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PHS girls journey to Africa for HIV/AIDS prevention

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic --- Head leaders Bill DeLannoy, left, and his wife, Sharon, review cultural etiquette Sunday with Prescott-area team members who will be participating in the South Africa Mission July 11-30.

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic --- Head leaders Bill DeLannoy, left, and his wife, Sharon, review cultural etiquette Sunday with Prescott-area team members who will be participating in the South Africa Mission July 11-30.

Something about Africa calls to those who strive to help others.

That feeling is no exception for eight Prescott High School girls, who will spend three weeks this July in South Africa teaching other high school students about HIV and AIDS prevention.

"We just all decided we wanted to do a mission trip," 15-year-old Ashley Griffin said.

The girls all attend The Heights Church in Prescott, and are going to the faraway continent through a program called South Africa Mission, a separate entity from their church or school.

"They need a lot of help there," said Aubrey Hancock, 14. "They're really poverty stricken and there's also the AIDS."

The girls said through their training to travel overseas and teach, they learned 8,000 people die every day of AIDS in South Africa.

"I think we'll see a lot of children and families without parents," said Sarah Holmes, 17. "We know to expect that, but when we actually see it, it'll be heartbreaking."

Also going are Savannah Ulrich, 15; Sydnie Ulrich, 17; Caroline Vandine, 14; April Lillie, 15; and Julie Holmes, 15. The girls said they are excited to go, especially since none of them have traveled to Africa before.

This is the first time South Africa Mission coordinators Sharon and Bill DeLannoy are taking a group of high-schoolers on the trip. Sharon said she took her grandson in 2004, and after seeing his reaction, she decided to start taking teenagers.

"(My grandson's) eyes were opened to a world wider than the town he lives in, in California," she said. "There was a lot that he learned."

Melisa Chupp, a youth leader at The Heights, works with all eight girls regularly. "The girls felt like they really wanted to do a mission trip this year," she said.

Together, they began researching areas that needed help, that would be somewhat safe, and that would teach the girls about the world.

"The one that kept coming back was Africa," Chupp said.

Soon after, Chupp learned of the DeLannoys' involvement in South Africa Mission. After some talks and coordinating, the trip for July was ready to go.

"I'm thrilled, just because I feel God has always given me a heart for missions," Chupp said. "I'm just very excited the impact it will make on the girls - in the long term, not just the immediate."

A few of the girls have traveled out of the country to places such as Mexico and Cambodia. None of them are really nervous about the 30-plus hours of travel time to reach their destination: Richard's Bay, South Africa, on the east coast off the Indian Ocean.

"I just don't want to get eaten by a lion," Sarah said, triggering an outburst of laughter from the other girls.

Besides bugs and getting too close to wildlife, these girls are fearless and ready to teach.

Contact the reporter at slopatin@prescottaz.com

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