On the Road: Minnesota Couple Tackles 'The St. Lucia Project'

Updated: 11/05/2013 9:25 AM KSTP.com By: Jason Davis

When Michele Gran and Bud Philbrook decided to spend half their honeymoon helping with an irrigation project in Guatemala they had no idea that it would be the start of worldwide volunteer program. The original plan was a cruise and a trip to Disney World.

Michele said, "I just couldn't spend the kind of money we were thinking about on something that seemed, at that time, indulgent.”

That was nearly 30 years ago. Today, Global Volunteers - the organization that Michele and Bud created - helps thousands of individuals each year spend their vacations helping the less fortunate.

Now, Global Volunteers have challenged themselves to try and raise the IQ of an entire nation.

They have selected the St. Lucian village of Anse La Raye to demonstrate the power of volunteers to help raise their intellectual potential for life.

The population of St. Lucia, a tiny island in the Caribbean, is about the same as Washington County in Minnesota.

It is a beautiful, unspoiled tropical jewel with forest-clad mountains and pristine beaches, but there is trouble in paradise.

The standards of education, nutrition and health lag behind other developing nations.

Minister for Education Robert Lewis said less than half the kids make it to high school, and the village of Anse La Raye is one of the poorest in the nation.

This year hundreds of Global Volunteers are rotating into St. Lucia every two weeks to provide intensive help.

Individuals from Minnesota and around the United States and Canada are helping kids read and write. Others are teaching women how to grow nutritious vegetables to supplement their diet. There is a big focus on early childhood education and many other skills to improve the general well being of the people.

As Michele Gran says, "If you only have limited resources, you've got to put it with the children because they contain all of the potential a nation has."