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Northfield teen prepares for the adventure of a lifetime



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Northfield resident Mark Magoon will be traveling to El Salvador in February with classmates from Bishop Brady High School. The freshman basketball player will be assisting in the construction of a home for an impoverished family, and has decided he would also like to build a basketball court for children in the village of San Jose Villenueva. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
January 26, 2012
NORTHFIELD — High school freshman Mark Magoon of Northfield is heading out on the adventure of a lifetime when he and some of his classmates at Bishop Brady High School fly to El Salvador on Feb. 24 to help build a home for one of many deserving families in the village of San Jose Villanueva.

Magoon said the trip is an annual outreach of his school, but they will also be joined by a few students and teachers from Concord High School.

"I've heard a lot of great things from people who have gone there in the past, and now I want to go see how people live there for myself," Magoon said.

The trip is being coordinated through a philanthropic group called Epilogos, founded by former Peace Corps volunteer Denny Williams, with the efforts in San Jose Villanueva run by Mike and Susie Jenkins. The group is supported by many faith-based organizations, health professionals, universities and rotary clubs from around the world.

"We won't build the whole house — we'll be working on it (in conjunction) with Habitat for Humanity," said Magoon.

The family they will be assisting this year consists of a mother and father who have seven children, including a set of twins with cleft palates. Dad is a farmer, and mom sells tortillas as they try to support their family on the $5-$10 per day they earn. Their house is what most Americans would consider a shack, with dirt floors and no running water.

Surrounding this impoverished community are walled villas owned by wealthy individuals who seemingly have little regard for those around them.

"One man goes to work in his helicopter every day, and as he flies over, it damages the houses in the village because they're so poorly built," said Magoon's mother Donna, who will also be traveling with the group.

In order to make the journey to South America, the students and chaperones will have to have several vaccines to protect them from insects, disease and other hazards found in the region. They have also been advised that hot water will not be available in their accommodations, and showers will only be available every two days.

"We can't even drink the water, and we can't wear sandals because of all the insects. There are a lot of precautions, but it's going to be an amazing trip," said Donna Magoon.

None of those precautions have left her son daunted, either. Always one willing to help others, Magoon said he is ready to experience life in another country, one that might even be a bit of a cultural shock.

"Talking to other people who've gone down, they said people live in poverty, but are always so happy. They're a lot more grateful for what they have than we are in this country, and yet they have so much less," Magoon said.

The young man from Northfield is not only eager to go, but has even added to his work plans once he arrives in El Salvador. Magoon plays basketball, and currently swings between the varsity and junior varsity teams at Bishop Brady. His love for the sport is something he has decided to share with the village children of San Jose Villanueva.

"I want to build a basketball court while I'm there, and teach the kids how to play. Basketball's a great outlet for me, and I thought they could have fun with it, too," he said.

The villagers speak Spanish, and since Magoon is only in his first year of studying the language, he said explaining the game could be a bit of a challenge, but one he is ready to take on.

"There'll most likely be a lot of hand gestures between us, but there are a couple of Spanish teachers going down, too, so hopefully, they can help translate once in a while," said Magoon.

While some supplies can be obtained in El Salvador, he will still need money to buy them, and to also purchase basketballs, which can be deflated and carried in his luggage. Magoon estimates it will cost $200 to complete his personal gift to the village.

In the meantime, he is being asked to also raise $400 for his share of building supplies for the housing project, and travel expenses are also up to the Magoons to provide. He has already received some donations toward the mission, and said it is all deeply appreciated. No amount has been too small in helping him reach his goal. Any additional funds he receives will also be put to use in the project.

"I'm really proud of Mark. He's got a big heart, and it's going to be good to know that when he leaves El Salvador, he'll be leaving a part of himself there with his basketball court and his work to build a home for this family," said his mother.

Anyone wishing to contribute to Magoon's projects in El Salvador may do so by mailing a donation to 275 Concord Rd., Northfield, N.H. 03276. Deadline to assist the mission is Jan. 30. More information on Epilogos and its endeavors can be found at www.epilogos.org.

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