One of Keuka College junior Abby Hess’ greatest dreams is to participate in the Occupational Therapy (OT) Without Borders program after she graduates.
And she took her first step in fulfilling that dream during her summer Field Period® trip to Nicaragua. Abby traveled with Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE), a Seattle-based volunteer organization that unites international volunteering with adventure travel to create a meaningful volunteer experience abroad.
“Keuka College and the GIVE program were meant for each other,” says Abby, who received a Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Scholarship, which honors the 1963 Keuka College graduate, and is designed to assist students planning to pursue culturally oriented Field Period® experiences. “Both organizations are highly effective in promoting the tradition of experiential learning. My decision to attend Keuka College was largely based on the outstanding Field Period® experiences and the opportunities that the occupational therapy program has to offer.”
Among her goals for this trip were teaching Nicaraguan children about health, English, and literacy; working alongside locals to build sustainably designed infrastructure projects; and visiting the historical town of Leon to take in its cathedrals, markets, and culture.
And by traveling to Nicaragua, Abby says she took the chance to expand her knowledge and share what she has learned.
“I have been blessed with amazing people and opportunities,” says Abby. “My family has always been involved in volunteer organizations and education, so for me, volunteering became more of a passion for giving back.”
Abby has continued her community service involvement after enrolling at Keuka College, where she has been part of the College’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, during which members of the College’s men’s and women’s basketball teams conduct a youth basketball clinic.
“There, I am able to see the spark in the kids’ eyes when they accomplish a new skill,” says Abby, who adds that she saw the same spark in the eyes of the children she taught while in Nicaragua.
“Teaching the children in Nicaragua was an amazing experience,” Abby says. “When I was there, we taught them about shapes, and descriptions to help make a sentence. The children looked at me like I knew everything.”
But Abby quickly adds that she learned more from them.
“I got close to a few children in just a short period of time, and they taught me that the simple things matter the most,” she says. “They taught me to be appreciative, and to love with all your heart—because that is what matters most. Not the material things, but the people around you. They also reminded me that the littlest changes make a big difference.”
Participating in this trip reminded Abby just why she chose Keuka College.
“Keuka College has given me a place to grow and increased my hunger for giving,” she says. “Going to Nicaragua definitely solidified that, at least to begin with, I would like to incorporate travel and OT after I graduate. This trip was the best life experience I could have. It has taught me to be appreciative for what I have, and that you don’t need much to be happy.”