True Nature Travels Blog

Ever wonder what life on a True Nature Education retreat really looks like? Check out this awesome blog from True Nature retreater, Denneshia Brown, as she gives you an inside view of what to expect during a True Nature Italy retreat! 

Reflections on my True Nature Italy retreat

True Nature Italy Retreat6I am grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad to Tuscany, Italy through True Nature Education. My life was impacted in a way no words can express. I met a few the most amazing people while being there. Living with them for a week helped me to embrace no longer being an individual, but being apart of a family. From eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together to sharing the very same rooms and facilities, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for nothing in the world. Everyone was so diverse in their various ways including myself but yet we blended very well.

Our guides Molly and Franz did everything in their power to make sure we had a true and authentic Italian experience. They worked well together as a team and executed every tour and service project we involved ourselves in. They welcomed us with open arms to their home, provided us with comfortable beds and wonderfully prepped meals from talented chefs. Such amazing hospitality! The environment was just so friendly and relaxing that I didn’t want to leave. The atmosphere helped me unwind and leave my thoughts of negativity at home and the yoga sessions inspired me to take better care of my body. 

The experience that impacted my time being in Italy most was meeting with African refugees who traveled from their homeland to Italy in search of new and better life. I was able to connect with a few of them and I’m glad I decided to step out of the box and get to know them. They shared experiences both good and bad and I shared mine as well to show them that they were not alone. I encourage them as they encouraged me and we left lasting imprints on one another’s hearts. To know that there are people like me that have a passion to excel and achieve their goals let’s me know that I too am not alone on this journey.

I would love to travel abroad again through True Nature Education! This whole trip was an impactful one in various ways! I would recommend all NHSLS students to grab a hold of this opportunity when it comes back around, you won’t be disappointed.

About the Author: Denneshia Brown

Denneshia Brown, attending York College in Queens, New York where she’s currently pursuing a bachelorette degree in Social Work. Due to her life changing experiences as a teenager, she’s developed a heart for young people and desires to impact those lives with the various gifts and talents of inspired by creativity. An active youth and worship leader at her local church, she inspires youth to embrace being unique and to stand out amongst their peers in boldness! Inspired by her desire to travel and her recent trip to Italy, she developed an interest in social issues as a whole and hopes that in due time, she can help advocate for a groundbreaking change on macro level  for those in need.

True Nature Travels Blog

Day 3 and 4 of our great expedition was both educational and rewarding. For Day 3, we traveled to img_6626the KSTR or Kids Saving the Rainforest. During a tour of the facility, we learned just how many animals they had at the facility and how they were rescued or rehabilitated and released. Following that tour, we were put to work doing different tasks including helping prep the animal’s food, moving dirt from one area of the sanctuary to the another for some sloths and helping pain
t and fix a bird cage and changing out the animal cages. All the members saw numerous types of animals including white-faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, porcupines and much more. For everyone, it was a very rewarding
experience and the staff at KSTR were so wonderful and supportive of us being there. It was a great service project.

 

img_6623Our next day, consisted of some fun including banana boat riding, parasailing and surfing. However, before the day started, we had a visit from a pack of white-faced monkeys at the hotel restaurant. The monkeys were very cool to see as we hadn’t seen many except at the monkey sanctuary the day before. The only not so cool part about our beach day was it sprinkled/lightly rained during our time on the beach. But I can tell you no one complained. We were all very happy to get some down time before our other activity of the day which was at the Miguel Antonio National Park. During that tour, we saw several things but the highlight was seeing a baby sloth (video link included). We also saw several species including crab, grasshoppers and lizards.

 

Everyone is continuing to support each other as most are still getting used to the climate change that we are currently experiencing with the weather changing nearly every day. Day 3 was very warm and humid but Day 4 started with rain for the morning and ended with sunshine. That was one interesting thing our tour guides, Mar and Marcela, mentioned the weather in Costa Rica changes all the time!img_6627

 

True Nature Travels Blog

I became interested in the True Nature’s Costa Rica trip last fall when my Citytech NSLS Chapter advisor, Alice Tucker informed us an opportunity to do service work in another country. At first, I was very excited to go because I like traveling and giving back to the community. In addition, I wanted to treat myself since I was graduating next year. I did not know what to expect, all I knew that I was going on a new experience that would change my life.

It did.

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The great thing was that I was surrounded by other NSLS students from across the United States such as Georgia, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, California, just to name a few. These students were funny, exciting and hardworking people who loved doing service work as much as I did. I learned the impact of giving back to the community and its effect that it has on people when we painted homes for two families, which they expressed their generosity with hugs and a home-cooked meal.

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The look on those families’ face made me cry because we were a part of making their homes as pretty as possible. This trip was not all about service but exciting adventures like parasailing and snorkeling, which I faced my fears of drowning. When I did parasailing, I felt like I was bird flying in the air and seeing all of the beauty of the country, it was an unforgettable sight that could not be described into words. With snorkeling, I was terrified but I was guided by one of the tour- men so I when I dipped my head into the water, I saw the beautiful blue and green fish that were swimming around my hands. What an experience! I could not believe that I was doing this.

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One of the things that I appreciated most about the trip was that we were surrounded by the nature; all the trees, plants and animals (especially the sloths). I felt that I was at peace being surrounded by Mother Nature. Overall, I was really surprised and proud of myself for what I did, experienced and overcame to truly enjoy the trip. I will never forget this trip and encourage other students to attend, you will not regret it.

Fatimah Ojesanmi, Staten Island, NY

NSLS- New York City College of Technology Chapter

Find out how you can join one of these trips at http://truenatureeducation.com/events/

True Nature Travels Blog

Why Meditation at Work Can Change Everything

When you hear the word meditation, what do you picture? If your answer is a monk in orange robes sitting in full lotus position somewhere in the mountains, we need to have a talk. Just because meditation has roots in many spiritual practices doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant today.

Meditation has seen a major rise in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. The benefits of meditation are seemingly endless, and you don’t have to be a yogi to see that. In fact, just 20 minutes of meditation at work can make a huge difference in your life, no matter who you are. Here are just a few reasons why meditation at work could help you.

 

Meditation reduces stress  

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(Source: Flickr)

The office is a breeding ground for stress. Between the ever-growing to-do list, the impending deadlines, and the demands of your boss and coworkers, it would be a miracle if you never felt stressed at work. While a little bit of stress won’t kill you, reducing stress is extremely important for your health. Being overworked and overstressed has been linked to all sorts of health issues, including headaches, upset stomach, chest pain, insomnia, and more.

So we know stress is awful, but what do we do about it? Surprise, surprise; we meditate! Studies have shown that even a 20 minutes of meditation can drastically reduce stress and the negative physiological symptoms associated with it.

Give it a try; take 20 minutes out of your day to meditate and watch as the stress melts away.

Mediation helps you think more logically

meditation at work help you think logically

(Source: Flickr)

A study at Yale University found that meditation causes a decrease of activity in the default mode network (DMN) of the brain. Also known as the ‘Me Center,’ the DMN is that part of the brain that makes everything about you.

What’s so great about decreasing activity in the Me Center? When the Me Center quiets down, you are less likely to take things that happens personally. From small injuries like paper cuts to massive problems at work, our Me Center likes to focus on these things, make them deeply personal, and blow them way out of proportion.

Meditation decreases this reaction. We become less likely to react with strong emotions to everything that happens. Instead, we are able to look at things logically and find the reasonable response to the issue; a valuable skill in the work place.

Meditation teaches you to concentrate

meditation at work helps you concentrate

We all have those 15-page reports that are so boring they put us to sleep. We know we have to do them, but we just can’t focus. But what if we could? What if we mastered the art of concentration? Is that even possible?

It is! And once again, meditation helps.

One study found that just a few weeks of meditation dramatically altered student’s ability to focus during the GRE. Meditation trains our brain to concentrate and remain focused while also increasing our memory.

Imagine how quickly you could get through that report if you didn’t keep drifting off and thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner.

Daily practice is key

daily meditation at work is key

A little bit of meditation is great no matter what, but to get the above benefits (and so many more), it is important to stick to a daily practice. It is through daily meditation that we retrain our brain to be less stressed, less me-centered, and more focused.

For the next week or two, try practicing 20 minutes of meditation at work. By the end of the experiment you might be amazed by the results. We’d be willing to bet that once you try it, you decide to stick with it.

Has meditation at work helped you? Do you have any meditation at work tips we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below!

 

True Nature Travels Blog

Student Travel to Costa Rica

The experiences of a lifetime.

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Stories continue to come in daily from Costa Rica. Messages of gratitude being shared for the National Society of Leadership and Success and True Nature Education group, that just returned back from their Service, Adventure, and Leadership Trip to Costa Rica.

A diverse group of students from 15 states, several who had never traveled out of the US, worked together as a strong and cohesive “family” over their 7 days together. The group took part in 6 service projects while traveling to 3 different locations throughout Costa Rica.
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One of the highlights was painting the home of a family of 6, whose daughter was getting married on Sunday. Together the group received an emotional thank you from the family following the completion of the project. This was just one of many special moments that we are reflecting upon following this memorable journey.

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From cleaning up beaches, surfing the waves, volunteering at animal sanctuaries, and diving head first into the culture of Pura Vida, this trip has changed lives globally and here at home.

We wanted to share a few words from the participants themselves so you can feel the impact of the trip.

If you are interested in joining us in 2016, Registration is now Open and the trip dates are as follows:
June 11-18, 2016
July 30-August 6, 2016
December 10-17, 2016

Read what these students had to say……

“This trip was a transformative experience that touched my heart and soul. Thanks to this experience I am leaving a different person.”
Alex Roman
Chicago, IL

“This was a very eye-opening experience. Not only did I gain a new outlook on life, but I found more family along the way.”
Wade James
Arkansas

“I truly enjoyed this unique experience. So many elements of this trip were firsts for me. This entire program was a blessing.”
Herve Aniglo
Memphis, TN

“This trip changed my life. I’ve walked away with new family, new experiences, and new love J. I will look back at the things I have learned the past 7 days and will apply each one to my life everyday. Thank you for the shift in my mindset. Now I know my capacity to experience the fullness of life, how quickly I can make a true friend, and how much the little things actually matter. Thank you.”
Erica Underhill
Colorado Springs, CO

“This trip has been such a huge transformation. I have faced fears and have stepped out of my comfort zone. I have grown within and connected with others. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
Two quotes to sum up the experience:
“Ships are safest in the harbor, but that is not what they are meant for.”
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Heidi Dickinson
US Air Force

“My True Nature trip was fulfilling both internally and externally. I enjoyed the time spent in nature, the spent with people, and most of all the time spent transforming.”
Jamila Duncan
Alabama

“This experience was 1 in a million and will be in my heart and soul forever.”
Deana Jones
Alabama

“We all came together as a family and we able to be of service in such a beautiful country. I was an incredible blessing to be here and I look forward to the opportunity to come back.”
Carissa Orsak
Corpus Chrisi, Texas

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True Nature Travels Blog

True Nature Education is so lucky to work along side with some truly special individuals. Our village leader, Lindsay, has a kind heart and open mind.  Read about her trials and tribulations in Costa Rica, and how these challenges has transformed into learning experiences. Interested in an authentic Costa Rica service adventure? Be sure to sign-up for our December trip here!

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Learning is fantastic!

It is fun when we can find a way to learn while we enjoy the moment, however for most of the people, not all the places are nice, not all the days are amazing.

As soon as I started writing this, my almost 4 years old who is right next to me, jumps on the bench while he memorizes the days of the week.

There are some people watching us, however I feel happy to see how much energy he has, how much he enjoys his time with me, at the hospital.journeybegins

My last three months have been plenty of visits to the clinic, to the hospital, to the health care center, to the drugstore. When I am not in those places, I am spending hours right next to my mother’s bed, trying to help her as much I can, putting in practice all what I have been learning from the nurses and doctors.

A warrior is right here, resting on a bed. She has been my favorite teacher, the one that helped me to learn all what I know. The one that worked so hard in order to have her kids in the best schools, the one that created a program for helping the local school and church when we moved here, the one that always had a room for the needest people and food and cloth and sholindsayes to give without expecting to get anything back.

She is our priority now. We need to learn more, she is a real model to me, to all of us.She deserves to live! And I hope she will be fine soon, very soon.

Maybe someone may think that my son should be sitting next to me. Maybe someone may think that I should ask him to wait in a complete silence. Maybe I should do both things, but I am not doing anything.
He is happy, I feel happy and she feels happy to know we are fine.

His happiness gives me a reason to feel peace. There is a story inside of me, that no one of the present people here know. They do not really know how much I have been crying, how much I have been suffering.
Now it is time for me to join his happiness!
It is time to enjoy.
I am learning. We do not have to judge the people.
No one knows what is behind a smile.

My three suggestions for today and forever are:
1. Enjoy the moments
2. Learn from the ones that helped to build your own story.
3. Believe, don’t judge and never, never complain.beach2

 

 

True Nature Travels Blog

When one travels, a new door is opened. A door that leads into a fresh world; full of growth, experience, and shiny new thoughts. With this expansion of our mind, different opportunities are born. We feel inspired and motivated. Why not expose ourselves to this type of transformation through travel?

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True Nature Education is dedicated to bringing students an authentic and eye-opening travel experience. We partner with some amazing organizations so you can dive in head first into Costa Rica, local service, and non-stop adventure.

One component of the service adventure trips includes staying at a sustainable rainforest eco-lodge hotel, offering an intimate experience of primary rainforest together with a certified organic biodynamic farm. On this mystical eco-lodge is a man full of wisdom of the land, plants, and sustainable farming. As we deplete more and more of our resources, it is interesting and imperative we explore alternative farming methods, and Steven Farrell is database of knowledge.

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As part of the trip, the students get to experience this first hand with a taste of what eco-tourism and biodynamic farming looks like.

Tico Times did a fantastic article about Steven Farrell and dives into what the lodge is all about……

“In 1994, a shaggy Gringo made his home at a remote little farm south of La Fortuna, in Costa Rica’s Central Highlands. He grew his living in the form of organic turmeric and ginger, and today that same hippie, Steven Farrell, oversees 207 acres of biodynamic farm at the same site, along with a spa, a rain forest yoga studio and an eco-lodge.

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He welcomes guests to stay, rest and learn about the property, though it remains a working ginger and turmeric farm that accommodates more pigs, goats and water buffalo than people. I recently traveled to this far-flung green gem and received a lesson in what it means to be a biodynamic operation.

Basically, the farm takes a holistic approach to organic agriculture that incorporates the use of farm animals for fertilization and labor, as well as astronomical planting and harvesting. Biodynamic agriculture was pioneered in 1924 by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and its sometimes bizarre practices are followed worldwide – particularly in northern California.

Farrell describes the biodynamic process as the homeopathic use of organics, cosmic energy, minerals and herbs to create a form of spiritual agriculture.

Farrell is a self-taught encyclopedia about the natural world surrounding his farm, and he can rattle off plant names in English, Spanish and Latin. When speaking of the flora’s medicinal qualities, Farrell beams behind his great white beard and excitedly tells you all he knows.

“You can come to this nice place to eat healthy, be well and have a comfortable vacation from the world,” he said. “But here you can also learn from nature how to live in a more sustainable way. We grow and eat food that is really food, not an imitation. Hopefully aspects of how we live here can be extended into your lifestyle, wherever you live.”998395_10151428786691930_446933591_n

 

Farrell and those who live at Finca Luna Nueva, including several interns, serve as sustainability guides with their educational nature walks, lovingly prepared food and simple kindness. Intern Cathryn Henning works the fields in the mornings in tall boots as a protection from snakes, and devises new ways to keep the turmeric and ginger plants healthy. In the afternoon she’s in the café, whisking up papaya-turmeric-vanilla-ginger smoothies and chocolates for guests.

“The farm is unique for its intention,” she said, which is to “re-associate” with nature by escaping worldly distractions and living more simply.

On the Sacred Seed Garden Tour, guests can smell and taste the sources of spices like cinnamon, bitters, and allspice. Farrell encouraged me to eat various leaves and bright fruits, which was an especially thrilling departure from the adult voice in my head warning me not to put strange things in my mouth.

On the jungle tours, the staff shares some of the most interesting tidbits about the local trees. For example, I learned about how matapalo trees use their killer vines to climb up other species and slowly strangle them. I also found out that the sap of certain trees makes excellent bug repellent (warning: when rubbed on the skin to deflect mosquitoes, the sap dries in annoying white streaks).

Around the property, ripe jackfruit, bananas and star fruit beckon to be picked from the trees. In the café, freshly made sarsaparilla soda and green tea kombucha are favorites, as are the whole wheat bread at breakfast, the yuca cakes filled with tree spinach at lunch and the coconut-crusted fish at dinner. For a lesson in food chemistry, ask Farrell about the “miracle berries” that block the tongue’s sour receptors and turn the tartest lemon into the sweetest dessert.
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In addition to the fine organic dining, the property features an ozonated pool and Jacuzzi, an on-call massage therapist and a yoga platform ensconced in the rainforest. The rooms have especially comfortable beds that are regularly adorned with fresh ferns and marigolds. There is no television.

On her second visit, Oriental medicine and acupuncture practitioner Claudette Baker said she is fascinated by the healing capability of the farm. She’s organizing a yoga retreat there for a group of her patients who have survived cancer.

“This place has a simple elegance,” said Baker, who is from the U.S. City of Chicago. “Here there is no pollution or modern noise. The oxygen and energy is pure and there are few distractions.” ”

Interested in joining a retreat with True Nature Education? We would love to have you! Check out our abroad programs here!
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True Nature Travels Blog

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The National Society of Leadership and Success partners with True Nature Education to bring one of a kind service leadership programs to life in Costa Rica. Each week long excursion has a totally unique group of amazing student leaders who experience moments that truly shape their lives. This past trip was no exception. One of the participants, Joshua, shared with us how the True Nature Education adventure shifted his perspective and paved way for a remarkable future!
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I wanted to share how rewarding I thought this experience has been for me. Being the first time I’ve been out of the country, and really the first time I felt independent from family and friends back at home, my perspective on life changed dramatically. I honestly can’t remember the last time I cried more than I had the day we were leaving, from the bus ride, to the airplane flight, and when I got home. I cried because of how much of an impact this journey was for me. And not only do I think that traveling abroad to experience the tourism spots and beautiful sceneries is spectacular, I feel it’s just as phenomenal to work hard to help families and projects to make a difference. I’m thankful for the tour guides and friends I’ve made as these connections and memories will last a lifetime, as well as for TNE to host this experience for students like you and me. I want to travel more, and I want to continue to make a difference. I want to keep seizing these opportunities, however they’re presented, and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned back to my university and make as much of a difference as I can. Costa Rica will forever be the place that made me who I am today, and who I’ll strive to be. Pura vida!
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Joshua attends Rutgers University, majoring in Astrophysics, graduating in 2017. If you would like to join a NSLS and TNE Costa Rica service and leadership program check out our website here! Registration is open and spaces are limited.
 
 

 

True Nature Travels Blog

Love in details…

And I start typing this letter while Costa Rica plays vs Canada.

All the family is together in our home, we are eating pejibayes and enjoying the moment. Soccer is part of the most important things for the Costa Rican people, you will discover this very soon.
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Inspiration comes even when we pay attention to the game, to my three years old who is kicking a ball in my porch, to the rain that sometimes makes the tv signal become so poor… When there is not a good way to watch the game, we start talking, we imagine how interesting it could be to be there, doing our best in the soccer field…
 
Almost all the Costa Ricans are getting togetCosta-Rica-World-Cup-Gambling-Oddsher tonight… Almost all the Costa Rican are asking God to protect the goalkeeper… I am join them!!!
 
 Life is like a soccer game. We need to work together, we need to protect our team, we need to do our best… There are many people around, many people that are just watching, many people that are expecting to do the job in a better way, however they are just expecting to do it…They are not in the soccer field!
 
I feel passion for the colors of my flag. I am this kind of person who feels emotion when listening the national anthem, I am this kind of person who is proud about her country, about her planet, about the universe…
Tonight I am wearing my t’shirt…
 
Small details are the best! I just imagine how amazing it could be if I could have the courage to wear the t’shirt not only for the soccer game, but for life, for a better world. I’d like to have a team, my team, your team, our team…
It is clear we can make our best, we can make a difference if we all forget a7hjZj9K718ADrXbj8VKmr1LeHKnBwjtmci_lMaW75LQbout the limits, about the borders. If we play for a reason. If we play with love.
 
Seriously, life may not be like a game sometimes, however we can try to enjoy, we can try to play and have fun.
Having too many reasons to be happy, it is a waste of time to be sad…to be angry… to be indifferent.
 
 
A new volunteer team is coming soon, We are ready to start playing, enjoying, living the moment, experiencing love in the small details…
I love my family, I love to share with them, I am sure we all will love to share what we are, how we live, with you…
 
This is the second time and I am not sure if Costa Rica will win the game, however I am happy, I won… I spent the night in a happy way, I am still celebrating to have too many amazing people around and more people amazing people coming, like you.
 
See you soon, team!
 
Pura Vida!
-Lindsay Padilla
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 Lindsay Padilla has been a dedicated True Nature Village Leader the past 8 years. She is committed to serving her community and supporting True Nature’s groups that visit her village. She is also a wonderful mother of two.

True Nature Travels Blog

IMG_20140325_164817 (1)We’ve had an incredible year of service in Costa Rica through our True Nature Costa Rica Service and Adventure Programs in partnership with national leadership organization, The National Society of Leadership and Success. We just wrapped up our 4th outstanding group of students last week representing “The Society” from chapters across the country, participating in global service missions in Costa Rica over Spring and Summer school breaks.

The Society/TNE programs bridge the two organizations’ shared mission to bridge the international community through service. With True Nature Education’s focus on mindful travel through service work on both the land and local communities throughout Costa Rica, Society members can expand on their dedication to the greater good of communities and become true leaders abroad.

1972248_10152204627005812_6132098145353937964_nFrom our March trip, Kathryn Hima of Stratford, Connecticut:

“I believe coming on this trip took me out of my comfort zone, no actually, it expanded my comfort zone. I feel I am a changed person now and that I am able to to see and experience the beauty of planet Earth. I will take the memories or Costa Rica with me as I keep on with my journey of life.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.46.57 AMFollowing the June program, Candice Wroblewski of Michigan shared that she had:

“A truly amazing, eye-opening experience. You get a taste of Costa Rica that cannot be duplicated. You get to see how the Costa Rican people live as well as the rainforest and nature. I will remember this trip and these people forever. The guides were incredible and you can tell that they genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. The trip and the friendships made are priceless. ¡I love Costa Rica! ¡Pura Vida!”

Our second incredible summer program, which took place in July, can be summed up in Tim Wilson’s description:

“It is amazing to see people from all over the country come together for one week and have so many new experiences and help so many people of foreign country. Unforgettable.”

Our final trip of the year wrapped up with our December program with another great group of students dedicating their Winter Break to service. Kendra Hopkins of Greensboro, NC, told us that:

“While on this trip I have found myself doing things I have never done before and accomplishing a lot. I have meet some of the most incredible individuals the States have to offer. I am beyond grateful for this experience!”