Photo taken of author, her father and their Nepali trekking team

Sometimes life has a way of surprising you in unexpected ways.  Never in a million years did I, a stay-at-home mom, imagine I’d find myself preparing for an opportunity of a lifetime: becoming a grassroots advocate for the United Nations Foundation’s upcoming Shot@Life campaign (a life-saving vaccination initiative targeting children in developing countries around the world).

A year ago, I didn’t even have a blog. The idea of blogging only entered my mind as an outlet to share my experiences and thoughts on traveling, volunteering and culture. A trip to a magical place put wheels in motion that inspired me to blog and changed my life forever. Here’s how it happened:

The secluded, mystical Kingdom of Nepal had always been on my travel wish list. Though I have traveled to a number of exotic places, the idea of going to Nepal to hike the Himalayas seemed like a lofty, impossible dream.

I grew up traveling and had recently done a number of trekking trips with my father to  remote places like Patagonia, Peru and Iceland.  Nepal just seemed a little beyond our comfort level. Until an article in a respected paper changed our minds.

In late October, 2011, we headed off on our trip of a lifetime:  A three-week trek in Nepal to hike the Annapurna Circuit. Not only fulfilling my dreams, but also changing my life.

Before leaving for Nepal, I shifted my approach to traveling. I no longer wanted to be a tourist simply visiting a country, enriching myself with its culture and beauty and leaving nothing in return. It was a mindset that evolved during a recent volunteer trip to Costa Rica.

Although I was only in Costa Rica for one week, the impact volunteering made on my life and the people imparted in me the value of giving back.

Six months before leaving for Nepal, I devised a plan.  First, I researched NGOs in Nepal focusing on education. I have read many inspirational books on how education is key to improving peoples’ lives and lifting them out of poverty. It seemed like an exciting issue to tackle and I easily found a great organization, READ Nepal (

Second, I devised a fundraising scheme. This proved harder because I wanted to earn the money I would donate, while also involving my children, so they could learn the importance of giving back too.  But how could a stay-at-home mom raise money without asking for donations? 

I put creative thinking into play and I proved that anything is possible, as long as you try.

I set a modest goal of raising a couple hundred dollars for my cause. As time passed, I realized it was possible to raise more. I just needed to think out of the box. My first goal was to raise $500 using traditional, American-style activities:  I ran a co-op “babysitting fundraiser”, a neighborhood car wash, a lemonade stand and a family yard sale.

Before I knew it, the money and donations piled in and my initial goal of $500 amassed to $2,000, which my husband’s employer matched at 100%.  A week before I left for Nepal, I donated $4,000 to Read Nepal, enough money to open an entire reading center in a rural village.

Upon giving the gift, I realized, in life, it is the things you do for others that makes you feel the best.

My trip to Nepal was amazing.  Our trek was arduous, humbling and long.  We hiked over 100 miles on very strenuous terrain, far away from the comforts of home. But what amazed me most was the magical culture and people that I found in Nepal’s remotest villages.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries (the majority of Nepalese survive on less than $2 a day), the rich culture and traditions of the people rise above the impoverished conditions that most villagers live in.

Nepal was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life. I saw firsthand the poverty of the villages, the lack of education and the dire straits that most Nepalese face. I realized not only how blessed we are to live in a prosperous country, but also how important it is to give back. I couldn’t just donate $4,000 to Read Nepal and then forget about it. I was determined to change my life and figure out a way to keep giving back.

Almost by act of fate, I found a way to follow my dreams and continue fundraising for education in Nepal.  As we were leaving Kathmandu, the owner of our trekking company told me about Hands in Nepal (, a small, grassroots organization in California that raises money to build schools in Nepal. I contacted them when I got home and have been working with them ever since.

Over the past nine months, I have raised money to help Hands in Nepal fulfill their mission to create educational opportunities and community development programs in rural Nepal. I have done most of the fundraising work through the sale of beautiful, homemade Nepali goods such as pashmina scarves, yak-hair blankets, purses and bags.

Since May, I’ve sold over $6,000 of my Nepali wares. More than half of that profit assists Hands in Nepal to build schools, donate educational supplies, pay teacher salaries and student scholarships. It has been a win-win opportunity: the sale of the products benefits both Hands in Nepal and also the rural Nepalese making and supplying these treasures for me to sell.

I have been writing about my work for Nepal on my personal blog for several months, hoping to raise awareness about making a difference.  Little did I know that my voice would have an impact and open doors that I never dreamed possible. My writing on Nepal caught the eye of World Moms Blog founder, Jennifer Burden. Recently, Jen passed my name on to the UN Foundation as a potential trainee for their Shot@Life Campaign launching this spring.

At the end of January, I am heading to DC, along with Jennifer Burden and several other World Moms Blog writers, to be trained as grassroots advocates for Shot@Life. It will be an amazing opportunity to help raise awareness about the dire straits of millions of children around the world. Children that die each year for lack of vaccinations.

I hope my efforts will help save many lives. I can hardly wait to continue making a difference!

What ideas do you have for making a difference in the world?

This post has been adapted for World Moms Blog from a previous post written by thirdeyemom of Minnesota, USA.  To read more of her blogs, please visit either or

Photo credit to the author.

Nicole Melancon (USA)

Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path. A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends. Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!). Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!

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