The global educational/leadership group Up with People visits Farmington, volunteering to help with various community projects before presenting a culturally-diverse show at the Farmington Civic Center on Saturday. On Tuesday, the group visited kids at the Farmington Boys & Girls Club, and taught them several dances from different countries. Leigh Irvin/The Daily Times
Program participants include 100 young people from 20 countries
FARMINGTON — The traveling leadership and educational program Up with People has returned to San Juan County, and in addition to two shows the organization will be presenting Saturday, the group has been volunteering throughout the community.
This year's Up with People group is composed of 100 people from 20 countries, ranging in age from 17 to 29. The group arrived here Monday night, and since that time, participants have been helping with community projects throughout the county.
"We try to meet the need of the communities while we are visiting them," said Up with People spokeswoman Johnae Tucker, who is from Bermuda. "Our mission is to leave a spark behind, so people in the community will still continue the volunteer work we've been doing."
During this year's visit to San Juan County, the Up with People volunteers, all of whom are staying with local host families, are volunteering for three local organizations — the Farmington Boys & Girls Clubs, the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter and Peach's Neet Feet.
The group visited the Boys & Girls Clubs today to conduct a world dance class for the kids, and will be helping to clean and organize the facility later in the week.
During the dance class, which was designed to expose local kids to cultural dances from around the world, the Up with People volunteers taught the kids a South African dance called "gumboot," as well as a Japanese dance about fishermen. The volunteers and kids then performed the dances together.
"During the Japanese dance, we do motions like pulling in a net and pulling the fish in," Tucker said. "It really gets the kids going."
Later this week, the Up with People volunteers will be at Childhaven — an organization that serves abused, neglected and traumatized children and young people — helping to organize that facility.
"They really need to be focusing on the people coming in, so we'll help with doing things like inventory to lessen the load for them," Tucker said.
The group's mission at the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter will include cleaning cages, and volunteers also will spend some time at Peach's Neet Feet — a local organization that provides personalized shoes and care packages to children who have suffered chronic illness or disability — working on crafts with the kids.
Throughout the week, the group also will visit various local elementary schools and high schools to present diversity workshops and to talk about the Up with People program.
Tucker said the home stays provide a chance for cultural exchange for both the Up with People participants and the host families.
"Most of us have never been to Farmington, so we're really excited to be here," she said. "We'll also have a chance during a regional learning day to meet some representatives from the Navajo Nation, learn traditional songs and dances, and ... have a traditional Navajo meal. It gives us a chance to learn about the local culture and traditions."
The group's visit to the area culminates with two high-energy performances Saturday at the Farmington Civic Center.
Tucker said the theme of this year's performance is "The Journey." The show originally was staged in 2015 as a celebration of the organization's 50th anniversary.
"We will be taking three different journeys during the performance," Tucker said. "The first journey will be through time, where we will present popular medleys from different eras. We will then journey around the world, exploring cultures through song and dance. The final journey will be one through humanity, featuring songs that have been presented by Up with People over the years, focusing on messages of hope and peace."
The program, which will feature vibrant, colorful costumes, lasts about two hours, Tucker said.
Tucker explained that participants in Up with People travel for six months. She said that people between the ages of 17 and 29 who want to find out more about the program can come to one of Saturday's shows and meet with representatives before or after the show. Applications for the program are being accepted for the 2019 season, and scholarships are available for Native American and New Mexico applicants, Tucker said.
"There will also be a backstage tour at 11 a.m. on Saturday, so if people just show up at that time, we'll give them the tour and answer any questions they may have," she said. "I encourage young people to apply, as what they get out of the program is priceless."
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.
If you go
What: Up with People presents "The Journey"
When: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 West Arrington St.
Cost: $12 for students, children younger than 12 and seniors; $15 for adults. VIP tickets are $50, and include reserve seating and a VIP reception. Advance ticket purchase is recommended, as shows usually sell out.
Information: Visit upwithpeople.org/farmington, or call the Farmington Civic Center at 505-599-1145.