Lynnwood couple help Caribbean kids create a brighter future

  • Tue Jul 3rd, 2012 6:24pm

<b>FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS | </b>By Lauren Thompson Bentley For the Weekly Herald

Leave your mark on the world.

That’s the motto of Global Volunteers, an organization that sends short-term social development teams around the world.

It’s also the personal mantra of Roger and Marilyn Yockey, Lynnwood retirees. The couple, both 72, traveled with Global Volunteers to the small Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia earlier this year.

“When we both retired we did some traveling and we just felt it was time to do something to make a better world, to promote peace and also to work with children,” Roger said.

This was the couple’s sixth trip with Global Volunteers; they’ve also done work in Ecuador, Portugal and struggling communities in the United States.

The Yockeys were part of the nonprofit’s first team to Saint Lucia. The nation, one of the smallest in the world at only 237 square miles, is famous as a cruise and honeymoon destination, boasting pristine beaches and tropical climes.

“Many people come there (on) cruise ships. Little do they know the beauty and the needs of the people that live there,” Marilyn said.

A 2010 study from the University of New Mexico suggested that factors such as disease and hunger can lead to a lower IQ in young children in developing countries. The Saint Lucia team worked to address these issues in Anse la Raye, one of the island’s poorest communities.

“By providing health care, nutrition and education you could actually end up enhancing the IQ of the children,” Roger explained. This, in theory, would help promote national growth and development.

Children have the capacity to have a high IQ, Roger said. But in some regions, kids have to face other issues such as poor health and malnutrition, which can get in the way of intellectual development.

The Yockeys specifically worked in classrooms, aiding teachers and encouraging students as they learned. Other members of their team focused on sanitation, nutrition and community services.

The couple have a deep-seated desire to help provide education to children. They have three kids, eight grandkids and one great-grandchild of their own. Roger is a retired university professor and Marilyn worked as a high school teacher. “Having advanced degrees, certainly we see the advantage of (encouraging) people’s minds to dream,” Marilyn said.

Engaging the local community was essential for their team, said Roger and Marilyn. “We were very welcome,” said Roger. “What they (the Saint Lucians) see is we’re not the tourists who get off the cruise ships. … We’re actually there working with the people doing something.”

More short-term teams have continued the project in Saint Lucia since the Yockeys first went in January. It’s too soon to report if the project has had measurable effects.

But Roger reports there is one change for the better in Anse la Raye: “I introduced the high-five to the boys and the girls.”

More information

More teams are scheduled to go to Saint Lucia this year. To get involved, go to www.globalvolunteers.org/stlucia or call 800-487-1074.

Read more about global IQ variations in this Scientific American article by Christopher Epping, lead author of the UNM study at http://tinyurl.com/3zkoa5r.