Global village under construction at Sharpsburg retreat center

November 07, 2008|By JANET HEIM


Tammy Whitmore is thousands of miles from her California home and friends, many of whom don't understand her idea of a vacation.

Whitmore, 62, is in Maryland for a service-oriented Elder Hostel program at Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center.

Shepherd's Spring on Taylors Landing Road in Sharpsburg is a retreat center and summer camp owned and operated by the Mid-Atlantic District Church of the Brethren.

Whitmore is one of a dozen volunteers from across the United States who volunteered their time to help with the construction of Guatemala House. It is the first of a group of international homes that represent several of the countries in which Heifer International works on issues of hunger and poverty.


"I'm interested in world and U.S. poverty. I thought I'd have a hand in actually doing something about it instead of just talking about it," said volunteer David Whitis, 71, of Media, Pa.

In addition to Guatemala, the Heifer Global Village at Shepherd's Spring will include four different programs and seven homes -- including Mozambique, Kenya, China, Thailand and the United States -- and a refugee site.

Construction on Guatemala House began at the end of August with community and church volunteers. Annette Lenker, Heifer Global Village director, said getting building permits took a lot longer than expected, especially since the buildings were not intended to have electricity or running water.

Some modifications to the buildings had to be made to meet county codes and regulations, but the goal is to make the structures as authentic as possible, Lenker said.

The next project will be Mozambique House.

Lenker said the village will be used as an outdoor teaching tool.

Fourth- to sixth-grade school students can experience another culture through the Cultural Connections program.

The four-hour program will include games, folk tales, clothing and preparing a meal over the fire pit -- rice, beans and tortillas for Guatemala, she said.

The Global Gateway program is a 24-hour experience for sixth-graders and older to raise awareness of hunger and poverty issues.

This group of Elder Hostel participants arrived Nov. 2, began work the next day and wrapped up their week Nov. 7.

David Reichhardt, 67, a retired high school science teacher from Michigan, and his wife did this Elder Hostel week as their third experience. They previously traveled to Copper Canyon in Mexico and did bird-watching in Delaware.

"I like it, rather than being a tourist. It's a fascinating group from all over the country," Reichhardt said.

Some of the week's construction on the two-room structure -- a kitchen and bedroom with separate entrances -- included installing roofing supports, staining exterior materials and mortaring cinder blocks on the kitchen's stove.

The Heifer Global Village is being built on 10 acres of property at Shepherd's Spring. Village construction costs are expected to be about $120,000.

Donations and volunteers ages 14 and older are welcome, said Lenker, who can be reached at 301-223-8193. Information is also available online at

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