We met during the summer of 2012 in central Italy while teaching at an overnight English summer camp where we were partners and roommates for a week. We quickly became fast friends and have travelled a lot of the world together ever since, meeting up every 9-15 months for an adventure. From Europe to the US, we have built a life-long friendship, been "adopted" in each other's families, and have a passion for travel, adventure, learning about, and giving back to, new communities, and volunteering.
Whitney is graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington December 15th with a double masters in Social Work and Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her specialty is working with youths affected by the juvenile justice system and their families. She is scheduled to take the licensing exam at the end of December and will begin the next level of her career in 2018 working in the reintegration and rehabilitation of justice-involved youth in an effort to prevent them from entering the (very broken) adult criminal justice system.
Helen is an expert in alternative education. A Brit who currently resides in Italy working for a nonprofit, Helen has extensive experience in working with nonprofits, training teachers and tutors, educating students, and writing materials that are then rolled out by organizations.
For this next adventure we are seeking to turn dreams into reality. Since we became friends, and individually before then, both of us have wanted to give back internationally and volunteer and have felt a calling to do so. Since Whitney is about to begin her next phase in her career, and Helen's contract is quieter in this period, now is the perfect time to go and give back. So, we are headed to Southeast Asia to do just that. Not only is this part of the world on our bucket list, but there is currently a great need for volunteers and resources in many of the countries. In fact, when we were reaching out to offer our assistance, we had such an overwhelming response of need that we decided to do 2 service projects in an effort to give back. We have focused on two nonprofits in Cambodia, one of the most impoverished nations in the region.
Project 1: The Green Village School - 2.5 weeks of service
The Green Village School is a nonprofit organization located in the rural village of Kompong Chan, Cambodia, in the central lowlands of the Mekong River. Green Village School seeks to fight poverty and provide education and opportunities to youths in this village by offering free education (including English, health, social skills, computer skills and more). It began after a gentleman by the name of Chiva started offering classes below his family home due to the severe lack of general education that youths in this area receive. The Green Village School does not refuse anyone assistance or education (which we have found out is not always the case with other nonprofits) and we will be spending 2.5 weeks in February and March providing comprehensive education and working with the youths on a group and individual basis.
Project 2: The Dolphin School - 4 weeks of service
The Dolphin School is a nonprofit organization in the Kratie province of Cambodia in desperate need of volunteers. The Dolphin School seeks to fight extreme poverty and create opportunities by providing education free of charge to the youths in the community. It is the only school in the area that teaches English (including government schools) and opens its doors to youth and adults in the area free of charge to build language, social, health and IT skills. It too was started by a man who saw a need in his community and spent his life savings to open and run the school. It is funded by donations alone and has been struggling to provide services to all of its members due to a lack of volunteer assistance.
For both projects, we feel called to give back and get involved and will be staying on or near the premises of the programs in very remote, high-need areas. We will be volunteering, teaching English, doing international social work, and helping in any and all capacities that we can while there. Because the need is so great (and we were informed that there have been instances when volunteers have committed and "no-showed", resulting in classes being cancelled for the youths), we are seeking to be completely self-sufficient so as not to utilize any of the organizations' limited funds on us. This means that we need funds to cover our housing and daily meals, transportation (mostly bicycle/motor-bike and bus), and school supplies (both organizations requested assistance with supplies so we will purchase them in the large cities and bring them into the villages). Additionally, there are visa fees to enter the country and education fees that we need to cover in order for us to stay and volunteer.
Because these organizations are very remote, both of us are in need of travel vaccinations that insurance does not cover (approximately $1,000 for vaccinations alone). We are also asking for assistance with flights and medical insurance so that we can be as prepared as possible and stay healthy to serve.
We really believe that these organizations need our help, that we have the appropriate skills and passion to be helpful to them, and that (after lots of research) their missions and values really align with ours and are comprehensive and for the betterment of the people. Also, because both organizations are located in remote areas, volunteers willing to travel further into the "non-tourist" areas and live in very basic accommodation are low; we say, "You've picked the right girls!"
Thank you for your support and encouragement as we prepare for this next adventure and chapter together. We are very excited and looking forward to what is sure to be a life-changing experience.
Whitney & Helen
P.S. If you would like to receive updates and correspondence about our experiences as they happen, we would love to include you! Just let us know and provide us your email address and we will add you to our blasts.
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