MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. - Seventeen-year-old Alex Herbig didn't want to just read about the garbage dump in Haiti. He wanted to see the faces in the need -- the people who didn't know what it was like to have a hot meal. He wanted to feel the joy in those he helped -- a sense of gratitude that doesn't get lost in translation.
For this senior project called Simply Haiti, the Mountlake Terrace high school student set out to raise $4,000 to start a feeding program at the garbage dump. He wanted to feed 80 people everyday for a year.
In January, he challenged his friends, family, church and community to eat only rice and beans for a week and donate the money that they saved to the project. He also raised money with a "Rice and Beans" fundraising dinner.
"I didn't even know if we'd raise $4,000, honestly," said Ann Herbig, Alex's mother.
But Herbig raised more money than he ever imagined. He collected close to $30,000, which went toward starting a feeding program and the rest is dedicated to earthquake relief.
Earlier this month, Herbig traveled to Haiti with his mother and his church group to see the money at work. With the help of the Jesus in Haiti ministry, people who used to rummage the dump for meals are now being fed once a day.
"We hired two Haitian women who would set up the feeding program, cook the rice and beans every morning," said Herbig. "Just seeing them and knowing they're going to be fed and knowing that they've never had that as a comfort in their life... never ever... was pretty awesome."
When asked if his senior project sets an example for other students to follow in his footsteps, Herbig humbly responds that he doesn't believe his project is better than his classmates'. But he hopes it will inspire people to think beyond themselves.
"I know from personal experience that if you put others before yourself, you will feel much more fulfilled once you're done," said Herbig.