By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
Dylan Angner and Collin Mills could have done anything this summer.
The Pope John XXIII Regional High School juniors could have taken a day trip to the Jersey Shore, played sports at a park, or just hang out together.
Yet, Angner and Mills decided to go on a service trip to Mumbai, India from June 26-July 14 to help children at an orphanage.
“It was definitely eye-opening,” Angner said of the experience in a recent telephone interview. “At first, I wasn’t super keen on the idea of doing this. But, getting to go on this trip, build a bond with these kids and help them was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
“It was amazing,” Mills said. “Dylan and I both got a lot more out of this experience than what we were expecting. We thought this was just going to be a cool trip, but we just fell in love with the kids we worked with, made great friends, learned a lot of valuable lessons and made an impact.”
Mills and Angner went on the trip through a nonprofit organization called Uplift Humanity, which focuses on trying to “empower juveniles and orphans in India to break the cycle of recidivism and achieve their full potential through education,” according to its mission statement on its website. Angner and Mills learned about the organization and the trips it takes to different parts of India through Angner’s family friend and cousin.
When they arrived at the orphanage in Mumbai, Angner and Mills couldn’t believe what the children were experiencing.
“The first time we saw the orphanage, it was crazy,” Angner said. “I had been to India before with family, but it wasn’t the same as this. We saw so many people in poverty, trash on the streets and how different it was than in the U.S. The power at the orphanage kept going out every hour. Two orphans had to share a twin bed to sleep on. It showed us how good we have it in the U.S. and it was shocking for us to see.”
“It was definitely a shock,” Mills said. “I have been to New York City where there are a lot of people, but this was on another level. Seeing the orphans and the conditions they were living in was just awful.”
After witnessing and feeling the culture shock, Angner and Mills tried their best to do their part in helping teaching the orphans basic English and conversational skills. Throughout the trip, they tried to apply the lessons and values they learned from Pope John.
“At Pope John, we are always learning how to be better people and to help others,” Angner said. “When we went to Mumbai, we applied what our teachers have taught us. We would help teach the kids how to properly behave. We would teach them how to be patient when it comes to learning a subject. These lessons certainly played a big part on our trip.”
“They definitely helped,” Mills said. “The whole mentality of giving to others and doing your best let us come into this situation and help make an impact on these kids.”
Angner and Mills also said the orphans helped them become better leaders and teachers. Angner and Mills also formed strong bonds with the children and they took away some other impactful lessons that they look to apply to the rest of their lives.
“I learned not to judge other people,” Angner said. “Throughout this trip, I was put in so many scenarios that I could relate to my life back at home. It made me realize that the way I have looked at certain people or situations is so wrong. For these kids, throwing a plastic ball is super entertaining for them, but back here in the U.S. we always want something more. It showed me that we could be just as happy with so many other things.”
“It has really opened my eyes to see how we should be grateful and how talented these kids are,” Mills said. “They were living in these poor conditions, but they still had smiles on their faces. We did some icebreakers at the beginning of the trip and one of the kids could solve a rubix cube in 40 seconds. I can’t solve one at all. Some can jump rope and crisscross on one leg, and some can do really hard magic tricks. It was amazing to see.”