Once upon a time, in a land far away… 

Not really. This tale begins 30 years ago, right here in Sugarhouse, with a man and his son. The two of them loved doing projects together and were frequently picking up new hobbies. They tried leatherworking, baking, building, and – relevant to this story, soap making. Together they tested various recipes and methods, taking many notes and keeping their family well supplied with the products of their experiments. 

Years later, the son, Tyler, met and married a girl named Andrea. Me. He taught me how to make soap and we also experimented and expanded our skills. We gave bars to family, friends, and neighbors. One of the recipients, a friend named Miriam, asked if we would teach her how to make it since she thought it could be useful in her job at Youthlinc. Soon after she had been to our house for a lesson she sent her colleagues, Justin and Britnie Powell, out to learn before they traveled to Madagascar themselves, on a different team. 

Now there have been dozens of Youthlinc Humanitarians on vocational teams who have taught hundreds of people in countries all over the world a skill that provides them a way to create a product to sell and a commodity to use. And it started with my darling father-in-law.

Isn’t it wonderful how impactful a single person can be? 

The most wonderful part of that story to me is that my father-in-law didn’t set out to create anything more than some soap and memories with his son. There was no agenda, no official class or degree, just a man and a hobby. But because he shared with his son who shared with me who shared with Miriam etc etc etc, lives were changed. (It also served as my introduction to Youthlinc. Tyler and I went as mentors on teams to Thailand and Madagascar. I am currently a member of the board.)

How many hobbies do you have? How many bits of knowledge, skills, and passions do you have? 

In Madagascar, one of the humanitarians on the team was able to braid a new rope for the village well since theirs was frayed and failing. I got to teach music lessons and create instruments out of plastic pipes. A humanitarian brought her ukulele to Thailand and taught the students how to sing Don’t Worry, Be Happy. The countless soccer games, friendship bracelets, painted faces, and more all speak to the talents of people who were willing to share those skills with others.

I used to throw elaborate parties and events as a side gig. I’d make/sew/fold/mold/sculpt decorations, build backdrops, cook food, bake cakes, and anything else you can think of.  The skills I acquired from those years have been helpful in myriad ways! I had learned to think on my feet and solve problems creatively using whatever limited resources were on hand. That comes in really handy when helping with the Youthlinc annual benefit, something I look forward to each year. It translated into managing to put together foot-treadle sewing machines in Madagascar without any instructions and only a hammer and broken screwdriver. (Ask me sometime about using antibiotic cream as a lubricant for some of the screws.)

In both Thailand and Madagascar, my ability to sew helped me connect, first with the members of my team and later with the women of the villages where we worked. I loved seeing the headbands, skirts, pads, and stuffed animals those women were able to make while I was there

Now, I’m no great seamstress but that’s exactly the point I’m hoping to communicate. We don’t have to be experts to make a difference. We don’t need to know everything in order to share something

One of my favorite elements of the Youthlinc Service Year is, like many, the local service aspect. It speaks volumes to me that each student chooses their own local service site. Youthlinc is not dictating what to do or what to care about; that is up to every individual to decide for themselves. They recognize the importance of individual perspectives and experiences.

Like a patchwork quilt, the variety in each little scrap is the beauty. It’s countless pieces of different sizes and colors that are sewn together to create something much bigger and grander than any one of those fabrics could be alone. Your contributions matter even if you feel they’re small. Maybe your hobby has already started somebody else down a life changing path.

How My Father-in-Law’s Hobby Led Me to Madagascar
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