Love and Heartbreak in a Honduran daycare

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

IMG_4489

The main reason why I went to Honduras was to volunteer and give back. A month before leaving I found out my volunteer placement would be at a Honduran daycare center for poor single mothers to send their children to the day while they tried to earn a living. As a mother myself who adores children and an advocate for fighting poverty, I couldn’t think of a better placement. I could hardly wait.

Global Issues Honduras SOCIAL GOOD Volunteering Abroad

Learning Spanish like a local in La Ceiba, Honduras

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Finding the right program abroad can prove to be a daunting task. I searched countless hours on the Internet but after the trip to Honduras I realized my mistake. I was searching for volunteer opportunities not spanish language schools. Little did I know that almost every language school offers volunteer opportunities alongside their program. Had I searched under spanish schools, I would have found lots of options. In retrospect, everything worked out more than fine. It just took me a roundabout way to find my school, Centro Internacional de Idiomas. Next time, I’ll know the back way in and do it differently.

IMG_2291

Honduras SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

Becoming a global volunteer

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

IMG_2502

Two lovely Garifuna girls in Roatan, Honduras.

Four years ago, I was finally at the point in my life in which I was able to set a new goal for myself. I made the decision that I would spend one week a year abroad as a global volunteer, giving back to a host community. After years of traveling around the world, I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to see places that most people will never see. Furthermore, I understood how much we truly have in the western world compared to to everyone else who are not so fortunate. Spending time in developing countries opened my eyes even more and I became even more thankful for the fact that I had a more than adequate roof over my head, plenty of food on the table, a loving family, the ability to stay at home with my children and pursue my dreams. All in all, I realized that I had a really great life and that millions of people around the world were just struggling to survive.

IMG_4489_Snapseed

Central America Costa Rica Guatemala Honduras Morocco SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

Arrival in La Ceiba

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

I arrived at the port of La Ceiba around half past three with a jittery stomach. I was a ball of nerves worrying about my ability to communicate effectively in Spanish and curious about what my host family would be like. It felt odd to just be dropped off all alone at the ferry station and have no idea what to expect. But I reminded myself I’d done it before and it turned out fine.

My first major culture shock had to do with the luggage collection. The hundreds of suitcases and bags were unloaded onto carts and wheeled into a large rectangular holding pin where one by one you had to yell out in Spanish what bag was yours to the three or four baggage handlers. You can imagine the difficulty trying to get my black piece of luggage! I was the last one standing until I finally got my belongings.

IMG_2229

TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

Clinica Esperanza: A place of hope

Clinica-Esperanza-Logo-300x75It must have been a sign of fate that I happened to be paging through the resort brochure the last night of my stay at the lovely Barefoot Cay and saw the two-page spread on Clinica Esperanza. Instantly I was taken by the story and by a stroke of luck the next morning, thirty minutes before my departure to the United States I found myself interviewing the very doctor who has dedicated the last several years of his life to helping build the clinic.

Global Health Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Honduras SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

First impressions on nine days in Honduras

IMG_2071

Sunset over West Bay Beach on the island of Roatan is always a magical treat.

Sunday night I arrived home utterly exhausted and unfortunately sick from Honduras. I tend to be prone to stomach bugs when I travel to developing countries and thankfully I always carry an antibiotic which has already began to help. Nevertheless, I lost six pounds in a week and came back to a sick child again as well. We just can’t seem to get healthy in our house.

IMG_2036

The tropical island of Roatan. Worlds apart from the mainland of Honduras where 80% of the people live in poverty.

Honduras Poverty SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

My new little amigos

I’ve completed my second day volunteering with the beautiful children at a children’s day care center that assists poor single mothers so they can work. Originally I thought I would be working at an orphanage but that was somehow lost in translation. I’m finding that much for me is lost in translation since I’m only at a very basic Spanish level. But I’ve come to understand with traveling, especially in developing countries, that you must simply go with the flow. Having an open mind and open heart is paramount. Otherwise you’d pack you bags and leave the next day for home!

Honduras is much more basic and rough around the edges than Guatemala. It has truly opened my eyes. Over 80% of the people here live in poverty and it is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti and along with Bolivia. Yet despite the poverty and the dire situations most people live in, people are generally happy and resolved with their lot in life. Especially the children.

Here is a brief look at some of my beautiful new friends I met today at the center. They are so incredibly loving and full of life. They have so little material goods yet their joyous smile tells it all. For them, there is much more to life than having all the latest toys. Their love of life is evident and infectious.

Come, meet a few of my new little friends and see for yourself.

20130109-123958.jpg

20130109-124014.jpg

20130109-124022.jpg

20130109-124029.jpg

20130109-124036.jpg

20130109-124045.jpg

20130109-124053.jpg

20130109-124059.jpg

Global Issues Honduras SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

International Volunteer Day: December 5

“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up”

– Bernard Meltzer

Today is International Volunteer Day. However, in my book every day should be a day to volunteer. I am a strong advocate for giving back and believe strongly that everyone who is able should help others in need.

Volunteering does not have to be complicated. In fact, there are little things you can do right in your own backyard to help make the world a better place. For instance, every community has a school which needs volunteers to help out. I volunteer often at my children’s school on fun events and also on day to day tasks such as helping kids learn to read, write and do arithmetic. With the graying population, there is also a lot of need assisting seniors either at care centers, hospitals or just in every day life. With the economy in decline, many people need help just trying to survive. There are many places you can volunteer to give back to the poor such as helping at a food shelf, a donation center or a job/skill retraining center. The list of opportunities to give back and volunteer are endless. All you need is a little bit of time.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” ~ Malcom Bane

For today’s post, I would like to showcase a few memories of my favorite volunteer experiences over the last few years. With my next volunteer trip approaching in exactly one month (I leave for Honduras on January 5th) I am looking forward to having another opportunity to give back and see the world through new eyes.

SOCIAL GOOD Volunteering Abroad

The Children of La Pedrera

One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Guatemala was to volunteer.  For the last two years, I have been passionate about volunteering internationally and giving back to the countries in which I have had the pleasure of visiting.  It has inspired me, motivated me and changed me to become the person I am today.  And I must admit, I am proud of that fact.

Two years ago, I went on my first volunteer trip with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) to Costa Rica where I worked at a nursing home for abandoned grandparents (to read posts, click here).  Then last April, I traveled to Morocco again with CCS to volunteer at a women’s school and help tutor English.  I loved both of these volunteer experiences as they truly changed my life.  However after two years of doing volunteer work as a group I wanted to try venturing out on my own.  I had traveled abroad alone before yet never for an extended period of time.  I felt like there was no time like the present to give it a whirl and truly challenge myself.  I just needed to find the right place.

When my son Max started first grade at Burroughs Community School in Minneapolis my opportunity arose.  Max’s first grade teacher, Ms. May, just so happens to be married to a Guatemalan man and together they have run a Spanish School called Casa Xelaju and a nearby community center, La Pedrera, for years.  My opportunity had come!  Guatemala was on my travel list and after falling in love with Costa Rica, I could hardly wait to visit another Central American country, especially one with a vibrant indigenous community, the Mayans.

Photo above of me with my little girls. These three girls are the same age as my daughter Sophia. I adored them and their smiles brightened my soul and warmed my heart.

Guatemala Poverty TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

My Guatemalan Adventure: Day 1

I landed in Guatemala City on an excessively windy day on Sunday, March 4th.  After a fitful night’s sleep at a mediocre airport hotel I was ready to leave Houston and finally continue my way south to Guatemala.  I had the usual feelings of excitement and anticipation which I always get before I land in a new country and enter into the mayhem it brings.  The whole bag of usual mixed thoughts raced across my mind.

What would it be like? Would I enjoy my stay there? Would I understand and be able to communicate in my broken Spanish? Would I be safe?  Would I get sick?  Would my ride be there as expected, waiting for me outside the baggage claim?  Would the bus ride suck?

You would think that a seasoned traveler would get over these worry wart antics but it never seems to fail.  I’m always a worrier and I also go through this kind of strange mixed up, emotional nonsense.  At least now I am fully aware of it and try my best to take things as they come.  That is the best advice I’d ever received about traveling in different countries:  Just let go, and go with the flow!  Yet words can mean more than actions for a type A person who is normally as organized and orderly as drill sergeant.

I exited the plane and felt the warm air flow through my Minnesota veins.  It felt great to finally be there and to be somewhere warm!  I grabbed my mighty red suitcase, stuffed to the rim, and quickly passed through immigration and headed out the door.  I was ready for the flood of people waiting frantically outside of the airport doors, with signs and smiles and searching looks across their faces.  Of course I was an instant attraction as it isn’t every day a tall, blond-haired woman walks out of the doors, completely alone and searching the crowd as well.  My eyes scanned the horizon and sorted through the mass of chaos until thankfully I quickly located my name on a white placard.  My ride was there.

Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad

How Nepal Changed Me

Note: This post first appeared in the Elephant Journal.  It is a cummulation of my story of how I became the thirdeyemom, why I started this blog, what inspired me to make a difference in my life and others and why I began fundraising for Nepal. The link to the original post is here:  Nepal was utterly amazing.  How it changed me forever.

I am also going to include a copy of the post here.  My trip to Nepal and my recent efforts at fundraising have made a huge impact on my life.  It is a way to change the dynamic of being a simple traveler to being a compassionate human being who gives back to the community visited.  I strongly believe that travel is a gift.  It is important to give in return.  Without further delay, here is my story.

How Nepal Changed Me

By thirdeyemom

Nepal was utterly amazing. The trek was arduous, humbling and long.  We hiked over 100 miles doing on average 4-8 hours of strenuous hiking a day at altitudes up to almost 18,000 feet.  But what amazed me most was the magical culture and people that I found in Nepal.

 
Thorong-La Pass Nepal

Photo of my dad and me at 6:30 am summit of the highest point of our Annapurna trek, Thorong-La Pass at 17,769 feet.

Coffee. Tea” the flight attendant asked wearily. “I’ll take a coffee with sugar, please” I responded half-awake yet with a smile.  We were two hours short of our 15-hour non-stop flight from Chicago to Delhi and I could hardly believe we were almost there.  I had seen the sun set and rise and set again all within that time and needless to say, my body was confused.   I had no idea how I’d manage to go to bed that night.  It was 8 PM in India but my body was still on Minneapolis time, a bright and early 8 AM.  It was going to be interesting. 

As we made our final descent through the thick, dark blanket of pollution that covered Delhi I couldn’t help but think about why I was here and where I was headed:  To Nepal to hike the mighty Himalayas with my beloved dad.   How on earth did I come so far with such a grandiose plan for a vacation?  Even I, a stay-at-home mom of two young children, couldn’t believe it was real.

My father and I have been traveling partners all my life.  What started out as numerous family vacations throughout my childhood lead to annual vacations with just my dad to destinations around the world.  Over the past ten years, we hiked Machu Picchu in Peru, dived in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, hiked in Patagonia twice, played golf in Ireland, went skiing in Italy and France, and went on a safari in South Africa.   My friends thought I was crazy.  But I felt invigorated and alive.

Nepal was one of those elusive, mystical places in the back of our minds that we had dreamed of visiting one day.  It had everything we wanted in a travel destination:  Majestic scenery, world-class hiking, unbelievable mountains, and a diverse and fascinating culture.  Yet it was impossibly far away and would require a fair amount of time to see.  We also had no idea how safe or doable it was to hike.  When thinking about Nepal, my mind easily crept to those crazy, over the top athletes who climb Mount Everest.  I thought there was probably more tame hiking adventures but didn’t truly know.  Thus as an actual travel destination, Nepal remained a very distant possibility.  Perhaps someday we would go there.

Pokhara Nepal

Little did I know it would be sooner than I ever imagined.  My dad and I had just returned from a spectacular hiking trip in Patagonia, Argentina where we had first caught wind of the real possibility of trekking the Himalayas in Nepal.  During our trip to Patagonia, we had met an exciting couple from England who were in their sixties and had just completed the world-famous Annapurna trek the year before.   My father and I listened in awe and fascination as they explained their trip and we were instantly hooked.  It sounded like the trip of a lifetime that we could easily accomplish physically.  Yet we just had to figure out how we could manage such a long trip.  My children were only three and five years old and we would need at least two to three weeks.  I wasn’t sure my mother or husband would be willing to babysit the children for that long.  Thus once again, the thought of going to Nepal was placed on the back burner.

Almost like a sign of fate, my dad happened to see an article in the New York Times on March 10, 2010 called “Hiking the Annapurna Trek Before the Road Takes Over”.  Basically what the article said was that this world-renowned hike was going to be ruined within a matter of years by the building of a dirty, dusty road that would tear through idyllic villages and pristine nature and open this once hidden, mystical land to jeep, car, and bus traffic.  That was all we needed to hear and it was soon decided that the time to go was now.  We gingerly presented our idea to both my husband and mom who surprisingly were in full support of our plan and gave us the green light to start planning.  We were thrilled.

 
Annapurna Trail Nepal

Me and my dad at the start of the trail.

A village along the Annapurna Trek in Nepal

The start of the Annapurna trail is gravel now. Yet not for much longer as a road is in the process of being built from the start of the trail all the way to Manang which currently takes eight days to reach by foot.

The New York Times article recommended two trekking companies.  We sent query letters and received a reply almost immediately from Earthbound Expeditions, a locally owned and run outfitter in Nepal.  We received a custom itinerary that perfectly met our needs and time constraints, and had amazingly prompt replies to all my crazy questions such as the safety records of internal flights in the mountains to the availability of calling home while on the trail.  I was amazed and impressed by the high level of personal attention and service given by Earthbound’s owner, Rajan.  This kind of service has long disappeared from most American travel companies. We booked the trip for the end of October 2010 for a 17-day journey that inspired and excited me beyond my expectations.

The desire to give something back

Before leaving for Nepal, I made a decision that I no longer wanted to be simply a tourist that visited a country, enriched myself in all its culture and beauty, and left nothing in return, no gift behind. My new way of thinking all began on a recent trip I made which was different from anything else I’d ever done: A volunteer trip to work in Costa Rica.  Although I was only there for one week, the impact volunteering made on my life and the people I helped during that short time led me to believe strongly that we must give back.  Travel is a gift and it is important to give in return.

I wracked my brain for different ways I could raise money. I knew that I wanted to donate money to a non-profit organization that focuses on education in Nepal. After reading several inspirational books on education in poverty-stricken lands, I knew that this was the area to attack.  I searched Lonely Planet who has an excellent listing of non-profit organizations as well as volunteer opportunities, and found just the organization I was looking for:  READ Nepal.

READ Nepal is part of READ Global:
READ Global pioneered the concept of sustainability as an international development organization dedicated to combining education and private enterprise to make rural communities viable places to learn, build, and prosper. READ partners with rural communities to create, sustain and grow projects in a manner that is politically and culturally appropriate. READ has helped establish forty nine Community Library and Resource Centers paired with for-profit enterprises throughout Nepal and India that serve over a half million people annually and has also recently opened up a center in Bhutan”.
Nepalese children headed to school

Nepalese children dressed proudly in their school uniforms waved as we passed them by.

Finding the right organization was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out how a stay-at-home mom could raise the money.  I didn’t want to ask for donations from friends and families.  Instead, I wanted to earn the money and somehow involve my children in the process so they could learn the importance of giving back.

That was where creative thinking came into play.  It was summer in Minnesota, a time to be outdoors, out of our long winter’s hibernation, and back into the world again enjoying our 10,000+ lakes, beautiful parks and nature.  Initially, I set a small goal of raising a couple hundred dollars for my cause.   But as time went by, I realized it was possible to do more.  I just had to be creative!  I set my first goal at $500 and used traditional American-style activities to raise the money.  In June, I ran a co-op “babysitting fundraiser” at my house on Friday mornings.  Each Friday I babysat up to ten kids in exchange for a small donation.  Although it was incredibly exhausting, it was a terrific success.   In July, my children and I ran a car wash and lemonade stand to raise money for Read Nepal.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of my friends and neighbors who contributed donations.   Finally, in early September my family and I held our first annual yard sale in the name of charity.    Through these efforts, my initial goal of $500 suddenly amassed to $2,000 and I was ecstatic!   The $2,000 raised was matched by my husband’s employer, bringing the total donation to READ Nepal up to $4,000.  Just like that a small idea ended up being a big help. The funds were donated a week before I boarded the plane to Kathmandu.

READ Nepal was delighted with the donation and informed me that the money would be more than enough to open up an entire library and reading center in rural Nepal.  They were beyond thrilled and continually showered me with compliments and called me “their little Angel”.  I was so shocked to receive such immense gratitude for what I thought was a small amount in the grand scheme of things.  Yet it made me realize how much ANYTHING can do to help, especially in this economic climate. It just goes to show how far your money can go in a third world country. The gift was given and I realized that it is the things you do for others in life that makes you feel the best.

Nepali girls

Photo of three Nepali girls dressed in their finest clothing in honor of the Festival of Lights, one of the biggest holidays in Nepal. The girls went from table to table, singing and dancing and then asking for a small donation to help pay for school.

Why the third-eye?
As a world-traveler I was completely unprepared for what I would see in India.  Complete and utter chaos, poverty and pollution beyond anything I’d ever seen before in any of my travels.  My heart sank.  The cultural shock of India hit me like a punch.  I was blown away and honestly, a bit afraid.
Delhi Street Photography

View of one of many slums in Delhi.

Delhi Street Photography

Many unpaved streets

Delhi Street Photography

Women living on the streets outside the US Embassy

We arrived at our hotel, thankfully without hitting someone or something in the chaotic lines that made up the roads and I took a deep breath and sigh of relief.  I had heard that India was a little chaotic yet what I had just seen stirred up some serious culture shock in my normally open mind.  That was when I met the owner of the hotel and he told me the most important thing I’d ever learned about traveling and culture shock:  The importance of having and maintaining the third eye. 

In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, the third eye is a symbol of enlightenment and wisdom and is commonly seen in Indian and East Asian countries represented by a dot, eye or mark on the forehead of deities or “enlightened beings”.

I received my third eye in a timely manner.  Right after we entered the hotel, we were welcomed with a traditional marigold necklace and the third eye dotted on our foreheads to remind us that we needed to see India with an open mind.  This idea stuck with me throughout the trip and was probably the best advice I could have ever received.  It was so powerful that I decided that it would become the name for my new blog as it incorporated all my ideas about how I wanted to see the world and how I wanted to communicate my travel experiences with others.  For travel is definitely an enormous learning adventure and when visiting other cultures, especially ones that are so incredibly different than your own, you must keep a third eye.  Otherwise you would miss out on seeing what travel is really about: seeing and learning how other people around the world live, thinking about what you’ve learned, formatting opinions on it, and most importantly, sharing this knowledge with others.  If you don’t have a third eye, what could you possibly learn?

Me after I received my marigold necklace and the third eye.

Me after I received my marigold necklace and the third eye.

The trip of a Lifetime

Nepal was utterly amazing. The trek was arduous, humbling and long.  We hiked over 100 miles doing on average 4-8 hours of strenuous hiking a day at altitudes up to almost 18,000 feet.  But what amazed me most was the magical culture and people that I found in Nepal.  It is one of the world’s poorest countries in which over 80% of the population is rural and the majority of people survive on less than $2 a day, not even a cup of coffee in the US.  Yet, the rich culture and traditions of the people rose above the impoverished conditions that most villagers live in.

Leaving Kathmandu

Leaving Kathmandu and heading to the mountains.

Kathmandu Valley

The beautiful rice terraces and lush green Kathmandu Valley.

Manang Nepal

My first sight of a fresh coat of snow over the Annapurnas in Manang took my breath away.

Villages along the Annapurna Trek

Along the Annapurna trail, you walk through many villages and are greeted by the rural Nepalese, goat herders, chicken sellers, mule trains, and yaks.

Annapurna Trek Nepal

The Buddhist influence greets you at each village as you pass by Buddhist prayer flags, temples, prayer wheels and the smell of burning juniper.

Temples in Nepal Annapurna

The Buddhist influence.

P1020085

Monk in Manang Nepal

Being blessed by a 94-year-old monk who lives in a cave monastery at 13,000 feet near Manang.

After completing the trek, I realized why it is called one of the best treks in the world because no other trail has such magnificent scenery and fascinating culture.  No other trek I’ve done has ever gone directly through villages and has allowed me to walk side by side villages doing their daily business.  We passed goat herders, mule trains, men carrying 20 chickens on their backs in a wire cage doing his sales rounds, happy children dressed in their worn school uniforms, Buddhist temples, shrines and prayer wheels and prayer flags.  It felt like being on another planet.  And that is what brings me back to why Nepal changed my life.

It is possible to make a difference:  Little things can have big results

As our jet plane took off for home and climbed five thousand, ten thousand and then eighteen thousand feet, I realized in awe that only a few days ago I had been at almost the same altitude as the plane.  It was a wild thought; almost a little frightening.

Annapurna Trek Nepal

Our porter Chhring, me, our guide Hari and my dad in Manang, where the road will end. We shared many wonderful days together talking, laughing and sharing our cultures.

Annapurna Trek Nepal

Where it all began….

As I looked down, I was finally was able to conceptualize how high 18,000 feet truly is. The buildings became smaller and smaller, the cars like ants lining the roads. The vastness of the green, voluptuous rice fields stacked one on top of the other, bursting in color and life. Then, for the last time, I saw the godlike, mighty Himalayas, strikingly beautiful, like a mirage of flying towers soaring upwards into the heavens of the sky. I found it hard to believe that I was really here and had really been there.  It was all like a dream.

Nepal was one of those eye-opening moments in my life in which I realized not only how blessed we are to live in a free, prosperous country (where we have the pleasure of the “western toilet, clean streets without piles of garbage, education, opportunity and space), but how important it is for us as privileged people to give back.   Visiting Nepal struck a chord in my heart and made me realize how impoverished these wonderfully, peaceful and loving villagers are.  Over 80% of Nepalese live in rural areas that have little or no access to education.  I believe strongly that education is the key to a better future and a better life.  From that trip on, I was determined to change my life and figure out a way to keep giving back.

Young Nepali girl

This young Nepali girl made me smile.

Almost as if an act of fate, I somehow or another found a way to follow my dreams and continue my work fundraising for education in Nepal.  As we were leaving Kathmandu, Rajan, the owner of Earthbound Expeditions, our trekking company, gave me his card and mentioned some of the social work he is involved with in Nepal.  On the back of the card was the small, grass-roots NGO called Hands in Nepal.  As soon as I got home, I contacted them.  It was the perfect fit and my charity work continued.

Over the last six months, I have raised money to help Hands in Nepal a small grass-roots organization created by a young American Danny Chaffin.  Hands in Nepal’s mission is to create educational opportunities and community development programs in rural Nepal by building schools, donating educational supplies, teacher’s salaries, and student scholarships.  I have done most of my fundraising work through the sale of beautiful, homemade Nepali goods such as pashmina scarves, yak-hair blankets, and purses and bags.   Since May, I’ve sold over $4,000 of my Nepali wares and over half of that profit goes back to Hands in Nepal (after taking in account the cost of the products, shipping and customs).  It has been a win-win opportunity as the sale of the products not only benefit Hands in Nepal but also the rural, poor Nepalese people who are making and supplies these little treasures for me to sell.

I have also used my second annual yard sale as a way to raise money for Hands in Nepal.  After scraping together all my old clothing and miscellaneous items that we no longer need, I was able to raise $540 for Hands in Nepal.

Perhaps $540 sounds like nothing. Yet, it does make a difference. What does $540 do in Nepal?  This money can buy:

A composition notebook and pencil for 540 children.

-or-

Two school workbooks and a composition notebook for 108 children.

-or-

A school uniform and backpack for 54 children.

-or-

Chalkboard and teacher supplies for 10 classrooms.

-or-

A book set for 27 classrooms.

-or-

Bench seating and work tables for 27 classrooms (approximately 40 children per room)

-or-

Almost enough for one teacher’s salary for an entire year.

-or-

A combination of some of the above items.

In a country where 82% live in rural communities and have little or no access to education, and the average daily salary is less than $2 a day, this small amount of money goes a long way in fighting poverty and helping educate Nepal’s future generation. With a literacy rate of barely over 50%, there is a long way to go. However, it is my belief that every effort, no matter how small, can help make the world a better place.

There is something so special and magical about giving back that just makes me feel complete and my hope is that I can eventually reach the $8,000 mark to build a new school in rural Nepal and have a lasting impact on an entire village and generation of people. It will take time of course to raise the money but with the help of my friends, family and children as well I plan to achieve it!

Photo above of Jan and her son Danny along with the children of the new school made possible by Hands in Nepal. 
Adventure Travel Nepal Trekking/Hiking Volunteering Abroad

Update on Hands in Nepal: Building of Second School Completed

As many of you know, I’ve been actively fundraising for a small, grass-roots NGO called Hands in Nepal which focuses on building schools in rural Nepal.  Most of my fundraising efforts have been done through the sales of beautiful Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian treasures such as hand-woven pashminas, scarves, yak-hair blankets, bags, purses and even baby clothes.

Since late spring, I’ve been able to fundraise $1,670 to date and now have over four boxes of lovely merchandise to sell at upcoming events.  My goal is to raise the $6,000-$8,000 required to build a school in rural Nepal, a place in which 82% of the population live in remote villages and many have little or no access to education.  Only about half of the population of Nepal is literate and most people live on less than $2 a day—-less than a cup of coffee!

I became involved with this organization after trekking the mighty Himalayas last November mostly because I fell in love with this country and its people and more importantly, I wanted to help and make a difference in people’s lives.

The founder of Hands in Nepal, Danny, is an impressive young man, still in college and in his early twenties who works together with his fabulous mother Jan, an educator, as well as several local Nepalese contacts.  This summer Danny, his girlfriend Bree and his mother journeyed to Nepal to build their second school in the remote village of Phulkarka to help with the completion of their second school.

Here is a video Danny recently posted to YouTube which highlights the remoteness, beauty and poverty of this unknown village in Nepal.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Dchaff

Danny’s mother Jan, is working on setting up a sewing co-op with village women to help them learn to make a living and improve their lives.  Together, Danny and Jan make a wonderful team and go to show you “if there is a will, there is a way” to making a difference in people’s lives.  Each school will educated over 80 children that had little or no access to education at all.  An amazing story and testament to the will and power of people to make a difference!

To read more about Hands in Nepal, Danny’s work, and my personal travels to Nepal, please visit my earlier posts under the topic “Nepal”.

Nepal TRAVEL BY REGION Volunteering Abroad