Sophomore accounting and Chinese double major Cassie Jacob added another stamp to her passport during her volunteer trip to Nepal, over spring break.
Jacob previously spent winter break in China, where she improved upon her language skills and drew inspiration for her future as an accounting major. There, she took intensive Chinese classes and participated in cultural activities such as making dumplings, visiting museums and walking the Great Wall of China.
This time, Jacob volunteered with a group of 16 students to participate in the alternative spring break trip to Nepal, organized by the University of Rhode Island’s Center of Nonviolence and Peace Studies. They were joined by a group of Nepali graduate students who helped them develop a greater understanding of the meaning of peace and how to achieve it.
“It was amazing how quickly we bonded with the Nepali students,” Jacob said. “They even taught us a few words in their language.”
She also explained that the key difference between the two groups of students came from their different opinions of the importance of peace.
“We [URI students] were thinking of peace in terms of our personal lives, whereas the Nepali students wanted to understand how they could achieve peace within their communities,” Jacob said.
This distinction is a result of the environment in which the Nepali students live. Since Nepal is a developing country that lacks a constitution, Nepali people often experience a number of societal problems such as woman trafficking and pollution.
One of the most pressing problems within Nepali communities is the presence of children in prisons. Children are often sent to prisons when their parents are convicted of a crime because there is no one else to care for them.
Fortunately, Jacob and her fellow students had the opportunity to work with Nepal’s Early Childhood Development Center, an organization that removes children from prisons and provides them with care and schooling. The students visited a prison and played with the children, whose positive attitude surprised Jacob.
“I could not believe how lively they were. It was impossible to tell that they came from a bad situation. However, they were very mature for their age because of the environment they lived in,” she said.
The group of students also spent time volunteering at a women trafficking center run by Maiti (mighty) Nepal, an organization dedicated to protecting Nepali girls and women from domestic violence, trafficking and child prostitution. There, Jacob had the chance to meet several different women and their children.
While Jacob undoubtedly learned valuable lessons from her community service, she also enjoyed cultural activities such as visiting a Buddhist temple, browsing pottery in a city square, white water rafting down a river that flowed into India, and riding and learning to care for an elephant – her favorite part of the trip.
“The motto of our trip was ‘peace is possible,’ and we definitely proved that,” she said. “I learned important peacekeeping techniques and I now appreciate everything I have even more.”