Each year, a delegation of students and teachers travel to Bandipur, Nepal for Keystone’s annual student-led service trip. Students from grades 9 to 12 donate their time to a community in need, and showcase their commitment to civic and social responsibility. With support and guidance from other members of the community, including generous donations collected from the 2019 Nepal Spring Talent Show Concert, and contributions from parents and teachers, students learned the essence of how small acts can make a big impact.
The beauty of service lies not in the selfless deeds of those performing an act of kindness for a stranger or a community in need, but it in the spirit of generosity and the attitude that one takes when they voyage to realms unknown.
For the last four years, a small delegation of enthusiastic students, faculty, teachers, and staff have trekked to the Himalayan country of Nepal to work with local communities. Together, the group has helped to restore dilapidated school classrooms, taught a myriad of subject specific courses to local students, donated school supplies and other items to the economically depressed region, and even engaged in physical labor by carrying cement, bricks, and sand in order to assist in the reconstruction of Kindergarten buildings after the Gorkha earthquake of 2015.
This year the Academy traveled with a group of 18 civic minded and socially conscious students. For the students, journeying to Bandipur, Nepal filled them with a sense of achievement, and showcased their capacity for leadership through spearheading several projects with genuine acts of kindness. It was also during this trip that students who had been to Nepal previously, such as Grade 12 student Jasmine Zheng, Sally Zhang, and Judy Zhu, became an easily recognizable faces to crowds of Nepalese children in the community. The relationships that Keystone students developed with members of the Nepalese community over the years led to a sense of calm familiarity between the two groups, appeasing fears that Keystone’s student led service trip was only temporary, instead of a budding, lifelong relationship.
With generous donations raised by the community from the 2019 Nepal Spring Talent Concert, in which students performed on stage an array of acts such as singing, dancing, and even theater, funds were used to purchase materials for the Nepalese community. The delegation painted classrooms with brilliant shades of color, animating the environment in order to stimulate and improve students’ learning experience. Students organized and taught mathematics, Chinese, and even personal hygiene classes to students in the local Bandipurian school. The group even provided hygiene packs filled with toiletries as a supplement to their hygiene course and allocated one to each student. In addition, sports equipment such as soccer balls and frisbees were given to help keep the students active and engaged through physical activities with each other. Books were also donated to help supply a local school classroom, courtesy of parents who had purchased used books from the Roundabout Charity Organization in Shunyi, Beijing.
However, before leaving Nepal, students also made time to explore this remarkable country, trekking and exploring along the mountainous lands that comprise Bandipur. For many students, feeling a connection to the land through the physical exploration of it helped them appreciate the beauty and diversity that exists in the world, and understand that they have a greater social responsibility as global citizens to help those in need who share the planet with them. Community engagement stems from a willingness to be a part of something much bigger than themselves, and for the students, creating a program that feeds into the needs of helping others is one of the greatest merits of participating in a service trip.
“Each night students would write a reflection, and the insight that the students gained and feedback as to why this is important is remarkable,” says IB Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay Coordinator Patricia Power. “The students seem to have enough ideas for the next few years in terms of what they can give in Nepal. And it’s the little things that students want to be able to provide that’s creating a lot of forward planning and fueling the sustainability of a service trip like this.”
For many students, the biggest lesson they took with them after departing the mountainous Nepalese community was this: even small acts of kindness can make a big impact.
Keystone Academy thanks all members of the community for the generous donations and contributions that made this service trip possible.