Past Global Citizens Grant Recipients
This summer, Katherine Coleman '16 implemented an art curriculum at The Bridge of Life at the Tramneak Pagoda in Siem Reap, Cambodia. With her students - primarily Buddhist monks and local children from the nearby village – she explored self-expression and the potential of art to be everywhere. They focused on what became a sort of class motto: "There is no right answer, and everything can be beautiful."
"This was the hardest ten weeks of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other ten weeks. I learned more about myself than I ever have in such a condensed period of time. My eyes were opened to my own naivety and to the brutality of a lot of the world, but also to distinct human resilience and joy. Appreciation and humility were redefined in my eyes. I interacted and interpersonally connected with human beings I would never otherwise have come into contact with, children in rural Cambodia who I, painfully, might never see again. But they are in my memory forever, and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’m in theirs. And every moment of it, every sweaty, sickly-sweet, exhausted, teary, smiling moment of it, was phenomenal."
Rubi Duran '16 spent her time working with Alianza Arkana, a non-profit in Pacullpa, Peru that seeks to provide educational, nutritional, and social support the the local Shipibo people. Rubi worked with mothers and their children through a program called Grow & Cook, which was created in response to the poor diet and growing nutritional deficiencies and illnesses present in Shipibo and indigenous communities across the Amazon. Together they discussed basic nutrition, cooked together, and helped start a permaculture site where fruits and veggies were planted for the community to share in the future.
"The connection which the Shipibo people have to nature opened my eyes to new perspectives of beauty, health, education, and life in general. I could not be more grateful to have met such amazing individuals."
Sarah Frankl '16 worked at Centro de Obras Sociales Maternidad de Maria in Chimbote, Peru. She spent time working with a nutritionist to develop an educational pamphlet for pregnant women. In addition, she assisted in the outpatient clinic, well-child measurements, and home visits. However, the majority of her time was spent at the Maternidad's orphanage, which was the home to 16 children, all under five. Her best Peruvian friend was two and named Kenlli.
"While on a home visit, the mother we were visiting asked me and the nurse to watch her disabled child while she ran an errand. She came back a few minutes later with juice, snacks, and gifts for us. I was so touched by the generosity with which the Peruvian people received me. I felt as if, simply by watching them, I could learn a bit about how to be a better person."
June Guo '16 spent her summer in Lukwambe Village in Tanzania, working with Ngerengere River Eco Camp. The Eco Camp aims to promote environmental sustainability through education, job training, and eco-conservation projects. During her time there, June developed and taught classes on food culture, agriculture, and first aid for local children and teens. She also led daily exercise classes, which included running, stretching, and laughter yoga. One of June’s favorite projects was establishing experimental organic gardens using recycled materials, local seeds, and water-efficient techniques.
"An hour before school started, students would arrive to carry river water to clean the schoolrooms and bathrooms. The children were the first to arrive and the last to leave the school. Seeing how much the children wanted to be at school really touched me."
Through the non-profit organization Changes for New Hope (CNH), Chris Gys '17 worked with children in communities around Huaraz, Peru. Of CNH's three main emphases – multivitamin distribution, creative expression, and the "Do the right thing" campaign – Chris devoted most of his time to the last of these. He led activities that focused on applying this principle to situations the children would encounter on a daily basis, and he started a soccer program that taught goal-setting and teamwork through practices and games.
"At the end of each soccer game, we would hand out a medal to the "Most Valuable Player" of the day. On one particularly sunny Saturday morning, the MVP was a boy who had shown leadership and hard work. There was something about the smile on his face after receiving the medal that communicated a deeper contentment, something that went beyond the happiness of getting a shiny prize. I'm not sure I can capture entirely what it was, but it made it seem like my presence was something positive in that moment, and that it might remain something positive after I left. With more certainty I can say it seemed to highlight the relationship he and I had built despite vastly different lives."
Erin McKissick '16 worked as a journalist at the social work nonprofit Lha Charitable Trust in Dharamsala, a Tibetan refugee community in northern India. She wrote for their free monthly publication, Contact Magazine, and was their primary news reporter for the upcoming Tibetan parliamentary election. She also volunteered part-time as a childcare assistant at Rogpa, a free daycare for the children of Tibetan refugees.
"During my time in Dharamsala, I witnessed people working on issues that personally affected their lives as Tibetan refugees, and saw how this connection to a cause transformed their work ethic and gave them a remarkable sense of purpose. I was in awe of their passion and determination in a challenging political situation, and I return newly energized to advocate for issues that inspire me."
Lauren Nguyen '17 spent her summer in Rabat, Morocco working with physically and/or mentally handicapped children at the Lalla Meryem Center orphanage through the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies. She helped with daily tasks such as bathing, changing, feeding, as well as assisting in educational activities. The Lalla Meryem Center also houses newborns, toddlers, and children of all ages.
"I've realized the greater value of spending five minutes to greet someone in passing than being five minutes late. I've discovered that pieces of bread work wonders in comparison to forks and knives. I've grumbled about being woken up by, and now sincerely miss, the 4am call-to-prayer. I am fortunate enough to say I found a second place to call home in the colorful country of Morocco."
Liem Tu '18 spent the summer in Senegal working for Maison de la Gare, a shelter for street boys in the city of Saint-Louis. MDG seeks to improve living conditions by providing water, clothes, food, health care, and education to the boys. Liem taught daily language classes in French and English and organized sports activities at the center.
"I came to Senegal expecting to discover a new culture, gain experience teaching, improve my French, and support a cause that was bigger than me. Looking back on it, I gained so much more from this experience than just achieving those goals. Being exposed to a different way of life and the realities of the non-Western world led me to reflect and reconsider many aspects of my life at home."
Lily Woodward '17 spent 10 weeks in Moshi, Tanzania as an English teacher for an adult women's school, Give a Heart to Africa. This school provides English language, business, and vocational education to local women, catering to those who are single mothers, from minority ethnic groups, or make little to no income. While there, Lily helped develop a recreation program for local children, organized home visits with students, and helped recent grads further develop their businesses.
"This experience was one of the most formative of not only my Bowdoin career, but of my life so far. Though I was there teaching, I so often felt that I was the student - I was continually pushed out of my comfort zone, and while things weren't always perfect, every day was a lesson. Looking back, I am so grateful to have taken the leap to apply for the grant, because I came back to Bowdoin a different person."
Meghan Bellerose '17 spent the summer of 2014 working with UNiTED, a community based non-profit that provides healthcare resources and education to children and young adults in Kpando, Ghana. In the mornings, Meghan led discussion groups for teenagers and young adults on health topics such as family planning, HIV/AIDS, condom use, blood contact, and female empowerment. She also worked closely with pregnant women in Kpando and nearby villages, providing information on the signs of a healthy pregnancy and discussing the health and financial resources available to the women and their children. In the afternoons, Meghan worked at HardtHaven Children's home, UNITED's shelter for children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS or suffer from the disease themselves, helping with homework, daily activities, and health monitoring.
“I celebrated with the women who ran the home as we watched two of the children go through remarkable recoveries, sobbed when one of the older girls passed on, smiled with a little boy when he read an entire book out loud by himself, danced for hours to the Macarena with ten 5-11 year olds, and cheered when all 26 children passed their exams. All of these moments have changed me.”
Juliet Eyraud '16 spent the beginning of her summer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working for Children for Change Cambodia (CCC) as an English Teacher and Social Action Intern. CCC serves children living in a red-light district of the city, offering them supplementary academic classes, school scholarships, emergency housing, and a supportive network of students and teachers. She also instituted a curriculum she had developed in independant work at Bowdoin. Juliet will return to Phnom Penh in the summer of 2015 to continue her work.
"My plan was to implement a curriculum that I had worked on as an Independent Study with Professor Casey Meehan at Bowdoin after I volunteered at CCC during the summer of 2013. The curriculum was designed to introduce the students to community service while also allowing them to celebrate their communities...The new community service program at the school is now being enveloped into a larger, sustainable structure that includes social action and using multimedia to promote social justice."
Oriana Farnham '15 spent the summer in Ho Chi Minh City (but most people she met there called it Saigon), Vietnam. Oriana volunteered at Little Rose Shelter, one of Saigon's few non-profit organizations, which is a home for girls who have been or are at risk of being sexually abused or trafficked. The girls were on summer break, so they spent the days doing crafts, singing, and learning to play ukulele. The shelter is a place where the girls can relax, but they also work on outreach in their community to educate young people about sexual health and raise awareness around the issues of domestic and sexual abuse.
“Though I have always been very interested in women’s issues in academic and other contexts, it is only after this summer that I know I want my career to be concerned with these issues. I met so many women this summer who inspired me…and I learned so much about the experiences of girls and women in Vietnamese society, which made me reflect on the experience of growing up female in Western society.”
Jesse Ortiz '16 spent the summer of 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal volunteering with Social Development Center Nepal (SDCN). SDCN is a children’s home, currently caring for fifteen children whose parents are unable to support them. The organization provides the food, housing, education and medical care that otherwise may not have been available to the children. Jesse also taught classes at Little Blossoms School, which most of the chilren of SDCN attended.
"I don't know what I want to do after college, but I'll carry the experience wherever I go. Any success I achieve or insight I discover for the rest of my life will carry some trace of that wonderful trip."
Meredith Outterson '17 worked this summer in the local school of a rural community in San Juan de la Concepcion, Nicaragua as part of La Mariposa Spanish School & EcoHotel's community development programs. Meredith lived with a host family and tutored kids in the mornings. She also ran after-school enrichment activities, and facilitated long-term school improvement projects such as revamping the pre-school classroom and launching a program with educational tablets.
"Through this work, I got to know the fabric of the community and gained a sense of each of the vibrant threads that make it up. I had to be self-motivated in order to finish the projects I had set for myself (like running a school field-trip to a volcano!) But, I also had the support of several amazing families in the community, and I am incredibly thankful that I got the opportunity to be there and live there for as long as I did."
David Silverman '15 spent the summer of 2014 working with the Amy Biehl Foundation, a nonprofit that runs after-school programs to educate and empower youth living in the challenged and vulnerable townships outside of Cape Town, South Africa. With the Literacy (ELL) program, he created and implemented daily lesson plans for a class of 4th-7th grader, and while working with the HIV/AIDS Peer Education and Prevention program, David worked to create and implement student evaluation surveys and establish a system of lesson plan creation and standardization. Lastly, David worked with the Environmental program to assess and institute potential improvements to the Amy Biehl school overnight camps, to lead hikes around the area, and to create a guide for how to lead outdoor outings safely.
"This summer with ABF gave me the fantastic learning opportunity of working within the framework of existing community structures and an organization’s hierarchy, remaining cognizant of my role in promoting the visions and ideas of community members, while maintaining my own creativity in how I hoped to achieve small but lasting impact.”
Alex Thomas '16 lived and worked in Lusaka, Zambia this summer. He volunteered for the Rwanda Zambia HIV Research Group, an organization that works with the Zambian and Rwandan governments to build HIV treatment capacity in their national healthcare systems. Alexander specifically focused on the acceptability and uptake of medical male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy in sero-discordant couples visiting Zambian government clinics.
“I learned that understanding and engaging different nationalities begins with embracing who you are. Every one of us has a national, ethnic, and religious identity that for better or worse defines who we are to the outside world. Coming to terms with how you relate to that outwardly perceived identity is the first step in learning how others relate to theirs.”
Maggie Acosta '16 traveled to a developing city named Huancayo in the heart of the Andes of Peru. She worked for a grassroots organization Expand Peru that focuses oin healthcare and education. Maggie eventually began her own project working for a neurologist in the regional Es Salud Hospoital and opened an after-school program for kids ages 6-13.
"During my time in Peru, I made friends with university students around my age. Although we were students from two very different countries and cultures, we connected in infinite ways. It just goes to show that language can overcome so many barriers between people and form relationships that become instilled deep within you."
Evan Bulman '16 spent June and July of 2013 in Kabala, Sierra Leone working hand in hand with Nar Sarah Medical Clinic through Salone Enabling and Empowering Development International (SEED). As a fulltime volunteer with this organization, he worked chiefly to expand their financial sustainability projects. This work included farming, providing computer education, and tutoring English and Mathematics.
"Being teased as 'a Krio Boy' (a local tribe) at a family meal during my last few days in Sierra Leone was the perfect confirmation that the Sierra Leoneans I had the privilege to work with last summer were some of the most wonderful and hospitable people I have ever met."
Will Horne '14 lived in the Isan region of Thailand in Plaboo Village. In this village of about 70 families, he volunteered at the Farmer Community School as an English teacher and worked with students daily to provide them opportunities to engage and become familiar with the foreign language. The Farmer Community School, provides the area's youth with schooling in English as well as Thai heritage, traditional farming techniques, sex education, and leadership skills. It serves expose and engage students in subjects often left out of traditional Thai schooling.
"I'd never before met an entire community of such warm and caring people. Even beyond the amazingly enthusiastic kids, the adults and elders of the village greeted me with smiles, prayers, and open invitations to all of their community and engagements. The 'village' would be more aptly referred to as a 'family'. It was an amazing experience to feel a part of it, if only for two months."
Marcus Karim '14 spent his summer working with Changes for New Hope, an education-based non-profit in Huaraz, Peru that seeks to provide educational, health, and social support to local children and their families. Marcus spent his mornings working in a soup kitchen, providing meals to clients in the local community, and transitioned into a teaching role in the afternoons where he instructed students in math, science, and public health education. Furthermore, Marcus conducted self-esteem building activities with students to allow them to begin to develop a deep sense of worth and integrity in themselves, allowing them to see, and hopefully realize, their innate potential in the world around them.
"My time with Changes for New Hope was invaluable. I learned the immense value of building relationships with, and investing in, others, witnessed the resilience of the human spirit in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles. I came to truly appreciate human interconnectedness between cultures, across languages, and amongst people from different ways of life. While the world is undoubtedly vast and its people increasingly diverse, I have begun to realize, through my experience as a Global Citizen, that it may be the universal human desire to impact and touch the lives of those around us that acts as the common thread which weaves us together into a beautiful patchwork fabric of different life experiences, ideas, and world visions."
Marcus was featured in his home county's newspaper. Read the article.
Marble Karuu '14 spent her summer in Iten, Kenya working with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project. Since 2004, KenSAP has been assisting high achieving high school graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds apply to colleges and universities in the United States. Marble served as an instructor for the program, conducting daily classes to help prepare the students for the SAT and TOEFL exams and begin the college application process.
"I've come back from Kenya with a new appreciation for the power that education has in changing the circumstances of people's lives. The students I worked with overcame a number of unconventional obstacles on their journeys to complete high school. In their success they defied the circumstances of their backgrounds and came to stand out as examples in their families and communities. They're all very deserving of the opportunities that lie ahead if and when admitted to colleges and universities here in the US. I look forward to seeing them all again 10 months from now when they land at the airport."
Julie Bender '13 spent the summer working with a medical clinic and orphanage at Asayo's Wish Foundation in Kaberamaido, Uganda. Asayo's Wish Foundation began as a home for displaced children. Since its start, it has expanded into a clinic for the rural area and a farm used to teach the children about raising animals and growing crops. Julie split her time between three projects: helping the children to care for the organization’s chickens, sheep, cows, and goats, assisting with the electronic medical record system in the medical clinic, leading daily English and Math tutoring sessions, and serving as a mentor and companion to the organization's 120 children.
"The children at Asayo's Wish were the happiest of any that I've ever met. I am so inspired by their ability to maintain such a positive attitude despite the atrocities that they have experienced. They welcomed me into their lives, invited me to join their games, taught me about their culture, and opened a place for me in their hearts. We laughed as I struggled to do their daily chores, and smiled as I shared new ideas. This summer I learned that the relationships I form are the most important aspect of my experiences."
Emma James '13 spent two months volunteering for BiblioWorks, a nonprofit based in Sucre, Bolivia. BiblioWorks funds, builds, and stocks libraries in the rural areas surrounding Sucre. Emma spent half her time in the BiblioWorks office, grant writing, and the other half working in Pampa Aceituno, a small school with a brand new BiblioWorks library. She taught English, read to children, started a school garden, and did arts and crafts with the children to encourage reading.
"Waiting at the bottom of a dusty road for a truck to drive by and start the climb up the mountain to Pampa Aceituno, the school I worked in, was how I started many of my days in Sucre, Bolivia. With no provided transportation, the children either walk the two miles uphill, or wait to hitch a ride. The determination and dedication they exhibited in simply getting to school was one of the many ways they demonstrated the value they place on education. It seems like everyone shares one goal, and that is to make sure that the children of Pampa Aceituno receive the best education possible. The joy that a simple story can bring to them, or a silly arts and crafts project is heartening. Their absolute friendliness, incredible determination, and innovative spirit is contagious. Everyday when I left Pampa Aceituno I felt inspired by their beautiful smiles."
Micah Ludwig '13 spent June and July of 2012 working with Social Development International in Buea, Cameroon. SDI Cameroon seeks to help vulnerable groups of people including teenage mothers, orphans, and the elderly. Micah served as a community health volunteer with SDI and was able to work in a health clinic, give health presentations, and also prepare health education materials.
"In many conversations I am quickly asked what my experience was like in Cameroon, and my reply is simply: rewarding, challenging, and always educational. I was able to learn a great deal about the health issues affecting the population in Buea, and also begin to explore how I can incorporate public health work into my future career goals. Did I come back with solutions to how we address the problems in the developing world? No. In fact I came back with even more questions than when I left. Although I have a lot of questions, I am not troubled, instead I am excited to work through them. Right now I know meant to serve, and I will go wherever God calls me."
Tasha Sandoval '13 spent the summer of 2012 as an educational intern at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. The District Six Museum is a community museum that seeks to collect and disseminate the memory of a once vibrant Capetonian community, District Six. Under the apartheid government’s ruthless Group Area’s Act, District Six was declared a "whites-only area" and its residents were forcibly removed to out-lying townships. Today, the museum acts as a meeting place for victims of the forced removals who continue to live with the consequences of removals' injustices. Upon arrival, Tasha learned that the museum's financial crisis would alter her role as an intern. Still Tasha was able to improvise and execute a workshop-series with high school students - explored personal narratives and history through oral, written, visual, and movement forms. She assisted with their workshop newsletters and with recording "Huis Kombuis" (Afrikaans for "Home Kitchen") - a weekly workshop where ex-resident, elderly women get together to share recipes, tell stories, and embroider their memories onto cloth. Working with these older women was most rewarding aspect of Tasha’s experience, as it allowed her to offer practical assistance with embroidery and design, get a primary historical perspective, and make strong and powerful personal connections with ex-residents themselves.
"South Africa is the most interesting place I have ever experienced. It is joyful and full of life as it simultaneously struggles with its traumatic past and uncertain future. The District Six Museum illustrated this tension through its telling of the District Six story. Working with ex-resident older women from District Six was the most valuable aspect of my experience. Having grown up, married, and reared children in the district, these women were forcibly removed from their homes in the 1970's and relocated to faraway townships. Despite their hardships, the women always kept the District Six community close to their hearts. I will never forget their kindness, strength, and beautiful, vibrant memories."
Lucy Walker '14 spent June and July of 2012 working in Nakuru, Kenya, volunteering with the Bliss Women and Children Project, a small nonprofit that hosts a nursery school for disadvantaged children in Nakuru’s slums. Lucy worked with the Bliss teachers to design and implement a novel storybook-making curriculum at the nursery school. By the end of her stay, each of the students had narrated and illustrated his own storybook to add to "The Bliss Library", a bookshelf painted by the students and teachers. Upon completing the storybooks, the students and teachers celebrated with a storybook presentation attended by parents and members of the community. The Bliss school had previously been without any picture books, its curriculum largely devoted to rote memorization of English vocabulary. The storybook project builds upon the students' and teachers' strong sense of oral storytelling. It seeks to foster English language learning in a way that is cost-effective, fun, individualized, and personally upbuilding for the Bliss students.
"While my time in Kenya was challenging, it was also incredibly joyful. I had so much fun as I formed friendships with the Bliss teachers and students and worked with them to create beautiful storybooks. I shared with them something that I loved, and in the process saw them tap into their own joy and creativity. I learned that service doesn't need to be a struggle—when people and communities have fun, they can do amazing things."
Elena Crosley '13 volunteered at Building New Hope’s veterinary clinic, Casa Lupita, and school, Escuelita Yo Puedo in Granada, Nicaragua. Casa Lupita treats the dogs, cats and work horses of Granada, Nicaragua and many spays and neuters are performed in order to reduce the number of street animals. Escuelita Yo Puedo is a school that provides children with homework help, English classes, and piano lessons.
"My time spent in Granada, Nicaragua was unlike anything I had been exposed to before. I was able to spend my mornings working with students on their English and math while being updated on the latest Spanish slang words and in the afternoon I could assist a veterinarian in the surgery room and have the opportunity to talk to owners in the waiting room about their animals, the clinic and their country. I will always hold this experience close and I will continue to value human relationships and the importance of education."
Macy Galvan '13 spent June and July of 2011 working with AIM Abroad in Delhi, India. AIM Abroad is a US Registered Community Interest Non Profit Company, affiliated with Global Orphanage Trust in India which provides housing in an orphanage for 10 girls as well as a tarped class room to teach 50 local children. Global Orphanage Trust has provided the school children with clothes, school supplies, and a priceless education. Macy volunteered with the program's orphanage, working to teach the children English, performing general and special tasks and accompanying the children on outings as required by the project.
"Working with the students of Prakash Deep School, I learned the impact we are able to have is not measured by the level of English they acheive or whether or not they pass a test that deems them capable of continuing school. While those achievements are incredible, they are not the only indicators that we have changed a life. Being among the students and sharing my fears and dreams with them, I learned that bonds are created through honesty and how to be happy even in the most terrible situations. I was truly inspired by the ability of the students to come to school every day and work towards a brighter future when everything around them discouraged this path. I now know that as a volunteer I don’t need to build a school or implement a new model for teaching for my time to have made a difference in the lives of those I’ve worked with. I can smile, share a story, let them know how incredible they are and how grateful I am to have them in my life."
Watch Macy's video.
Having postponed his fall 2010 trip due to a Federal Travel Warning, Bryce Lednar '11 spent the summer of 2011 in Kisumu, Kenya at St Clare's Orphanage and working in partnership with Joining Hearts and Hands. Joining Hearts and Hands works to improve educational, health and economic conditions for African orphans and their communities, by building schools, sponsoring health clinics, providing secondary scholarships, and nurturing sustainable development initiatives. In support of this mission, Bryce taught English and Math at St. Clare Orphanage in Kisumu, carried out business skills workshops with microenterprises, and met with scholarship students throughout western Kenya. Bryce also helped establish a rowing club in Kisumu whose athletes have ranked among Kenya's top rowers in regional and national regattas.
"I have never witnessed extremes as I did in Kenya. Opulence coexists with destitution, vitality with mortality, and opportunity with adversity. More importantly, I found that for Kenyans, strong relationships often transcend all of these things."
Ben Richmond '13 spent January and February of 2011 working with Teach Huaraz Peru in Huaraz, Peru. Teach Huaraz is a local, grassroots organization which supports the community of Huaraz by providing English lessons for children in local schools and educational programs for youth. Ben worked as an English tutor at a local language center and helped Teach Huaraz establish a 7-day pilot youth wilderness therapy program for at-risk youth. The wilderness therapy program consisted of classes about health, decision making, and outdoor skills, as well as an extended outdoor experience in the area’s surrounding mountains.
"I was proud to be able to help enhance Teach Huaraz's services to the community by laying a foundation for its wilderness therapy program."
Read more about Ben's time in Peru.
Abby Suresh '12 volunteered at Compas de Nicaragua for eight weeks this past summer. After one week spent in the rural town of La Paz participating in coffee planting with members of a local farmers’ cooperative, she worked the remaining seven weeks in the impoverished barrio of La Primavera in Managua, Nicaragua. In Managua, Abby worked with other members of Compas to the Women in Action Center (WIA), building a backyard vegetable garden and a composting system; teaching English classes to local school age children; and running health workshops (‘charlas’) for women on topics like personal hygiene, menopause and nutrition. In addition, she helped repair the roofs of several of the Women in Action’s members’ houses and expand the test backyard garden at the WIA center to new gardens behind the women’s houses.
"Choosing to spend my summer volunteering in Nicaragua was a fantastic decision. As my first real time away from the comforts of US and my parents’ house, though, it was challenging at times. Despite the difficulties, I learned so many unsaid things about the Nicaraguan culture - most memorably the absolute friendliness and love Nicaraguans offer to anyone who even attempts to speak Spanish and understand their culture. Working toward the goal of bettering the lives of women by planting and caring for a garden and running basic health talks every week was more satisfying than any other summer job or internship I could imagine. Many things I saw and felt while in Nicaragua will always stay with me, but there is one that I will never forget. It was a line that many local women repeated to me and other volunteers on numerous occasions: “Every time we see you - you give us hope to go on.” The absolute honesty and passion behind that statement really touched me and made all of the struggles getting used to the culture seem negligible. I hope that this experience will be just beginning of my work in impoverished regions abroad."
Nina Scheepers '14 volunteered for the nonprofit ImagineScholar in the Nkomazi region of South Africa. The Nkomazi is an impoverished and rural area in South Africa with a very poor educational system. ImagineScholar's mission is to provide supplemental education to the students with the most potential in the area to prepare them for university. ImagineScholar believes that education and success in university is the way to help these students pull themselves from the poverty in which they grew up in. Nina worked with the fifteen selected Imagine Scholars - planning lessons, crafting activities, individual tutoring and helping with the behind the scenes runnings of the organization.
"My experience in South Africa was absolutely amazing and life changing. Returning to the country I grew up in is always a good adventure, but my experience with ImagineScholar and the students was inspiring and incredible. All of the students at ImagineScholar live in extreme poverty. Homes are sketchy, families are broken and food is never a certainty. The love they have for life and learning despite these conditions was uplifting. For many of the girls, I was the first woman they had met attending university. It was a huge privilege to be a role model in these girls' lives. All the Imagine Scholars are so bright and lively and full of life that it was an honor to work with them and help them achieve their goals of university. My mentoring and tutoring hopefully helped the students with their studies but the lessons they taught me I will carry in my heart forever."
This past summer Jamilah Gregory '11 worked with Camp Hope Foundation in Quito, Ecuador. Located in an underprivileged, industrial area of the city, Camp Hope provides attention, recreation, rehabilitation, education, spiritual support, and vocational resources to economically, physically, and mentally challenged children to enable them to attain their goals of independence and integration into society.
Working with children this summer, many who could not hear, speak, or feed themselves, let alone smile or hug me, made me confront the deeper issues surrounding my personal motivation to serve. Do I serve for the rewarding smiles and hugs I get from the children I work with? Do I serve for the affirmation, praise, public recognition, or benefit of putting another item on a résumé? I quickly realized that my incentive to serve could not be rooted in personal satisfaction or gain. I am motivated to serve by God’s love that I have experienced in my life. If I can be an agent of sharing that greater, sacrificial, unconditional love with others, even in the smallest way, then my service is worthwhile for me.
This internship at Camp Hope was one of the most incredible experiences I have had the privilege to enjoy. It has profoundly impacted my future goals and career plans - affirming my desire to be a teacher and serve in underprivileged communities. I learned how to better teach students with special needs and accommodate students at different levels in the classroom and gained a deeper understanding of the workings of the unique strengths and faults of non-profits.
Check out the Photo Pals Shutterfly website with the students’ photos.
Kate Leifheit '12 spent January and February of 2011 working with La Fundación Abuelitos y Abuelitas de la Calle (FABC) in Quito, Ecuador. The Foundation supports marginalized elderly people, often living without the support of families, income of any sort, and government aid. FABC provides these people with the resources to better their own quality of life, addressing both health and social needs through programming. Kate volunteered with the center's medical staff, working in its free clinic and doing public health outreach (e.g. leading personal health workshops and making home visits).
"My experience at FABC taught me a great deal about Ecuadorian social issues, the day-to-day management of a grassroots nonprofit, and, perhaps most importantly, about myself and my passions. As result of my Global Citizens Grant in Quito, I can now clearly envision a future working with disadvantaged populations in Latin America, perhaps in the field of international public health."
Ruiqi Tang '13 worked with Sengcham Drukmo Girl’s Home in Golok Autonomous Prefecture, China. Located in a rural Tibetan town, the SDG Home provides impoverished and disenfranchised girls with education, quality health care, and a supportive home environment. For eleven weeks, Ruiqi taught English and Geography, and coordinated connections between GSD Home and other organizations.
"Because I looked and spoke fluent Chinese, I was fortunate enough to overcome the various obstacles of being a 'foreigner' in a politically sensitive region. I was able to freely walk around town, hike mountains and enjoy an afternoon by the Yellow River among grazing yaks without making myself suspect to the local government. More importantly, my language skills enabled me to effectively communicate with the people there and establish stronger connections. Through my interactions with others, I learned about the complex, and often frustrating, process of starting a non-profit and expanding an organization. I learned that fearless ambition and talent just isn’t enough to address the immediate needs of a school. In the spirit of 'give and take,' we sometimes have to settle for what we have and redirect our focus to long-term goals."
Read Ruiqi's blog
Sheela Turbek '13 worked with Fundación Brethren y Unida in the Intag and Pedro Moncayo regions of Ecuador. FBU is a non-profit organization that partners with the Asociación Agroartesanal de Campesinos Agroecológicos de Íntag to recover ancestral agricultural knowledge and promote sustainable development in rural Ecuadorian communities by providing instruction in natural resource management. She spent one month in the remote village of Cazarpamba, assisting her host family in daily activities on their organic farm, and teaching classes in English and environmental issues. The second month Sheela stayed in Tabacundo, an urban location closer to Quito, where she worked on and then ran an organic farm while her host family held their first official class on sustainable agricultural practices for members of the community.
"Volunteering in two very different communities in Ecuador allowed me to view rural Ecuadorian culture from multiple perspectives. All of the farmers I encountered shared an astounding work ethic and resilience. In spite of their limited prospect of improving their impoverished condition, they toiled with courage and willpower day after day for little pay in order to feed their families and provide their children with better opportunities. For my host mother, who had never before come into contact with a foreign volunteer, I represented living proof of the possibilities available through education. Seeing the tears stream down her face as I departed for Tabacundo made me all the more eager to use my education to increase disadvantaged communities' access to opportunities that I sometimes take for granted."
Sarah Glaser '11 worked with La Escuelita de Esperanza in San José, Costa Rica. La Escuelita is an after-school arts and literacy program in the Nicaraguan neighborhood of Proyecto Cristal. The school provides pre-schooling, homework help, and exploration of the arts.
While living in the community, Sarah taught remedial reading, remedial math, and art before and after school, as well as established art lessons for older children and English lessons for adults and students at night.
The semester she spent in San José radically changed her view of education, urban poverty, and children there.
"When I think of Proyecto Cristal, I can’t bring to mind any encompassing words or images. It was too diverse, too real. Instead, I think of a handful of normal moments: playing soccer on the muddy, slanted street with my students and their fathers, and sounding out the letters of the alphabet with a ten-year-old student who had never been able to attend school because he had immigrated illegally from Nicaragua. I recall cooking lasagna with a family while we watched a TV, and the sound of roosters crowing at dawn.
"It is hard to measure what one gives and receives in a volunteer experience. I can count the hours of teaching and the things I left behind, but the real value comes from the smaller moments."
Dhaujee Kelly '11 volunteered at The Parijat Academy in Guwahati, India. The school is located in a remote village called Pamohi. The primary goal of the Parijat Academy is to provide free, equal education opportunity to children and families that are less fortunate and underprivileged.
Dhaujee taught English and Math to the students grades 1-8 and also doing artwork with the children that stay in the hostel here at the school. She tutored the older children in spoken English and computer skills. The children at the Academy speak only very basic, broken English. With the skills that Dhaujee brought to them, they have been able to better themselves intellectually and progress through their educational experience.
"I find it very important to be able to give back to those in need because I too received help from others in order to succeed. I believe that the best way to help those that are less fortunate is to take part in their life to understand their struggles. Volunteering in India has been an excellent opportunity and experience. I used my skills to help them and will use this experience to better myself."
Read about Dhaujee's work and visit her blog.
Lakhina Ky '11 worked with Neary Khmer in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This non-profit organization focuses on educating women in the surrounding countryside about the importance of nutrition, health, and hygiene. The organization also works with community leaders to help set up their own personal community projects and goals through microfinancing.
Lakhina assisted all members of the organization. While she was in the office she help edit grant proposals, made a new pamphlet, and made Neary Khmer a website so that others around the world can have better access to Neary Khmer.
Lakhina often accompanied field workers to rural villages where she participated in village discussions and Village Associate's seminars about HIV/AIDS prevention, microfinancing, water quality monitoring, and the importance of maintaining a nutritious diet.
Back in the United States, she hopes to spread awareness about Neary Khmer, and other non-profit work in Cambodia.
"Volunteering in a different country, or even in a setting that is unfamiliar to you, is a wonderful experience. You not only learn about the struggles, joys, and lives of others, but you also learn about yourself and how you can affect the lives of others.”
Read more at Lakhina's blog.
Rosie Laflam '11 traveled to La Esperanza in the north west of Peru. For five weeks, Rosie worked with the Horizon House, a small non-profit organization founded by Manuel Silva, a longtime resident of La Esperanza. The Horizon House serves the children of La Esperanza, who are without access to supplemental educational programs.
In addition to teaching general English lessons each day, Rosie and Manuel converted Horizon House each evening into a study center open to the neighborhood, offering help to high school students with English homework, and adults hoping to use English to advance their career.
Rosie helped to design and implement an English curriculum to be taught at local schools with lessons focused on creativity and self-expression, using physical activity and personal experience to help students connect with what they learned.
Rosie was able to visit a number of local tourist sites, including the Chimu adobe city, the Huaca del Sol y de la Luna, and the vast asparagus fields that encompass Trujillo. She wandered through the Shaman's Market in Chiclayo, learned La Marinera-the national dance of Peru, and enjoyed sharing recipes and stories with the Silvas.
"Sometimes it was hard to see how teaching English was beneficial to the children of La Esperanza. I felt there were so many other things that I wanted them to learn about--the environment, democracy and global politics, how to take out a home-improvement loan. I tried to incorporate other ideas as much as possible, but the most rewarding lesson I taught was on feelings and emotions. Since that in lesson, just about all of the kids respond to "How are you?" not with "Very well", or "Good", but almost exclusively with "I am happy".
The time that I spent in La Esperanza was focused on the expression of personal experience--the joys and perils of living, no matter where, the lessons we learn, and the dreams we have for the future."
Sam Modest '09 taught last fall at the Rainbow Academy in Darjeeling, India. This English-medium primary school services the more impoverished families within the tea plantation district of Gorubathan.
Sam taught English to different age groups at the school, in addition to teaching the children Ultimate Frisbee. Sam also began a digital photography program at the school to provide the children with a form of non-verbal expression, with which they can share and converse with children in other parts of the world who are also learning photography. He is still working to build lines of communication between the Rainbow Academy and Woodside Elementary School in Topsham, ME, where he has been teaching photography to fifth grade students since the Fall of 2007.
"I feel so lucky to be given the opportunity to travel and meaningfully connect with a community that I would not normally have access to, through our mutual experiences of learning from, and teaching, one another."
Anirudh Sreekrishnan '12 worked with Heart for Humanity, an NGO, centered in Accra, Ghana. Heart for Humanity helps volunteers find local ways to give back to the different communities in Ghana. No matter the project, whether it is in a classroom or a hospital, the help the volunteers provide makes an impact in the community and offers an insight to a different culture.
Anirudh went to Ghana to do healthcare and medical work throughout the country. He spent one month in Walewale (Northern Region) working in a district hospital that oversees the city as well as the surrounding villages. Here he saw cases of malaria, candidias, dysentery, catter, STDs.
He then spent a month in Ho (Capital of the Volta Region) where he joined outreach missions with a local medical team to villages and communities all over the Volta Region. On these trips, he went with cataract patients to the hospital and witness a few dozen surgeries.
He spent his last month in a clinic that was undergoing accreditation from the National Health Insurance Scheme. Here he mainly worked on an advertising/updating campaign to help with the accreditation process.
"The ability to work in different places in the Ghana has allowed me to not only travel cross-country, but also experience a culture from many different perspectives. I can now say that I have biked through the hillsides of the Central Region, gone on Safari in the Upper Eastern Region, and climbed the tallest mountain in Ghana. When it comes to the animals- I have fed monkeys in the Volta Region, sat on crocodiles in the Upper Western Region, and was almost stampeded by wild hogs in the Upper Eastern Region. Last but not least, culturally- I went to church services every Sunday, attended a friend’s wedding, and went to a cultural dance festival.
Beyond the sights and sounds, it’s the people that make Ghana special. They make the country what it is- a welcoming and amazing place to spend a summer."
Read more about Anirudh's experience at this Heart for Humanity website.
Kyle Dempsey '11 volunteered with El Hospital Escuela Oscar Danilo Rosales de la Ciudad de Léon in Léon, Nicaragua. The hospital provides health care to Nicaragua's second largest city, Léon, as well as the surrounding rural towns and villages. In addition to direct patient care, the hospital trains doctors and other medical professionals.
Kyle worked along side a general practitioner who is a fifth-year medical school teacher. Each day Kyle assisted her and other doctors a the hospital in any way possible. His primary task was working on a mass vaccination effort that will immunize many of the region's rural poor who are unable to access health care.
"Leaving Nicaragua, I felt my experiences had far exceeded my expectations. These experiences did not really change any of my future career aspirations, though they definitely reaffirmed my fascination with medicine and the human body as well as the huge sense of well-being that I receive when helping others. My experience also opened my eyes to the poor healthcare conditions that exist in many countries. As a person who lived without healthcare, I easily empathized for the Nicaraguan people and plan to help them even more, when I am physician. In the short run, however, I also intend to help Nicaragua by raising awareness on campus and by coordinating efforts with the Omprakash Foundation to direct more international volunteers and resources to Nicaragua."
Read more about Kyle's work in Nicaragua.
Sara Holby '08 volunteered with International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS) in Kisii Town, Kenya. ICROSS fights poverty and disease in poor and marginalized communities throughout Kenya. The organization employs the resources and capabilities of community members, thereby empowering them to take responsibility for change and development in their own lives.
Sara worked with ICROSS in a number of capacities. Her primary work was developing fundraising streams and donor support for ICROSS. She also worked to establish New World International, a program to link people around the world with those in poverty. Additionally, she engaged in field work by talking with HIV/AIDS patients and community members throughout the Kisii District.
Eunsung (Elisa) Kim '10 volunteered with Pemón Health in Urimán, Venezuela. The mission of Pemón Health is to demonstrate initiatives designed to provide sustainable improvements for the health of Pemón villagers.
Elisa lived in the indigenous community of Urimán, Venezuela, for nine weeks. She mainly assisted the region's doctor with his medical work, but also participated in Pemón Health programs and activities.
Sean Morris '10 worked with Grupo Fenix in Managua, Nicaragua. Grupo Fenix contributes to the wellbeing of rural communities by creating an awareness of sustainable lifestyles through technical and cultural exchange, promotion, and research in the field of renewable energy.
Sean work for and did research for members of a solar energy cooperative in the rural village of Totogalpa, Madriz, to create and implement projects focused on sustainable development, including the building of solar ovens, solar dehydrators, biodigestors, and the establishment of permaculture.
"While we might be tempted to think that humility means giving more than you receive – for me - truly knowing humility meant realizing that it is possible to receive more from a community of poor uneducated farmers than I could give back with a lifetime worth of “volunteering.” I am deeply indebted to them, and to all of my mentors: Nicaraguans, teachers, friends, and family alike - all people who saw a promise in me that I have come in part to realize."
Read more about Sean's work in Nicaragua.