A recent trip to Mexico with the HALO (Helping Art Liberate Orphans) Foundation put life into perspective for Lindsey Rowden.
She along with seven other volunteers visited HALO's orphanage near Tijuana earlier this month.
"These teachers at the orphanage and the kids have nothing," Rowden said. "They're lucky to have warm meals, yet they're the happiest people I've seen."
She said the simple things - like an hour of coloring - make a difference to the children at the orphanage.
"There's definitely a motto of how I want to continue with my family and my life," Rowden said.
This was Rowden's first experience volunteering with HALO.
The HALO Foundation is a nonprofit that "empowers youth in the greatest need to become contributing members of their communities."
The foundation supports 11 orphanages and programs in Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, India and Nicaragua. Domestically, it supports programming and art therapy for at-risk youth.
HALO founder and president Rebecca Neuenswander Welsh has taken many trips to HALO orphanages, but the recent trip was particularly poignant for her.
She wrote in a blog post that HALO has supported the orphanage for nine years and the kids who were 12 then are now 21.
"Nine years ago, we made the decision to invest donations in the future of these youth and we have gotten an incredible return," she wrote. "Walking through the halls of their school this weekend brought tears to my eyes. The success stories go on and on."
She said in an interview last week that the trip was the first time volunteers really got to see the fruits of their labor.
"It was the first time I was able to experience the true impact we've had there," Welsh said.
HALO fully supports education at the orphanage, including teachers' salaries.
Ashley Freeman, who also went on the trip to Mexico, said she's traveled to several countries, but never knew how bad poverty could be until she visited the area around the Mexico orphanage.
"It's crazy to think that people do live like that," she said. "It makes you realize what we have, and you see the difference of how kids are brought up."
If you would like more information about HALO, or if you'd like to make a donation, visit www.haloworldwide.org or call the local office at 418-9912.
How can you help?
HALO founder and president Rebecca Neuenswander Welsh said needs of the orphanage near Tijuana include:
• 35 mattresses at $38 each
• 35 sheets at $5 each
• 35 blankets, such as the homemade, fleece no-sew ones
• 2 additional staff members
You may also support efforts at Jefferson City's HALO Learning Center, 1015 E. Atchison St.