Teenager without borders

James Palmer, Writer

After her first mission trip to Haiti, Dominican Republic, senior Alexandra Mehlhaff knew how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

It took Mehlhaff about a year to adjust back to American life after her trip.

“I feel very guilty. I worked a job where I had to throw away food and I had flashbacks of all of the kids I would be able to feed, and we [Americans] throw away food because we simply can’t sell it,” Mehlhaff said.

Alexandra’s mother, Sheila Mehlhaff, says that the trip humbled Alexandra and changed her for the better.

“When we went shopping for school supplies and clothes, she would say, ‘I don’t need that, Mom.’ She was much more compassionate and she wanted to send her money back to Haiti to support children,” Sheila said.

Alexandra struggled with letting go of her memories of the children and families being torn apart by famine.

“I had a hard time talking about it, I was so mad. I asked myself ‘why am I so privileged with my life when people have nothing?,’” Alexandra said.

According to Alexandra, conditions in third world countries can be seen as dirty, uncomfortable and risky.

“I think people turn a blind eye to these issues of other countries because it is an uncomfortable subject, but I think people need to open their eyes to the hurting world,” Alexandra said.

Alexandra believes that she can make a difference in third world countries by becoming a traveling nurse to help people who cannot help themselves.

“I want to go for the medical aspect because with the technology we have, we can definitely help. I am not opposed to doing things in our country, I just feel called to go elsewhere,” Alexandra said.

Sheila believes there are many different ways to serve other than mission trips.

“Not everybody has to go out of the country to do good things, we have people in our schools and our neighborhoods that need to be touched with some form of love. We all have a capacity to serve others,” Sheila said.

Alexandra’s English teacher, Yvonne Sexton, also having lived overseas in Saudi Arabia, believes that Americans should be proud of their culture.

“We can be downers on America, but we have had people who have gone before us who have worked very hard to build America to the point where we have luxuries. I do think that we have an obligation to make life better for those who come after us,” Sexton said.

Although the conditions were rough, Alexandra found enjoyment when she discovered how much she could make a difference.

“We were in temperatures over one-hundred-and-ten degrees, there was no running water and we were walking through human waste and trash, but I was having the time of my life; I didn’t want it to end,” Alexandra said.