An Ahwatukee Foothills teacher went one step beyond donating to an international aid organization this summer: She went to see how her donations are helping people in a Third World country.

Desert Vista High School honors history and geography teacher Dawn Schmidt spent nine days traveling through Honduras earlier this month with charity Heifer International, learning about how the group helps people in developing areas. She went on a special trip with 14 other educators from across the country.

Heifer International’s mission is to help end world hunger and poverty by creating sustainable, self-reliant communities, Schmidt said. Many of their projects involve giving animals to people in need, training them to care for that animal and use it as a resource, then sharing that gift with their community.

Schmidt has donated to the organization in the past, so she was looking forward to seeing how those donations were used first hand.

One of the projects she found most interesting was about empowering women in small mountain villages. Women were given cows and taught how to care for them.

“For so many of these women, they had no source of income. With a cow, they were able to milk it and have milk for their children, so their children were healthier,” Schmidt said.

Plus, the women were able to sell the milk or butter, giving them the money to provide more for their children, Schmidt said.

“That’s their big dream, is that their children get beyond a second or third grade education,” she said.

Schmidt found traveling with other teachers valuable because they were able to toss around ideas on how to incorporate everything they saw into the classroom. Schmidt is already trying to put one of those ideas into motion.

“I’ve talked to some of the other teachers (at Desert Vista), and I would love to do some class competitions, show (students) on Powerpoint, ‘Here are the different kinds of animals you can buy,’” Schmidt said. “Ahwatukee already has a great history of helping the community, so I’d like to show my students there are other things out there, too.”

Schmidt also plans to incorporate her stories and photos into class lessons. She was able to spend time with the people of Honduras and take pictures of communities and Mayan ruins – which fits perfectly into her advanced placement world history and honors world history and geography curriculum.

“When we hear terms today like globalization and global understanding, it makes you realize that even though the United States is a wonderful place and I love it, it’s important to understand other people’s culture and where they’re coming from. To do that, you need to experience their culture,” Schmidt said.

“I’m really grateful for what I have,” Schmidt said. “And I think if nothing else, when you travel to a Third World country, it makes you stop and think about your situation a little more.”

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