MARTINS FERRY - Like most students his age, Martins Ferry senior Tyler Hill has big plans for his Christmas vacation.
But while other students will be enjoying the time off here at home, Hill will be boarding a plane, bound for Haiti.
That's because Hill, along with three other Haiti Fund members from the First Christian Church in town and six other participants, will be making a mission trip to the island nation.
It's Hills first trip out of the country and one he's been looking forward too.
''I've always kind of wanted to go but it never became possible for me to make a mission trip like this until recently,'' said Hill, who will leave Dec. 27 for his eight-day trip to Haiti. ''I got the offer this summer to go and I jumped on it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.''
He also explained that his intentions are to go to college after graduation and study to become a youth minister, so this experience will also be invaluable in that pursuit.
For most in the group accompanying Hill, this mission trip will involve aiding in the construction of two houses in the Port-au-Prince area.
Hill will assist that project for one day, then the scope of his trip will turn more toward working with the Haitian youth that the Haitian Outreach Ministry, the organization of Pastor Leon Dorleans, works with.
''They kids don't get the opportunity to be around American teenagers very often,'' Hill said. ''I'm looking forward to sitting down and talking with the kids, about myself, my life as an American teenagers ... it's an honor few Americans have.
''I'll also get a chance to teach at a seminar the (local) church is putting on and working with the kids on other activities.''
For the last several months, Hill has been preparing for his trip as well as trying to raise funds to help pay for the journey. His fundraising efforts far exceeded his expectations.
''I sent out a whole bunch of letters to friends, family, members of our church community and I've received a lot of generous donations,'' Hill said. ''Actually I received a lot more than I expected. It's been pouring in.''
Hill said he needed approximately $2,500 for the trip, which was raised rather quickly. The rest of the money he raised will go toward assisting the construction of the two houses the rest of his group will be working on.
He also generated enough funding to have a translator work with him while he's in Haiti.
A few of the Haitian people speak English, but the majority speak either French or Haitian Creole.
''I actually went through a few years of Spanish class in high school,'' Hill said. ''I wish I would have taken French classes now but the translator will be with me a large portion of the time I'm down there.''
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org