St. Charles teen makes helping others his mission

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2011



LAPLACE – Given a week’s vacation from school, most teenagers would likely spend time sleeping or relaxing the days away, but that isn’t the case for Destrehan High School senior Jonathan Snyder, who traveled to earthquake-ravaged Haiti to dig a water well for a small town.

The trip to Haiti, which took place during the Mardi Gras holidays, is merely the latest in a long list of missionary work for Snyder, who celebrated his 18th birthday Thursday.

“People in other parts of the world just don’t have it as good as we do,” Snyder said. “I’ve always liked helping people and putting smiles on faces. That look of appreciation is enough to motivate anyone to help.”

Prior to the trip to Haiti, Snyder explained he raised more than $10,000 locally through business donations, a community raffle at his church and a dress-down day at 10 schools in the St. Charles Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish areas. He said students paid $1 for the opportunity to wear whatever they wanted to school.

“The dress-down day alone raised about $4,000 for the trip,” Snyder said. “It was nice to see so many fellow students willing to help out.”

After raising the money, Snyder traveled with Living Hope Mission to Haiti to begin work on the well. He said about $3,000 went toward building the well, which provided clean water for about 5,000 people in Haiti, and another $5,000 went to support a school lunch program for the same area for an entire year. Snyder said he was on the island for about a week.

“Before we landed you could see the devastation,” Snyder said. “There were small huts surrounded by water with some still covered. When we got to the airstrip there were kids playing around the landing strip with no parents around.”

Snyder said construction of the well took about four days and involved several members of the Haitian community. He said once the people realized what the mission was doing everyone wanted to help.

“The whole town got involved in the work,” Snyder said. “They rallied behind us. We made some great connections and forged good friendships.”

Snyder said he has been involved in missionary work since 2008, when he assisted a Second Harvesters food bank drive at Covenant Church in Destrehan. His work, which has involved providing food to orphans, conducting ministries in slums, and giving Christmas presents to disadvantaged children, has taken him to Jamaica, South Africa, Mexico and India with various teen-oriented ministries.

“Every trip I go on I say it is my last, but by the time I get back home I always want to go off somewhere else,” Snyder said. “The people are so appreciative of the smallest things. Sometimes just a hug or companionship is all they need.”

As part of a senior project at DHS, Snyder has been working on a documentary called “Hope 4 Haiti” that will show the people and schools who supported his efforts how much good the money has done for the community.

“I want those who supported me to know that giving a little can go a long way,” Snyder said. “No task is too large that you can’t do your part to help.”

Snyder is the son of Julie and Johnny Snyder of Destrehan. After graduation, Snyder said he is heading to Louisiana State University to pursue a degree in business. He said he wants to use his degree to help him organize future missionary work in other parts of the world.

“No place is off limits,” Snyder said. “Where there is a need for help, I’ll be there.”