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It is mind-blowing how things work out sometimes.
Little did I know when I had the urge to complete the application form to volunteer for the March Service Trip with the D Gary Young Young Living Foundation that I would actually be selected out of hundreds of applications! I couldn’t believe it! But I also knew I was very capable of stepping up to help out.
I had the immense pleasure to participate in the “Rebuild Nepal” project. To be a part of what some call “the vision of a modern day legend”, Gary started the foundation 10 years ago. It continues to serve across the globe, and with that the growing recognition and accolades for the fundamental integrity and purposeful work being completed by the Young Living Foundation (YLF) as promised – not just paying lip service to the selected charities in developing countries.
It was full constantly of pinch myself moments. To look up from the paintbrush, and see the Himalayas watching me. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Along with 7 other volunteers, and YLF 3 staff, we traveled from various corners of the globe to meet in Kathmandu. This project is in its third year as a result of the earthquakes in 2015 which had such devastating effects the communities are still in rebuild mode – some were totally wiped out by this act of mother earth.
My flight arrived close to midnight, and as a sole traveler from Australia (my first time travelling internationally alone), I was one of the last to navigate the immigration process before finally meeting the eye of the hotel transfer bus representative in a sea of faces holding placards or offering taxi rides.
The Gary Young Young Living Foundation has been granted a 2 year licence with I-NGO status. This means they can operate their charity without requiring a local partnership after a highly successful rebuild of the village of Yarsa. This entire village was swept down the mountainside as it was very close to the epicentre of the 7.9 magnitude tremor. After Gary heard of their plight, he committed to rebuilding all 112 homes, along with a new school building. The village people all waited for every home to be completed before moving into their new homes at the same time – how is that for community spirit?
In Nepal, a project is considered with 3 criteria – structural, capacity & cosmetic – as a part of the selection process for which projects the YLF will commit to supporting. It is always a priority to work alongside the local organisations and the YLF have standards they hold very highly such as when a service trip is active, the local workers are not just replaced and told there is no work. Our attendance as volunteers in service boosts the number of workers – not just replaces them. The relationship with the beneficiaries of the projects are nurtured and continue long after the task has been completed.
Our service group continued to grow as the planes transporting us from Malaysia and different parts of the USA touched down. Over 2 weeks, we lived and worked together, and shared many happy and memorable moments which will be a thread of connection for the rest of time.
We then made our way to Pokara – the location for our service work. Here we connected with the local YLF Nepal staff who are the backbone to completing these projects. They live and breath this task – to help their homeland recover and blossom with the assistance of the YLF. They are inspiring and passionate, and this rubs off on all of us.
From our quarters, a semi completed state-owned nursing home, we stayed under the watchful gaze of her – the majestic Himalayas. From the time we stepped out of our dorms, to the rooftop yoga sessions, to our work sites, all with the most incredible backdrop… we would pause at any moment and our mouths would drop open with the recurring thought – “There are the Himalayas. Can you believe it?”
Our days were filled with many special moments – from the road trip to various sites of future projects yet to be started, to the talent show put on by the kids of a completed project site, to a wedding we happened upon where we were celebrated as gate crashers, as long as we added to the entertainment, these are memories I will never forget. The finale was the Holi Day celebration which saw the community leaders attend to help us celebrate the completion of our service work, sharing one of their favourite traditions. And just raise your eyes and notice – There are the Himalayas. Can you believe it?
The actual project work we had put our hands up for turned out to be painting to complete the work of previous YLF service trip groups. We painted a steel fence which provided a secure playground for the only school in the vicinity which accepted children with disabilities. They had 14 special needs students enrolled… to the painting of 16 classrooms in a brand new building to house the primary school of another local school, which had a marked increase in student numbers after accepting students from numerous outreach schools devastated by the quakes. It is not unusual or uncommon for students to walk two hours to school every day, then make the return trip home. And Nepal has a six-day working week – only Saturdays are a day off. Schools are open Sundays as a normal day.
The kids were very enthusiastic about our presence, coming to say hello everyday, performing for our entertainment, talking to practice their English, or even picking up an Amriso (grass broom) to help out. And they live here – under the watchful gaze of the Himalayas. Can you believe it?
The most endearing part of this place are the people. They are so generous of spirit, with such open hearts they will give you the only chair, and their last meal. The YLF project beneficiaries are so appreciative and gracious – showering us with gratitude (just for being a part of the YLF family), gifting us with plaques and scarves, making sure to have ‘western’ food to celebrate our meeting while going without themselves to refill our cups again and again.
This developing and recovering country contains the most precious race of people I’ve been blessed to visit with. Even though there are many ways of improvement, their happiness and celebration of life is infectious. Buddhism is the second most dominant religion here and a sign seen on more than one occasion speaks volumes about their philosophy:
My whole time immersed in this place was such an honour – its culture, getting to know its people, from celebrations where we are treated like royalty, the laughter and playfulness of the kids, the care for animals, and you just raise your eyes up and think “There are the magnificent Himalayas. Can you believe it?”
This journey has truly filled my heart with the love of culture, of travel, of volunteering, of connecting with others who have the same intention – to do what we can to make the world a better place. If you are inspired, any Young Living member can volunteer for a number of service trips to different locations (keen to join in?), or you can share some of your wealth with a worthy and worthwhile cause.
Acting as such a wonderful example of how simple and fulfilling life can be, this place can definitely be described as The Lap of Heaven.
If you believe it, you will see it.
Want to see more photos of my trip? Ask to access my Polarsteps