This summer, Sarah Gyurina ‘18 travelled to South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland, through a company called Bold Earth. Visiting South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park, she was thrilled to see a burgeoning diversity of animal populations that ranged from “hippos, crocodiles, and cape buffaloes” to big cats like “leopards and tigers.” In Mozambique, her interactions with the local villages and people taught her priceless lessons. While painting houses, fences, and schoolhouses of different villages, Sarah was able to pick up some of Mozambique’s native language and play soccer with the children. She realized that “it doesn’t take much to be honestly happy.” Sarah’s trip to “Africa was completely out of [her] comfort zone.” She remarks, that is probably why it turned into a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Beginning with a desire “to gain perspective of the world that we all share,” her experience culminated to teach her something that she can relate to life at Loomis: “I realized that I shouldn’t complain nearly as much as I had before; we live with so many unnecessary things in our life, always complaining about wanting more.”
For Anna Essick ’18, summer flew by, packed with trips abroad and projects at home. With her family, she first traveled to Paris where she learned to “live like a local.” Taking the “public water taxi,” “cooking classes” that taught how to make local food were just a few of the ways she immersed herself within the French culture. Stopping to help a homeless woman was her most memorable experience. Anna recounts: “[The woman] was hunched over and looked very elderly. When I touched her on the shoulder to see if she wanted some food, she flinched and looked up with eyes full of fear. I realized that she actually wasn’t as old as I first thought. I was shocked to see she was probably only a few years older than I.” She saw first-hand the unimaginable extent of impact that simple acts “of kindness with a smile and some food” can have on those who need. Back home, her successful babysitting operation amounted to “$3,000” by the end of the summer. Instead of keeping the money for herself, however, Anna decided to fund the trips of two friends: “one who is going to India [for] humanitarian work, and … another girl who is going to Sicily … to work with refugees.” Throughout the summer, she found ways to “do humanitarian work” by small acts of kindness and “help[ing] others [travel abroad] and reach their goals.” Experience[ing] a [foreign] culture” and “broadening [her] understanding of the world” taught and inspired within her the power of taking action with compassion.
Huy Pham ’17 and his project over the summer with Lighthouse Vietnam serve to remind us of the school’s emphasis on work for the common good. Lighthouse Vietnam, founded by Huy and his two other friends, is an organization that “goes to blind schools and centers in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City and teaches music, English, and math to the students there.” In December of 2015, he met a blind musician named Dong (Đông in Vietnamese) during Lighthouse’s Christmas charity concert. Huy continued to keep in touch with Dong, and finally, this summer, they met to “talk about [Dong’s] life and his struggles as a blind person living independently.” Dong’s stories of the “struggles [he faced] as a blind musician” and his admirable “courage to lead an independent life as an ordinary person” served as the inspiration for the creation of Huy’s photo book dedicated to Dong. His book captures the “hidden struggles and lack of opportunities” for the blind and his hopes to “find a way to make the community around him more accessible for blind people and others in general.” After publishing both Braille and normal versions, the photo book was distributed locally to the schools and centers that Lighthouse Vietnam visits; thereby spreading hope, joy, and optimism to those who share similar struggles.
Jeewon Shin went to Cambodia to learn more about fair trade, one of her interests, firsthand. Traveling with a Cambodian YMCA and Cafe Timor, a fair trade coffee cafe in Korea, she traversed through Mondulkiri province and engaged with small scale fair trade coffee farmers and visited large non-fair trade coffee. “Fair trade means a lot of different ideals such as the promotion of gender equality in workplaces/farms, no child labor and constant fixed income for the farmers, so that their incomes and consequently their standard of living is not solely dependent on the ever fluctuating market shares,” said Jeewon. She recounts that when she conversed with a 15-year-old child worker, she was disheartened to see younger children deprived of education and saw fair trade as a potential solution to prevent child labor in some developing countries. “I learned the importance of gratitude, that many of the children I saw at the non-fair trade coffee plantations were indeed teenagers, just like me and you, yet had no opportunity to attend school,” said Jeewon. Hoping to bring fair trade goods on campus, especially tea, chocolate, and coffee products in dining services and bookstores, Jeewon looks forward to promoting a sense of social responsibility and carrying forward the benefits of fair trade.