While many TASIS students were enjoying a hard-earned two-week break in advance of the academic year’s final push, 29 students (and nine adult chaperones) chose to devote their spring holiday to impoverished communities in Nepal, Zambia, and Ethiopia. Please find a brief recap of each of the three Global Service Program trips below.
See more photos from the Nepal trip here.
After spending the better part of the school year researching the history of Nepal, learning about the plight of Tibetan refugees, and raising funds, 11 TASIS students and three chaperones—High School Math teacher Danny Schiff, who helped establish the Nepal trip in 2014 and has led it ever since, and Drama and Musical Theater teachers Matthew and Julie Frazier-Smith, who participated in their first Global Service Program trips—traveled to Nepal from April 7–22 to help develop infrastructure for the Tserok Tibetan refugee camp.
|“As much as we gave to the communities we worked alongside, it doesn't compare to what we got out of this trip.”|
|– Marco Mao ’18|
After arriving in Nepal, the group embraced the challenge of trekking 80 kilometers to the remote refugee settlement, developing their teamwork and connection to the Himalayas over the course of the five-day journey.
“By the time we arrived to Tserok, we were a tightly knit group (self-proclaimed 14 peas in a pod) who knew how to support one another and wanted to give back to the country which we were already growing connected to,” said Schiff, who was inspired to develop the Nepal trip after his own travels to the Everest region five years ago. “Despite the heat, altitude, and new cuisine, the group worked alongside the Tibetan refugees in Tserok to build trenches behind the village in order to connect a 15,000-gallon water reservoir to the village, supplying the community with clean water for drinking, showering, and cleaning.”
On the final night in Nepal—after two weeks of working, trekking, laughing, and learning—Marco Mao ’18 shared these thoughts with the group: “As much as we gave to the communities we worked alongside, it doesn't compare to what we got out of this trip. A connection to one another, a realization that technology does not need to dominate our lives, and the spirit of community and adventure will stay with me long after this trip.”
“I was honored once again to witness TASIS students rising to their best sense of selves during two weeks of adventure, service, and growth in Nepal this Spring Break,” concluded Schiff, who was also happy to see several of the Tibetan children proudly wearing the beautiful hats TASIS College Counselor Carroll Birk knitted for them last year. (Revisit this touching story from the 2016 trip.)
Learn more about the Nepal trip by watching this excellent video created by Milo Zanecchia ’08 after the inaugural journey in 2014.
Serving Southern Africa: Zambia
See more photos from the Serving Southern Africa trip here.
Eight students and three chaperones—High School Italian and History teacher and CAS Coordinator Mara Bernasconi (trip leader), Elementary School teacher Martino Stickley, and IB Coordinator and UK University Counselor Howard Stickley—traveled to Zambia from April 7–22 for the Serving Southern Africa trip, which for the 11th consecutive year sought to introduce TASIS students to a segment of Africa not typically seen by tourists.
|“In a few words, I would say that this trip was a trip into the depth of their hearts. It was a trip that made them realize how lucky they are—a trip of awareness, love, and care.”
|– Mara Bernasconi|
Prior to the trip, students learned about the challenges of development and economic growth in rural Africa while confronting stereotypes about life in Africa and its people. While in Zambia, the group provided assistance to both rural and urban communities—building homes for homeless women and children, helping the elderly, volunteering at the local preschool, planting trees, and holding art workshops for street children.
“I've been traveling to Zambia with the School for the past six years, and I must say this year was a terrific one,” said Bernasconi. “The group of TASIS students was so cohesive and worked together ALWAYS as a team. I saw our students in shock at what they saw and heard from the people we worked with in Livingstone and Mwandi. I saw them particularly moved; some of them would cry and not sleep well as they kept thinking about what can be possibly done for the less fortunate people who live in Zambia. I could feel their happiness at playing with the kids and their frustration at not being able to do as much as they wished they could. In a few words, I would say that this trip was a trip into the depth of their hearts. It was a trip that made them realize how lucky they are—a trip of awareness, love, and care.”
To learn more about the Serving Southern Africa trip, enjoy sophomore Esma Karuv's thoughtful reflection on this year's trip, read senior Adam Novak’s excellent recap of the 2016 trip, and see this piece about the 2015 trip.
Nuovo Fiore: Ethiopia
See a gallery of photos from the Ethiopia trip here.
Ten students and three chaperones—Elementary School Dean of Students Kent Hercules (trip leader), Elementary School teacher Tracie Hercules, and Middle School EAL teacher Holly Shepherd—spent the week of April 16–22 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Partnering with Nuove Fiore Ethiopia, a non-profit organization that aids and encourages the education of elementary-aged young boys and girls in East Africa, the TASIS group worked closely with the Auxilium Grade School to improve the lives and education of young children in need.
|“You hear about [Global Service Program trips] a lot, but you can never really understand what it’s like until you go there and witness it first-hand.”|
|– Claire Young ’18|
Prior to the trip, members of the Nuove Fiore Global Service Program met weekly to learn about the economic, political, and social inequalities prevalent in Ethiopia and to discuss fundraising ideas in support of Nuovo Fiore’s key initiatives.
"This year's service learning trip to Ethiopia was a wonderful success," said Mr. Hercules, who led the trip for the first time. "While at the Auxilium School, we organized activities for the children, helped teach classes, played many games with them, and were constantly mobbed. Before the trip our group had raised money through a series of activities on campus. This money was used to help the school put together a library for the students. We also brought them supplies and ideas for teaching science, music, physical education, and an after-school chess club. We danced and sang and played and talked for a week straight. When it was time to leave, many tears were shed by the exhausted TASIS students and their new little friends. Our students did an amazing job overcoming fears and stepping beyond their normal comfort zones to help others. They were greatly rewarded with love, hugs, personal notes, and many good wishes."
Claire Young ’18 traveled to Ethiopia with the Nuove Fiore group last year and felt compelled to return for a second trip this spring. “It was really nice to visit them again, and I was happy to see that the kids remembered those of us who had been there before,” she said. “I just love to see the kids and love to teach them. It’s so nice to hear about their aspirations. They always have these amazing career goals.”
Young, who said she is even considering a third trip to Ethiopia next year to see how Auxilium is progressing, is grateful to have taken part in the Global Service Program at TASIS. “I would recommend that anyone given the opportunity to go on a service trip does so,” she said. “You hear about them a lot, but you can never really understand what it’s like until you go there and witness it first-hand.”
TASIS Global Service Program
The Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The Global Service Program, which has been directed by Zach Mulert since its inception, transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.