning up after a service club’s oyster-fest, to selling poinsettias and holding a used car-battery drive.

“If there is a fundraiser that comes up, there’s no excuses from them. It’s ‘yep, sign me up and what can I do?’ ” says Mattatall, adding donations can still be made online at

The trip came about after an inquiry from a parent whose child was looking to fulfil requirements for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. After interest was shown by others, participants were selected through an essay contest outlining how they would benefit from such an experience.

Possible warm-weather destinations were researched with the two-island country northeast of Venezuela winning out over Mexico for a variety of reasons. The fact the official language is English didn’t hurt, and neither did the lack of safety concerns in Trinidad.

The County Central students will work on the Habitat build for  five-straight days and are expected to spend from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day helping install windows, doors and flooring. Their teacher is hoping they’ll have the opportunity at some point to work alongside the recipients of the home, who are required to put in a certain amount of sweat equity.

There will be time for rest and relaxation, with the group spending a day at the beach and another touring the smaller island of Tobago and the coral reef there.

The trip will be a learning experience in more ways than one as Mattatall says they’ve found ways to tie high school curriculum into the various components.

The cause fits in perfectly with the citizenship and global learning emphasized in social studies, and science is covered by a look at how the population impacts the environment there, she says. Math is a must in the actual construction of the home, while English and Palliser’s focus on literacy were taken care of through the initial essay and subsequent letters the students wrote to local businesses asking for donations.

To learn about Habitat for Humanity Canada, go to