NCHS students travel to impact lives in third world countries

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Allie Neugeboren, Features Editor
@alneugiecourant

Every student’s dream includes taking a break from school and traveling far, far away to a tropical island with a warm sunny beach, exploring the land, and experiencing an unfamiliar culture. For the students who join exploration programs through NCHS, their travel dreams become a reality. Junior Emma Smith, Ian Knechtle and students in Pura Vida For Children found ways to spend their breaks helping others and experiencing different cultures in third world countries.

Emma poses with a travel mate and children of a village in Tanzania. Photo contributed by Emma Smith

Emma Smith recently traveled to Maji Mojo, Tanzania through the program Putney Student Travel. Embarking on this trip with no familiar faces, Emma found that it allowed her to assimilate with other people and the natives’ culture. “I am a firm believer in the idea that you learn the most while traveling. Living in New Canaan, it is difficult to see perspectives. There is only so much you can understand through textbooks, newspapers, and television,” she said. “I wanted to travel to a third world country so I could live and experience a different way of life.”

Emma kept her interests in mind when choosing which trip and program to attend. “There was a lot of planning that went into organizing this trip. Safety was obviously a major component, yet I also wanted to ensure that I was going to an area that was completely out of my comfort zone,” she said. “Also, I knew I wanted to do community service. Putney offered all of this. I ended up getting 100 hours of community service hours by the end of it.”

Emma found it easy to become accustomed to Tanzanian agriculture. “Since we were in a third world country, it wasn’t all fine dining and five-star hotels. We ate whatever they grew, so it was mostly very simple foods like vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, bread, and meat,” she said. “Although it might sound kind of intimidating, I discovered that this is really all you need. I was taken away from my materialistic culture and pleasantly surprised to find how happy I was without it.”

Ian Knechtle a class of 2007 NCHS graduate, helps run a nonprofit organization called Pura Vida For Children. This summer, Ian and a group of 15 NCHS students plan to carry on the Pura Vida tradition and partner with an orphanage called Roblealto in Costa Rica. There, they will complete service projects while helping at their day care facilities.

Ian finds this trip to benefit both the children and students. “It’s an incredible trip because not only do we get to help the children and people in need that we encounter, but we also bond as a group and get to understand how blessed we are for things we take for granted,” he said.

Emma Smith and Ian Knechtle travel to Tanzania and Costa Rica on service trips. Graphic by Jake Neuberger

Ian has set high goals for this trip to positively affect the students. “I want them to deepen their relationships with one another while even more so understanding what the world is like. There are people and children suffering in this world who we can easily help,” he said. “I want the students to broaden their view and see how much of an impact they can have.”

Although this trip is meant to bring comfort to the children of Costa Rica, Ian’s main priority is the student’s safety and health. “Security and safety is the number one thing we prepare for. That is why we have partnered with the incredibly well established organizations in Costa Rica to ensure safety,” he said.

While these parentless trips sound enticing, College and Career Center Coordinator, Susan Carroll reminds students of questions to consider before signing onto a trip. “Students should ask how much autonomy they will have, how are host families chosen and vetted, and what happens in case of an emergency,” she said.

Out of the ten programs a year allowed to set up a table in the NCHS cafeteria, Ms. Carroll encourages students to find program that is best suited for their needs. “Students should look for a program that will enhance the student’s’ interests and challenge them in some way,” she said. She recognizes the popularity of two organizations, specifically, Rustic Pathways and Globalworks.

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Features Editor for the NCHS Courant newspaper.

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