Volunteers Work to Improve Nutrition, Health and Education in St. Lucia

Updated: 10/31/2013 6:27 PM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen

When Minnesotans Michele Gran and Bud Philbrook went on their honeymoon in 1979 it changed their lives in more ways than one.

Instead of a luxury cruise, they spent a week helping with an irrigation system in a Guatemalan village.

What they learned was that throughout the world there is a lot of poverty and people need help.

So was born Global Volunteers, an organization that today arranges for thousands of willing people every year to spend their vacations working alongside those who aren't as fortunate.

The most recent and ambitious plan by Global Volunteers is to raise the IQ of an entire nation by 20 percent.

The country is a tiny, tropical island in the Caribbean, just off the coast of Venuzeula, called St. Lucia.

It only has a population about the same as Washington County in Minnesota so it is an ideal size for such a bold experiment.

This year a steady stream of volunteers from all over the United States have been working with St. Lucians to improve their nutrition, health and education.

Robert Lewis, St. Lucia's Minister of Education, says only about half the islands kids go on to high school. Many cannot read and write in fourth grade. Global volunteers spend hours each day tutoring youngsters who have fallen behind. Other volunteers are teaching islanders how to grow fresh vegetables in specially designed "Earth Boxes" to vary their diet, which is rich in starches but poor in protein.

St. Lucia may appear to be a tropical paradise, but it's people are falling behind the rest of the world because of poverty and lack of education.

It may take many years to achieve their goal of raising the IQ of the St Lucian's but Michel Gran and Bud Philbrook say they are in it for the long haul.