Camden youths helping children poorer than them

With a poverty rate of 38 percent - one of the highest in the state - Camden residents have seen a lot of their neighbors struggle to put food on the table.

But some Camden youths say it is nothing compared to the poverty seen in other countries. On Thursday, six youths who work at Hopeworks, a nonprofit organization that trains and mentors inner-city youths, will travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico to continue the work some of their peers started in August.

Rushelle Mundell, Ruben Santiago, DJ Brown, Aisha Cobb, Maryann Vega, all of Camden, and Caitlyn Cunane, of West Collingswood Heights, will spend five days in Cuernavaca tutoring kindergarteners in math and compuer literacy, and serving meals to the elderly in the poor village.  

Santiago, 17, a student at Brimm Medical Arts High School, and Brown, 20, a student at Camden County College, went on the mission trip last summer. And in a video they created, the youths say it made them realize how much they take for granted in their own struggling city.

"We will certainly see a different type of poverty than we see in Camden," said Sean Dougherty, director of operations for Hopeworks, who is overseeing the trip. "Another goal of the trip is for the youth to realize that they can be agents of good and agents of change in the world too."

The youths, who return Tuesday, will work with VAMOS, a Mexico- based nonprofit that helps underprivileged families in Mexico.