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home : features : catholic schools

7/27/2017 9:12:00 AM
SERVICE WORK
Siena student heads to Nepal
BY AMY LUKE
STAFF WRITER

In August, Justin Kenyon of Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville will travel to Nepal for a two-week-long service trip through the volunteer service organization United Planet.

"I've always wanted to serve," said the sophomore at Siena College in Loudonville. "This will be my first time out of the country, but I've always done service in [the Albany Diocese]. So, I thought, why not go abroad" to volunteer?

At Siena, Justin is studying political science and psychology, working toward certifications in interdisciplinary research and community development. He is a member of the U.S. Army ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) and a participant in the Bonner Service Leaders program at Siena, which pairs students looking to volunteer with area non-profits that can use their help.

To earn his Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America, Justin also raised $800 last year and collected around 400 items needed for local homeless veterans.

In Nepal, Justin will be working and teaching English at an orphanage in the capital city of Kathmandu. Upon arrival, he and other volunteers will have a two-day orientation that includes language lessons to help in communication with the children he meets.

United Planet has been working with the Nepalese orphanage for 13 years. Director Theresa Higgs told The Evangelist that background checks are run on all volunteers and they receive training for their work.

Justin said he's had some past experience with teaching and language studies. Ms. Higgs noted that United Planet's volunteers "are never the primary caregiver or teacher in any of their placement[s]. They are there to support the local staff and to give more personal attention to the children who don't often receive that."

To pay for part of the trip, Justin won a scholarship offered by an executive at United Planet who had been a Bonner volunteer himself. Immaculate Conception parish has also helped to fund the trip.

"The parish pushed for me," Justin said. "Seeing the spirit and the enthusiasm from the church helped me go through with it. They're helping me fundraise."

Sometime in the next two years, Justin said, he'll be required to do a Bonner global service internship in either South Africa or Bolivia. To keep expanding his perspective and global experience, he also may apply for a CULP (Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program) internship through ROTC. Those internships immerse ROTC cadets in a foreign culture for up to three weeks to give them a better understanding of how people in other countries view the United States and the world.

For the Nepal trip, Justin said he hopes to "get comfortable with the uncomfortable" and to learn something about himself and the world.

"[I'll] take this as a learning experience to see how other people in other part of the world live. It's one thing to only just hear about it, but another to see it for yourself," he added.





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