After helping build a mud home for an elderly Ugandan woman and her grandchildren, Santa Fe Christian High School student Sara Bennett said her outlook on life changed dramatically.
"Her home was the size of my room and eight of them lived in there," said Bennett, a senior. "It was hard to see that and come back and be happy going to the mall."
Bennett was one of 20 Santa Fe Christian High School students who volunteered in Uganda on a Children's Heritage Foundation mission trip in June.
The Children's Heritage Foundation is a non-profit organization started by a Santa Fe Christian family that supports a boarding school and orphanage in Mukono, Uganda. The Victors' Christian School provides a safe home, meals and education for more than 500 orphaned, refugee and poor children.
Students, parents and teachers go on mission trips to deliver donations to the school, help with infrastructure projects and extend a loving hand to children in need.
"Santa Fe Christian has always had a heart for reaching out to others," said Suzanne Kenyon, who started Children's Heritage Foundation with her husband, John. "The mission trips give teens an opportunity to serve and see how the rest of the world lives."
This is the second year students from Santa Fe Christian have visited the school and nearby villages.
"I had seen a bunch of 'Invisible Children' movies, heard all about it," said freshman Reed Miller. "I was interested to go and really experience it."
During the school year, students ran donation drives for books and shoes. On their trip, they delivered over one ton of books to the school, which did not have any books before this gift.
The students also distributed hundreds of pairs of shoes, helping recipients find the best-fitting pair.
"It was amazing, especially, their mothers grabbing our hands saying 'thank you so much,'" Bennett said. "You could tell they were so appreciative."
During the two-week stay, students helped build two homes, passed out mosquito nets, ran a miniature Vacation Bible School and spent lots of time playing with the children.
The visitors also interviewed students who need sponsorship to attend the school, which costs about $35 to $40 a month. They wrote the profiles that are sent with a picture to their sponsor.
Parents and students were struck by how much joy the children had, despite the hardships they face.
"The kids are so excited, even though they had absolutely nothing, they were always smiling," Miller said. "It really changed how I saw the world."
Opening students' eyes to poverty is an important aspect of the trip, said teacher Janelle Ruge.
"I love students get exposed to how a huge percentage of the world lives," Ruge said. "I love the challenge it puts on them."
The students take on the challenge of social responsibility seriously. When they return, they share their experiences with others, and are often the ones spearheading the donation drives for the next year's trip.
It can sometimes be a hard sell, Bennett said, because some students don't quite understand or are not as interested. She encourages all her peers to go on a trip like this.
"Or watch the videos on You Tube," Bennett said. "Get an idea this is not a commercial, this is real life for them."
For more information about the Children's Heritage Foundation, go to