Young adults will bring school supplies to Ecuador and interact with LGBT community in a country where same-sex marriage was recently made legal
VISALIA – Nine young people in Visalia’s LGBT+ community are in Ecuador this week as part of a service, educational, and cultural exchange trip.
Max Smith, Briauna Guerrero, Raquel Lorenz, Kristen Loya, Jared Rubio, Joshua Sanchez, Rory Summers, Ruben Vela, and Karigan Wann are all part of the Youth Leadership Academy at The Source LGBT+ Center, a medical resource and referral center for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and others in Visalia.
Director of Development Nick Vargas said The Source’s youth leadership academy is a program that meets twice per month for people ages 16 to 23. During sessions the participants go through modules on LGBT+ history, public speaking, advocacy, personal finance, slam poetry, and other topics of use to young leaders. In addition, they complete a class project around health care access.
After receiving a donation to cover travel expenses, Vargas and The Source’s executive director Brian Poth chose to take the group to Ecuador because two Visalians, Gwyn and Maggie Reniers, have a non-profit hotel that hosts service-groups. The hotel, known as the Latitude Foundation, is in Otavalo, Ecuador, about an hour and fifteen minutes north of the capital of Quito. The trip will also be an opportunity to witness a country where same-sex marriage was recently made legal.
While there, our class will work with the local LGBT+ community, as well as taking needed school supplies to the youth in Ecuador. Vargas said school is not free there, and supplies can be very expensive. Every participant, including the chaperones, will be “packing for a purpose” with back packs, pens, pencils, and other school supplies.
“For most of the academy, it will be their first time on a plane and their first time leaving California. Brian and I are using this as the final education piece of this year’s academy to show students what it is like to travel internationally and interact with a different culture,” Vargas said. “We expect to make the international travel component an ongoing part of the youth leadership academy.”
The group included Max Smith, Briauna Guerrero, Raquel Lorenz, Kristen Loya, Jared Rubio, Joshua Sanchez, Rory Summers, Ruben Vela, and Karigan Wann. The Source LGBT+ Center staff are Brian Poth, Nick Vargas, Dean Jackson, and Edwin Gomez.
Applications will be taken for the next class in September. For more information, visit www.thesourcelgbt.org.
Pictures and stories of the trip will be posted at the Source’s Facebook page, so “like” us at www.facebook.com/thesourcelgbt to keep up-to-date on all the excitement!
The Source LGBT+ Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. If you would like more information about this release, please contact Katia Clark, chair of the board of directors, at [email protected] or community liaison at 559-284-1819 or email at [email protected]