A Fresno State lacrosse player shares her eye-opening volunteer travel experience in Peru and living with and learning from the Cuzco community. Enjoy!
Two weeks in Peru with Lauren Kiszely
7/24/2019 12:00:00 PM | By: Savannah Stoeckle / Communications Assistant
FRESNO, Calif. - For many college students summer vacation is a prime opportunity to visit with family and friends, go on vacation, attend concerts, make memories and escape from the books and mile high piles of lecture notes.
For Fresno State lacrosse junior attacker Lauren Kiszely, summer began with an experience that not many people get the chance to have. The Robbinsville, N.J. native kicked off summer 2019 with an eye-opening two-week volunteer trip to Cuzco, Peru.
Kiszely was approached with the idea by a pair of former high school lacrosse teammates who had done the trips before. She was immediately interested and began to pack her bags for the trip.
The group traveled to South America with a nonprofit organization called Globe Aware. The organization's ultimate goal for its trips is to encourage people to give back in unique ways. One of the key concepts of the volunteer trips is to understand the cultural differences in these countries and be able to recognize and appreciate the differences that these cultures bring, instead of trying to change them into something that they cannot become.
That is exactly what Kiszely learned.
"It was very humbling," said Kiszely. "We learned a lot about how people live in these communities. It was a very gratifying experience that I will never forget. It made me appreciate everything that I have here at home."
The way of life is different in Peru than it is for a Fresno State student-athlete in California. With a major culture shock, Kiszely learned quickly that things are not the same.
"They cook by burning stones and dirt, then they cook their food in the dirt," added Kiszely. "They don't use running water. They don't have bathrooms. All of their clothes are hand-made. Many people use animals as a means of transportation. It was just so different."
Globe Aware takes two week trips and sets the first week for volunteer work and the second for exploration of the country.
They stayed at a boarding school for the kids who lived in communities that did not have any kind of higher education. Kiszely and the other volunteers spent their time going around to the different schools around Cuzco and learning about their ways of life.
During the first week, Kiszely and her group worked on different projects in smaller villages such as building staircases, painting and sanding down supplies that were needed for larger projects. They also had the opportunity to help a family build a stove out of mud and straw.
Outside of the hands-on volunteer work, they also helped the local children to enhance their English speaking skills.
"At night, we hung out with the kids and taught them English through different games and activities," explained Kiszely. "We also helped them with their homework and we were almost like tutors for them."
In the second week, Kiszely was able to explore Peru with her group and see the beauty that the ancient sites had to offer. The junior Bulldog had the opportunity to climb Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu, visit a small beach town called Paracas, and go sand boarding in the desert at the Huacachina Oasis. The group capped their trip with a stay at Peru's capital city, Lima, before heading home.
In a big, yet small world, Kiszely got the chance to meet up with Fresno State lacrosse senior goalkeeper Laurel Maunder while in the foreign country. Maunder got the chance to study abroad in Peru at the beginning of the summer.
After living in Peru for two weeks, it is safe to say that Kiszely has a new outlook on life and the things that a lot of people often take for granted. Our lives, whether they are in a rural society or in a more advanced one, need to be valued deeply.
"I would 100 percent do it again," said Kiszely. "I am already looking to do another one next summer. I highly recommend that if given the opportunity, everyone should go and experience how other countries live their daily lives and see how different the culture is."
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Costa Rica has miles of beaches on its east side to the Caribbean and on its west side to the Pacific Ocean. This unique location has attracted for hundreds of years an animal that now finds itself threatened by the actions of humans- from climate change to fishing obstacles, and even erroneous information on the effects of consuming sea turtle eggs.
Join Globe Aware in our fight to help save this magnificent animal. Take a volunteer vacation and help to preserve the habitat of the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) in Playa Bandera en Parrita, Puntarenas. You will find yourself in one the most unique environments, working to build an ecologically sustainable reforested habitat to give this wonderful animal a second chance. With a volunteer vacation, you can be a part of the solution and help change the fate of sea turtles.
Volunteer Work Projects
Save the sea turtles from extinction by helping the locals protect them and their environment as well! This volunteer vacation program is geared toward the nature loving volunteer explorer and the majority of program tasks involve work with locals of Bandera Beach. The projects can include:
- Monitoring the beach at night or early morning to locate the nests and inform the local egg collection committee
- Remove trash, stones or debris which prohibits the turtles from building their nest
- Replace and monitor the nests
- Guide the baby turtles’ as they hatch to prevent their going in direction of rainforest where they would die
- Build sea turtle nurseries
Projects will vary depending on the number of volunteers, which projects were finished with the prior group, what priorities have changed, weather conditions, which supplies are available, and often the interest and fitness level of the volunteers. For these reasons, specific projects are often not fixed until the week prior to your arrival and can even change upon arrival.
Other Community Work Projects
Because work with the sea turtles is reliant on so many factors, time will be allotted to participate in other community building projects. These projects may include:
- Cleaning and painting schools
- Planting coconut palms and almond trees
- Learn about the coconut oil production and other local entrepreneurships
These additional community projects protect and are for the benefit of scarlet Macaws as well as Capuchin monkeys. The entrepreneurship efforts by the citizens allows the community to grow and depend less and less each year on the sale and commerce of turtle eggs. We, at Globe Aware are committed to support the locals of Bandera Beach to bring sustainable market forces that allow the Green sea turtles to live in harmony with the residents.
Accommodations and Food
Volunteers are housed in a villa-style home very near the project location. Each room has a fan. Western style bathrooms are available, though they are modest and not as nice as what you might be accustomed to. As of 2018, there is now also fairly reliable wi-fi.
Flavorful traditional Costa Rican style meals are cooked fresh, with your help, throughout the day. Abundant, safe drinking water is always available in the home and throughout your working vacation.
Costa Ricans know how to relax! You will truly immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture. Life moves at a delightful, slower pace at Bandera Beach. The program begins with a traditional welcoming ceremony followed by a bonfire at the beach, an event the average tourist would never experience. There are plenty of things to do in the area, from walking tours to watching the capuchin monkeys, to fishing tours in the community. Cooking and Latin dancing lessons with locals are also offered.
Arranging Your Volunteer Vacation Airfare
You will need to arrange to be at the meet-up point in San Jose by 12:30pm on the Saturday your program begins. The program ends at 10:00 am the following Saturday and it takes approximately 4 hours to return to San Jose. The airport is one of the return drop-off stops our driver will make. Do not arrange a flight any earlier than 3:30 pm on the return trip.
Special note on transport: You are picked up and dropped off from the airport using a modern van with seatbelts and air-conditioning.
- Because it is a sea turtle project, sometimes the nests and turtles monitoring walks could be at night. We will let the volunteers know in advance.
- Volunteers must be very careful with the ocean and tides even if they are expert swimmers.
- Working/helping at local primary school needs a little different code of dressing. No short shorts, tank tops or very tight clothing.
- While making monitoring walks on the beach, be aware that weather conditions can change rapidly.
- Safety and Security During Your Volunteer Vacation
Health and safety concerns are minimal at this program sites. As always, caution and common sense minimize risks. However, if you decide to travel independently to urban areas such as San Jose, special care should be taken to prevent pick pocketing when in crowded areas. There are on occasion incidents of dengue fever and malaria in Costa Rica, though not common. It is always best to check with your health professional prior to travel.
Use these strategies to calm your mind as a traveler with anxiety.
By Elaine K. Howley, Contributor
This article is based on reporting that features expert sources including Indra Cidambi, MD; Moe Gelbart, PhD; Sanam Hafeez, PsyD
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, affecting about 40 million people, or more than 10% of the population, according to figures from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety can occur in any number of settings – day-to-day worries and generalized anxiety disorder are common. But it can also result from more specific, short-term reasons, such as getting ready for a big trip.
As with other types of anxiety, “when we talk about travel anxiety, it’s important to understand that it’s real," says Dr. Indra Cidambi, the medical director at the Center for Network Therapy, who’s double board-certified in general psychiatry and addiction medicine. Learn how to implement the following tips into your travel prep plans.
Tips to Ease Travel Anxiety
- Acknowledge your anxiety.
- Learn more.
- Make a plan.
- Write a list.
- Bring light, inflight distractions.
- Avoid coffee and other stimulants.
- Carry a paper lunch bag.
- Chew on ice cubes.
- Splash your face with cold water.
- Eat Ayurvedic spices.
- Download a relaxation app.
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Consider hypnotherapy.
- Discuss medications with your doctor.
Although “most travel is elective and designed to be fun and good, there’s a host of A to Z potential stressors” you’ll encounter along the way, says Moe Gelbart, a psychologist in private practice and founder of the Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California. “Even though you’re going somewhere fun, you’re going to the airport. You’re leaving your home and pets,” and there’s many niggling, maybe irrational fears that can crop up, such as “the fear that your washing machine is going to break and flood the house,” he says.
These natural concerns can be compounded by where you’re headed. “The father you go from home and the harder it is to get back, the more potential stressors you may experience,” Gelbart says. For example, if you’re leaving a sick relative at home, worries over whether or not they’ll be OK while you’re gone are natural and commonplace. “Leaving our normal, familiar routine and walking into the unknown brings with it a whole set of concerns and problems."
If you’ve ever experienced such anxiety or fears before a trip, you’re not alone. As many as 25% of travelers may feel anxiety before leaving home, says Sanam Hafeez, a psychologist and faculty member at the Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. Given that travel industry trade group Airlines for America projects that 257.4 million travelers are expected to fly on U.S. airlines in summer 2019, that means there’s clearly a lot of anxious people wandering around in our airports and other travel hubs.
What Causes Travel Anxiety?
So many different factors can contribute to feelings of anxiety prior to a trip. From a fear of flying to being anxious about leaving behind work or loved ones, there’s a lot of ways our brains can tell us maybe we shouldn’t get on that train, plane, bus or cruise ship. When flying, many people cite getting checked in and going through security at the airport as a major source of anxiety, and “40% of the people who travel also get anxious because of take-offs and landings,” Cidambi says. Concerns surrounding clearing customs and immigration when traveling to a foreign country are also a common source of anxiety. Worries about baggage – whether it will meet weight and size restrictions and turn up at the final destination if checked – can also cause stress.
People with underlying anxiety disorders are at higher risk of developing travel anxiety. If you’re anxious to start with, adding the very real concerns of the unexpected problems that inevitably crop up while traveling can make for an upsetting and potentially debilitating situation.
Strategies for Coping With Anxiety While Traveling
Though travel anxiety can upset even the most well-traveled among us, there are some ways to help tame this potential problem and get back to enjoying your trip.
Acknowledge the anxiety. Gelbart says simply noticing that you’re feeling anxious can force you to pause and think about the situation a little more. “Allow yourself to feel it and own that feeling. Then, remind yourself that the things you’re worried about are, for the most part, not going to occur. And if they do, you’ll be able to handle it.”
Learn more. Hafeez says that many fears are grounded in a lack of understanding or misconceptions. For example, if you have a fear of flying, it could be because you don't know as much about how it works as other modes of transport. "Flying is statistically the safest form of transportation, but is far more mysterious to most than driving a car," she says. But educating yourself about what to expect may "help to ease your fear and take some of your power back."
Make a plan. Rather than endlessly worrying, identify which potential issue is most concerning or most likely to occur and consider how you’d solve that problem, Gelbart says. “Control the things you can control” by making contingency plans.
Write it down. For some people, something as simple as making a long list of everything that needs to be completed or packed before take-off can go a long way toward easing anxiety. Spend a few minutes brainstorming everything, then prioritize the list. As you complete a task, physically cross it off the list. Being able to see tangible progress against what can sometimes seem like an overwhelming list of things to do may help alleviate the anxiety of forgetting something.
Pack your tools. Hafeez recommends bringing an inflight distraction toolkit to keep your mind occupied. “In your carry-on, pack crossword puzzles or coloring books, download books or movies that are light. Do not watch or read anything that includes topics of murder, terrorists, plane crashes, fires, death, or anything that can trigger fear. Anything you are reading, listening to or watching should conjure pleasant thoughts. Distraction is key to staying out of fear/panic.”
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes. Caffeine can heighten the jittery feelings that often occur when you’re feeling anxious. Alcohol can blunt your senses. So even if it might feel like it’s helping, it can slow cognition and dehydrate you – both situations you want to avoid when traveling.
Carry a brown paper bag. Those lunch sacks from your school days can also serve an important purpose in calming you down in a hurry if you start having a panic attack, Cidambi says. “Sit down and cover the nose and the mouth like an oxygen mask and start counting backwards from 100,” while breathing as slowly and deeply as you can. During a panic attack, breathing becomes shallow, out of the chest. “We need to breathe from the abdominal muscles,” to get a full exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen in the lungs. But so-called belly breathing requires deeper breaths than what most of us can manage in the throes of a panic attack. Breathing into a paper bag can help restore deeper, slower belly breathing, and counting backwards acts as a distraction that can further induce calm because it requires you to focus on something other than the panic you’re feeling. In addition, breathing in air you’ve already expelled into the bag will increase levels of carbon dioxide in the body. This helps reverse the effects of hyperventilation and restores the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.
Chew on some ice cubes. If the paper bag trick isn’t convenient, Cidambi recommends biting on an ice cube to help focus your energy and give you a means of releasing tension.
Splash cold water on your face. A classic way of calming yourself in the midst of a panic attack is to splash your face with cold water. Research has shown that immersing the face in cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic system. This system controls aspects of breathing and heart rate, and when the body senses cold water on the face, it reduces your heart rate and speed of breathing significantly in anticipation of being underwater and unable to access air.
Eat well. Cidambi adds that in Ayurvedic medicine, an alternative form of treatment that has its roots in ancient Indian teachings about the connection between the mind and body, cinnamon, ginger and cumin are thought to help calm your nerves. Though she says more research is needed to fully understand whether adding spices such as cinnamon to the diet can make a difference in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, it has its backers and few side effects. Using diet to control anxiety takes longer than popping a pill, but it might be a better option. “Going for a quick fix or leaning on a pill, that’s not the way to go,” she says. Instead, take care of yourself for the long term by making sure you’re getting adequate rest and eating right in the days and weeks leading up to a big journey.
Download a relaxation app. Even just a few minutes of relaxation or meditation can help bring down your heart rate and blood pressure and quell anxiety. There are many apps available that can help with relaxation, “and when it’s right at the tips of your fingers in your cell phone, you can use it when you’re feeling nervous or anxious.” Calming yourself is a skill that can be learned.
Seek cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a term used to describe talk therapy, and it can have a powerful effect on how you react to stressful situations. Though it’s definitely not a quick fix, CBT can help you reframe how you think about traveling, and make you more able to cope with the unexpected problems you’ll face on the road by providing you with healthy coping mechanisms. “If you change your thoughts, you can change your response and behavior,” Hafeez says.
Consider undergoing hypnotherapy. If you’re really fearful, consider attending a fear of flying clinic or undergoing hypnotherapy, Hafeez says. These intensive strategies can help you cope with your phobia. “To conquer your fear, you must address it. Hypnosis finds out what triggers that fear in your subconscious. Over time, a hypnotist helps to reprogram the mind so that you are no longer afraid. Your mind relearns positive truths about flying. As a result, you can escape from your long-held fear.”
Ask your doctor about medications. When all other non-pharmacological approaches have failed, it may be time to consider getting a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. Hafeez says a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, which include clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan), “work very quickly to calm intense anxiety or panic.” However, “these medications are habit-forming, so it is best to use them only in extreme situations of panic when you are faced with a phobic situation. And remember not to mix them with alcohol.” Gelbart says he’s seen some patients who never actually use the medication; they’re simply comforted by the fact that there’s a pill in their pocket if they really need it.
by Huyền Phương & Lê Hương
Driftwood, broken fishing nets or flip-flops may be rubbish to many people, but through the skilful hands of Hồ Công Thắng, who resides in An Bàng Village in Hội An, this detritus is transformed into unique objects.
When he was younger, Thắng realised he had a passion for turning rubbish into useful objects. He could spend hours working on his creations.
In 2016, he returned to Việt Nam after three years working in Japan as a shipbuilder. He chose Hội An to settle down as he thought the tourism destination would be a good market for handmade souvenirs.
He soon opened a shop named Art Garden Décor, offering decorative items made from rubbish and recycled materials.
His workshop is filled with old light bulbs, bottles, jars, boxes and bits of household appliances.
The old bottles can be painted and used as plant pots, while old wooden doors have been carved into decorative fish.
Sometimes, customers suggest ideas for his latest product.
The craftsman has sold thousands of wooden fish over the last two years, proving the popularity of his designs.
Yet each product takes many hours to design by hand.
“Though I make many products according to the same design, each item has unique details,” he told Quảng Nam newspaper.
“When it comes to decorative objects, industrial production lines kill creativity,” he said.
“If we know how to use and recycle waste and create new objects, it will save our natural resources,” he added.
His team of three to eight workers (depending on the number of orders), have tried their best to meet demand from localities like Bình Dương, Phan Rang, Nha Trang and HCM City.
He is planning to co-ordinate with a local protection centre to offer jobs to needy children and the elderly.
Thắng has also collaborated with various organisations to display products with environmental messages.
His Goby fish sculpture made of iron and netting is being exhibited at An Bàng Beach as part of an initiative by the Globe Aware group, which includes foreign volunteers living in and visiting the coastal town.
He also helped the group make a ‘Blessing Box’ near An Bàng Beach so people can leave things they no longer need for others to take.
GIVE AND TAKE: A foreign visitor by the ‘Blessing Box’ on An Bàng Beach - photo.
"Later this month, we'll make another Goby fish trash bin to place at nearby Cửa Đại Beach and another give-and-take wardrobe," Thắng told Việt Nam News.
"I think that he is very talented and thinks outside the box," said Francesca Supple, a tourist from California who is part of the Globe Aware team in Hội An.
"His work is so unique and looks nothing like what we see in the United States," she said. "I wish there were more young artists like him in the US."
Nachesa Supple, Francesca's daughter, said his work was both beautiful and functional because it made a positive impact on the community.
"I love how enthusiastic he is about making public sculptures to raise people’s awareness of the environment," she said. "He is spreading a very powerful message and helps people realise how society can deeply impact nature."
In May, Thắng's team helped the Mekongaholics environmental group make a giant tortoise from recycled materials at Ông Beach on Cù Lao Chàm Island.
The sculpture was made from an old bamboo boat, fishing nets, plastic bottles and ropes collected on the beach.
The installation has attracted many tourists. It also won first prize at the Art of Recycle Awards hosted by the UNESCO Office in Việt Nam and the Coca-Cola Foundation.
"I like this sculpture and other small souvenirs Thắng designed," said Nguyễn Thị Thắm, a local student, who also works voluntarily for the Globe Aware group.
"I help Thắng's team do environmental and community projects," she said. "He's so friendly and warm. Foreign volunteers like him a lot."
Thắm said he showed them how to make things in an artful and creative way. She also said his only drawback was that he didn't speak much English, which hindered his capability to communicate with foreigners.
"Like other people living in Hội An, I recognise climate change has been caused by humans," Thắng said. "I want to make a small contribution to raising people's awareness of making the earth clean and improving the climate." VNS
I was lucky enough to participate with two friends - a professor and special ed teacher. Their insight into why social interactions, singing, etc was so meaningful was educational for me. Plus I enjoyed learning more about the center and how those with special needs in Romania are supported. Appreciated the personal service. Nicoletta, Mihai and Bogdan were excellent hosts and the camaraderie was fun and meaningful. [The Globe Aware program] is a very well rounded and thought through program. The hotel was great - service was top-notch and absolutely everyone was very fluent and so passionate about their roles. You can tell they are passionate about what they are doing. - Monica Brown June 2019
By MARTY TRILLHAASE
May 15, 2019
It’s admirable that Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Reps. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, compiled a perfect attendance score in Olympia this year.
But when you’re following strict rules, it’s easier to be diligent.
Schoesler, Dye or Schmick operate under a less-than-forgiving system: If they don’t show up to vote, their constituents back home in the 9th Legislative District will hear about it.
Not so in Idaho.
Spending time in the Legislature interfering with your business?
Get yourself a temp.
Legislative service interfering with your vacation plans?
Hire a sub.
Want to get an early jump on campaigning for office?
Appoint a fill-in.
You can’t find a more lenient system anywhere else.
It’s almost as if the legislators wrote this law for themselves — which, of course, they did. After all, this is same group that had to be dragged kicking and screaming before relinquishing a lucrative public pension perk. This is the same collection of politicians who won’t submit to outside ethics reviews or disclose minimal financial conflict of interest information about themselves.
In Congress and in most state legislatures, you vote or you don’t. You either resign or you don’t. Even grave illness is no excuse. For instance, the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stayed home while he was suffering from terminal brain cancer last year.
When Brenda Erickson, a senior research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, looked into this a few years ago, she found a handful of states, including Washington, that allowed legislators to get a temporary substitute if they were called up for military service. The rest made no exception.
But in Idaho, a lawmaker can take time off “for any reason,” nominate a designated replacement and have the governor make the appointment “until the incumbent .... shall be able to resume the performance of his duties. ...”
This year, 11 state representatives — nearly 16 percent of the House — and six senators — 17 percent of that chamber’s membership — took time off and relied on a temp.
The first one to take a break was Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Nezperce, who on Jan. 17 relied on Morgan Lohman of Lewiston to serve as her substitute. By the end of the session last month, there were so many temps on the House and Senate floor that you might have trouble keeping them straight.
Some absentees, such as Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, had medical reasons. Johnson required shoulder surgery and departed on March 27 — about two weeks before final adjournment.
Then there was Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. A scheduled trip to Vietnam beckoned and the highest ranking member of the state Senate left his post on April 4.
“Through an organization called Globe Aware, we spent long days working at a school for deaf children, building a home for an elderly widow, teaching English and other activities, ” Hill explained to his constituents in a newspaper column. “Because Idaho’s legislative session persisted longer than expected, I finally asked Eric Erickson to fill in for me for what I assumed would be the last day or two, so I could keep my other commitment in Vietnam.”
Nobody elected Erickson.
Nobody elected Kay Maurin of Moscow, either.
She subbed for Rep. Caroline Troy when the Genesee Republican needed to be in Alaska at the end of February.
While Troy was gone, Maurin joined a narrow majority of House members in killing a bill that would have ended the practice of allowing children younger than 16 to be married in this state.
Troy was a co-sponsor of that bill. Somehow, she failed to convey that information to Maurin ahead of the vote.
Who knows how the outcome might have changed had Troy been in Boise that day? At least, the measure would have had one more vote. Possibly, Troy’s advocacy might have swayed other House members to join her in passing it.
There is no more egregious case than that of former Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer. Last year, she got the bug to run for governor and preferred campaigning to remaining at her job. Ultimately, Jordan resigned — but until she did, Idaho’s easygoing system allowed her to have Margie Gannon serve as her temporary replacement.
At some point, the system seems to feed on itself. If they operated under tougher rules, would legislators schedule vacations that could conflict with a longer-than-expected session? Would they take time off for business trips?
Or, if Idahoans weren’t so tolerant, would their elected representatives in Boise stay put? — M.T.
Idaho Senator Brent Hill shares the profound impact a Globe Aware volunteer vacation he took to Vietnam with his sons had on him.
What Vietnam taught me about Idaho
By Sen. Brent Hill | Guest columnist Apr 25, 2019
Vietnam. The very word sent chills down the back of every young man facing possible military draft during the sixties. It summoned to the mind other words like guerrilla warfare, Vietcong, communism, casualties. Over a quarter of a million American families lost a loved one in the Vietnam War. Four times that many Vietnamese were killed.
As a boy growing up in the 1960s, I never expected to visit Vietnam — at least not for peaceful purposes. But earlier this month, three of our sons and one of my brothers traveled with me to an island in Vietnam.
We were there to conduct service projects in a country still recovering from decades of war. Through an organization called Globe Aware, we spent long days working at a school for deaf children, building a home for an elderly widow, teaching English and other activities. Because Idaho’s legislative session persisted longer than expected, I finally asked Eric Erickson of Rexburg to fill in for me for what I assumed would be the last day or two, so I could keep my other commitment in Vietnam.
Mixing mortar with shovels and laying brick in 95-degree weather with 88 percent humidity was difficult compared to sitting in airconditioned committee meetings at the statehouse. But it was also therapeutic. Surrounded by deaf and hard-of-hearing children longing for attention and starving for affection helped put life’s challenges back into perspective.
Mai McCann is a dedicated nurse from Australia. She works three months each year in Australia so she can spend the other nine months in Hoi An, Vietnam, helping hearing-impaired children. Through her school known as Hearing and Beyond, she teaches 26 students, ages 3-16, with many more on a waiting list — children who would otherwise remain uneducated, lonely, socially isolated and sometimes abandoned.
In a rundown building with limited facilities, the children are taught social and life skills while learning Vietnamese sign language, reading, writing and math. They are fed modest meals, some of which comes from a small garden behind the school. We spent one day building a chicken coop so they could have eggs and meat for some meals. But the best part came the next day when we unexpectedly showed up with two dozen hens, five hundred pounds of rice and a bag full of small toys and games for the children.
I have enjoyed smiles before — I have cherished expressions of appreciation — but none have been more poignant than the smiles of joy and shouts of gratitude from excited children who had so little to be grateful for.
Although most of the work was completed, I felt bad about leaving the legislative session before final adjournment. But the few hours I missed surrounded by skilled colleagues within the walls of the Capitol were surpassed by the days I spent laying brick and constructing a modest chicken coop surrounded by children who could neither hear nor speak, but who effectively communicated life’s most important lessons.
In contrast to what I saw in Hoi An, Idaho’s economy is near the top nationally and our poverty rate is one of the lowest. This is one of the safest places in the world to live. We continue to attract businesses and families wanting to relocate in a state that values education, workforce development, quality of life, freedom and family.
I love this state. And the short time I spent away from Idaho, in a country I grew up despising, not only taught me to cherish the people there but also deepened my love for Idaho. I needed to be reminded again how blessed we are and, for a time at least, I will feel more grateful, smile more often, serve more willingly and love more compassionately.
Brent Hill is the Pro Tem of the Idaho Senate.
I could definitely feel the heartfelt gratitude toward us from those we were serving. I think the things we constructed will last for years to come and make a big difference in their lives.
We had plenty of free time. We had such a big group that it was hard to keep us all busy but Bella did an amazing job adjusting to our needs and keeping us busy. I think there was about a perfect balance.
There was plenty of food. We never ran out of food at our meals. In fact, I felt bad that we couldn't eat everything they put on the table but there was just so much. I really enjoyed the food it was so delicious.
Being able to get to know and serve people is the best way to travel. I love your [Globe Aware] motto: “help people, have fun”.
The accommodations were really nice, much better than I expected. Very minor problems with water and electricity but they were fixed right away and were only minor hiccups. Rosi, from the hotel was amazing!!! I really love her; she took such good care of us! She really did a great job handing so many picky Americans and her English is good. She listened and communicated very well. She is a joy to work with and an invaluable asset.