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Horse Latitudes

Horse Latitudes

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STORY TOOLS E-mail storyCommentsPrinter friendlyGet a TinyURLMore from Colleen CasonCason Point: Healthcare reform is the fight of our livesCason: Weirdness went hand in glove in Jackson's caseCason Point: Rules on teen use of booze need bite Every day, we hear of young people cast adrift and running amok.

On Thursday, we celebrated one who set a course beyond his years and beyond our imagining.At 17, Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail solo around the world.The Thousand Oaks mariner completed his 13-month quest without deep-pocket corporate sponsorships and in a $6,000 boat bought with his earnings from odd jobs.Zac lived up to the faith his parents, Marianne and Laurence, had put in him, even when they were criticized for letting him go.If there ever was a case of the journey trumping the destination, Zac's is it.

This voyage of discovery prepared him for what life throws at all of us: clinging onto the mast when a wave appears from nowhere and rocks your world; drifting through the horse latitudes, hoping to finally catch a break; and watching people approach on the horizon and wondering if they are a sight for sore eyes or the last face you'll see on Earth.Zac has been widely quoted in the media as saying society puts people in the 15-to-18 age bracket in a box and expects little of them.

He urged his fellow teens to find their soul's true north and pursue it with all their heart.And while Zac practiced extreme sailing, I thought about the young people who are navigating extreme service.Like California Lutheran University student Melissa Harbison.

She is somewhere in Uganda as I write this, helping to build a school in a remote and impoverished area of the east African nation.Through Cal Lutheran's Action Abroad Alliance, Harbison raised money to buy school supplies for the children before making the trek.

Her work there will include HIV/AIDS education and teaching English.

I tried several times to reach her on a satellite phone Friday.

When the calls went through, all I could hear were whispery voices in a country I had crossed off my travel list for the very reasons she is there — the grinding poverty and the toll of AIDS.In her blog, Melissa talks about life in the village: "no running water, no electricity, we sleep in huts and bathe using basins of lake water."Water is all that six Ventura County teens will be allowed to drink when they travel to the slums of San Francisco this weekend.

Members of the St.

Mary Magdalene Church chapter of Young Neighbors in Action will leave the manicured confines of Camarillo to serve the underprivileged by cleaning dozens upon dozens of heads of lettuce, cooking meals and washing dishes at a feeding center for the poor and homeless, said Liz Hannan, a coordinator with the program.They will provide hospitality, including English lessons and child care, at The Lantern in the Mission District, which is open to immigrants seeking a place to rest and refresh.They will visit St.

Boniface Church in the notorious Tenderloin district to witness what is known as the "sacred sleep." This is likely the only church in America that invites the homeless to doze in the pews during the day.

There, the Camarillo volunteers will pray for the homeless.As Hannan put it, "It is one thing to pray in their own church for the poor.

It is another thing for these kids to kneel down and pray for them as they can hear them snore and smell them."The participants will live the poverty they are working to address, she said.

They are required to save and reuse their lunch bags and drink only water out of the same container every day.

No Coke, no Red Bull, no Starbucks.Zac may have them beat in terms of deprivation when he was out to sea, but he remains open to another challenge.

Next, he told reporters, he might make an attempt to climb Mount Everest, which could be a letdown considering the widely quoted statistic that only 250 people have sailed solo around the world while 300 reached the Himalayan summit this year alone.Zac deserves all the praise he has received for his incredible journey.

But the greatest adventures can be those in which we work to better the lives of others.

It's not necessary to sail around the world to change it.n To give a shout-out to young people who do extraordinary volunteer work, find this column at and enter a comment with the name of the youngster whose service has inspired you.n A farewell: Audrey Hayward of Oxnard died last week of ovarian cancer at the age of 40.

I interviewed her late last year as she decorated the Donate Life float for the Rose Parade as a tribute to her late son.

Johnny Ysais died suddenly in 2003 at 12, and Audrey made the difficult decision to donate his organs.

She walked a hard road in life, but did it with courage and humor.

I was honored to have spent time with her.— E-mail Colleen at [email protected] are found beneath the Yahoo! ad below.

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