Over the past couple months, SLmag has been posting the profiles featured in our Missions of Mercy story from our December issue online.

Even though the January issue is on many shelves, we posted Judy Zone of YouthLinc's profile now to promote two service opportunities with the group, which is accepting applications for volunteer trip mentors and for their friends & family trips.

Find out more at youthlinc.org.

Mission: Recruiting students to provide humanitarian aid to small villages in seven different countries and support Utah's needy through local service work.

Areas of operation: Kenya, Peru, Thailand, Guatemala, Cambodia and Utah

Judy Zone created Youthlinc, an international service learning and humanitarian program, after a trip to Kenya with her daughter in 1998.

“We saw a lot of animals on a safari, but we spent most of our time in villages,” says Zone, then a high school English teacher. “When we saw the unbelievable poverty, we knew there had to be some kind of structured way to help.”

Zone started thinking of what she could do to not only help, but also offer students meaningful, international experiences. One year later, she founded Youthlinc.

The overall goal of the program: creating lifetime humanitarians.

Youthlinc recruits high school and college students to invest up to 100 hours of service work, helping needy people in the community through local organizations before going on trips to small villages across the globe. The trips take students to Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Cambodia, Guatemala and Cambodia.

Students work with locals and in-country rotary clubs on issues involving construction, clean water, secondary education, healthcare, vocational training and launching small businesses. Each student will also teach a class on a topic of his or her choice. “That forces even the shyest person to interact with the community,” Zone says.

She remembers watching one student, who had been bullied in high school, gain confidence after helping an 8-year-old Mexican girl nobody else could. “It was our first year working at this school, and there was this girl named Griselda,” Zone says. “She had a number of disorders, but one caused her to thrash her arms and legs around, so nobody could give her an assessment.” The student started blowing soap bubbles at Griselda, and she calmed down. “And this young man could speak some Spanish, and found Griselda understood it,” Zone says. “Her own mother thought she had no language skills.”

The program also keeps the volunteer spirit alive at home. Youthlinc awards Young Humanitarian Award scholarships to recognize young Utahns who excel in service work, and trip participants spend nine months at a local service site before going abroad, which Zone says explains why up to 93 percent of alumni still volunteer. “After nine months, they know if they stop going, nobody will fill their shoes.”

How to help:

Youthlinc’s benefit events and fundraisers are listed on youthlinc.org. To sponsor a Youthlinc student or support an in-country project, call the Youthlinc office at 801-467-4417 or email office@youthlinc.com.

By the Numbers:

12,000 Annual, local service hours by Youthlinic participants

1,000+ Number of Youthlinic alumni

2 weeks of service per trip

80 Number of Young Humanitarian Awards applications submitted each year

$8,000 Young Humanitarian scholarship money awarded annually