Local teens get to see results of fundraising for Malawi children

Clark Renaud and India Parker, students at Central Elgin Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, Ont., returned from a mission trip to Malawi determined to do more. (Brent Lale / CTV London)

A humanitarian mission to Southeast Africa was a life-changing experience for a pair of St. Thomas teenagers.

"It felt like you were in a dream. Just the stuff you saw on the street and the poverty," says 16-year-old Clark Renaud. "Even the lack of clean water, I couldn't believe I was actually there."

Renaud and fellow Central Elgin Collegiate Institute student India Parker are back at school after spending part of July in Malawi.

Over the past six years they've raised more than $20,000 for 37 children associated with the Turn the Tide initiative, a non-profit association helping orphans in Malawi.

"That was my favourite part. Just to go there and meet them, to see them and to hear about how they are doing in school," says Parker.

The Grade 11 student added she loved seeing how the money they've raised has made an impact.

Children in that village have a one per cent chance of attending university, and so far with their help, they've already seen three continue post-secondary education.

"It's incredible that since we were 10 we've been fundraising for these kids," says Renaud. "Just seeing the money is going to what we've been working on is incredible. These 37 kids really stand out in the village."

Parker ran a conference educating girls about saving money, abstinence and personal hygiene.

In the fourth poorest country in the world, 50 per cent of girls get married before the age of18.

"We definitely saw girls my age with little babies. That really opened my eyes," she says.

Renaud ran sports camps, delivered 160 soccer jerseys and helped build two soccer nets and an entire pitch.

"We had to use wood from the trees and we tied bamboo string for the nets to stay up. They have so little. We had a rock as a hammer.”

He says once they got the nets, they played so much soccer they didn't want to leave the field.

Even though the trip is now over, it doesn’t mean their mission is complete. They wish to see all the kids reach university and have plans to continue raising funds.

"As soon as we get another chance we want to go back," says Renaud. "Our younger siblings would like to go, and we'll keep building on this project".