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 (www.readglobal.org).
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 (www.handsinnepal.org), 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 www.thirdeyemom.com or www.thethirdeyeworld.com.
Photo credit to the author.
Wow, Nicole, what an exciting opportunity. I would love to do something like this! Really great post, my friend!
Thanks Kathy! I will let you know how it goes as you will be sure to hear about it in detail on my blog and on WMB!
This post is awesome!! You are so inspiring!!
I’m looking forward to making the world a better place with you and the fantastic World Moms Blog writers!!
And, so glad that you’re now championing vaccines for children for Shot@Life. 🙂
Thanks Jen! Thanks for giving me a chance and welcoming on board WMB! It has been a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to meet finally on DC and work together on this program!
Big big kudos to you Nicole. Very inspiring indeed and I am in awe at such a life enriching opportunity you have. Can’t wait to read more about Shot@life event at DC later 🙂
Thanks so much! I am really excited to go. I love doing this kind of work and am looking forward to beginning!
You’re inspiring, Nicole!! I believe things happen for a reason, and here you are, living proof of that.
Good luck with the new UN gig and we look forward to hearing more about your experiences.
Thanks for the nice comments! I will keep you posted on the UN Summit.
I love your story! So much good coming from your get up and go attitude! One mom can make such a difference. Kudos to you for not only fulfilling your dreams to travel but to give so much back. Such good stuff!
As for making a difference, right now I am working on that in my own little part of the world, in my rural town in the Pac NW by getting more involved in my community, my son’s school, and in a support network with my neighbors. It’s small in some respects, but I feel like I am not just living for my self, but to help raise my kids in a community in which I give back to in my own way. Your post inspires me to keep thinking big about what more I can do. Thanks!
THanks Tara! All this kind of work has been a long term goal of mine and until now that my kids are getting older, I finally have more time to focus on it. I am also very involved with my community as well. I am on the PTA at my son’s school and we had our first ever school wide World Cultures Day back in December (it took an entire year to get approved!) and it felt great to know that over 800 kids were being exposed to over 30 countries and cultures. It takes a lot of little steps but eventually you realize that it is possible to make a difference. I think it is great that you are working with your community as community is so incredibly important, especially as we are moving apart in the world.
Kudos to you, Nicole! You are living proof that when you are open to adventure, good things happen. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with the Shot@Life campaign.
Thanks Jennifer! Yes, you’ve got to take chances and risks in life or else you may never have anything new to explore! I can’t wait to learn about Shot@Life!
Great job! I’m inspired by your continuing desire to raise money and help out. I’ve spent a year in Africa volunteering, but have since been too caught up in my life as a mom to do much more than donate money to various causes. This shows that the two don’t have to be exclusive.
Nicole, you’re such a beautiful writer and such an inspiration to all of us who want to help out a bit but aren’t sure if it can make a difference – your story shows that we can ALL have an impact. Can’t wait to (finally!) meet you at the Shot@Life Summit!
Thanks so much Caroline! I can’t wait to meet you and start working with Shot@Life!
When I read the title of this post I was immediately interested in finding out more. Over the years, I have tried to find ways to give of myself for “social good”. Through church, business and community efforts, I’ve made various contributions of time, talent and treasure. However, I have never been able to travel to see the faces of those in need. It may sound strange, but your article actually made me a bit jealous. I can only imagine the awe that you must have experienced upon visiting Nepal. As a mother with limited time and funds, I’m not quite sure when I will be able to make that trip to a third world country, but your story certainly inspired me. I too am working with Shot@Life and looking forward to meeting you and lots of other inspirational volunteers at the upcoming summit. I figure even if I can’t travel to these far-away places, I can do my part for social good!
Thanks for your comment! I look forward to meeting you too! As for the traveling piece, my parents started me travelong young taking us on driving trips everywhere. I still remember seeing the rows of shacks along the hillsides of Mexico which left a huge impact on my young mind. I have been fortunate to have seen these things in my life which has also been a big reason why I decided to give back and share my experiences via my blog. Thanks for reading and I look forward to meeting you soon!