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Asia calls woman to serve humanity

March 18, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

Editor's Note: This is the first in a week-long series during National Women's History Month recognizing women in the area who make a difference in their communities.

After years of raising children and tending to the needs of her Hagerstown community, Frances Young began to feel the urge to expand her horizons. And she did it on a decidedly global scale.

She and her husband, Hagerstown attorney William Young, took their first trip to Southeast Asia and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in January 2000 - a rather tourist-type trip.

But they went back in 2001, and again in January of this year. They are already planning the next venture. None of the subsequent trips could be described as typical.

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Once the Youngs hooked up with Global Spectrum's community service projects, they began an odyssey that few tourists get to experience.

Frances Young explained that Global has a matching grant program that channels money to areas of need throughout the region. The first year the Youngs were involved, the money went for clothing for children in an orphanage.

But Frances and her husband wanted to do more than contribute money and goods ... they both wanted to get their hands dirty.

"On our second trip, we were asked to go into the central highlands of Vietnam and work on a project and we said 'yes,'" Frances Young said. Two other Hagerstonians, Sam Reel and Wilda Gift, joined the Youngs on that trip to St. Vincent's Orphanage.

The orphanage was run by about a dozen nuns from a French order. More than 200 children were housed at the facility.

"We worked in the school, dealt with health problems and even fed the babies for four days," Francis Young said. Lesson plans were developed so they could continue to be used after the Youngs returned home.

Then in January of this year, the Youngs returned to a coastal area south of Da Nang and got involved in the building of a library at Duc Pho - a project begun by a group of U.S. veterans from the Vietnam War.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Bill Young returned to find a very different country from the one he left in the late 1960s after a stint as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General's office there.

"We brought supplies and taught the children and the teachers ... with the government officials watching us the whole time," said Frances Young. She and her husband have experience teaching - she in home teaching and as a substitute. Bill Young teaches paralegal classes at Hagerstown Community College.

The experiences in some of the poorest areas of the world have been eye-opening for Frances Young and her husband.

"For me, it's the freedom that we have and they don't," Frances Young said. "You don't see the difference when you are a tourist, but we saw it."

Bill and Frances said the best part of their journeys has been sharing their gifts with others and becoming immersed in the rich fabric of countries so different from their own.

Now a one-party communist country, Vietnam is quite capitalistic with a thriving economy - in the cities. The upper classes are growing there but there are still lots of hardworking people in the outlying areas who do without the simplest commodities.

Already the Youngs are collecting money for their 2003 trip so they will be able to take as much as possible to share with people who have so little.

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