This time last year, Harrison Sears, 15 years old, embarked on an exciting journey. He travelled to Bangladesh on a volunteer mission, having raised funds among his friends in New York to help a local hospital. His mother – my dear friend Nathalie – accompanied him to Bangladesh and from there, they travelled to the Kingdom of Bhutan for a mother-and-son adventure. It just happens that in less than a month, Ceki and I will be discovering Bhutan together, with the guide that Nathalie and Harrison so highly spoke about. I am thrilled to visit this little gem of a country. It’s a place I have always dreamt of going to. But at the same time, I am very anxious to leave my three children at home for so long. Am I doing the right thing? It’s not the point of this post today, but you’ll probably hear me talking about it again before I go…Onto Harrison here:
Here are some questions that Harrison answered upon his return from Asia. I hope it will serve as inspiration to many teenagers (and parents). I admire not only his sense of adventure but also his courage and dedication to go and help when the cliche sticks, that teenagers prefer to play the couch potato during school holidays.
My name is Harrison Sears, I am a 15 year old from New York City. I was born in Rochester, NY but my mother and father are from France and Wyoming, respectively. I go to school at the United Nations International School which is a school that was founded in the 1960’s to accommodate the children of UN diplomats and ambassadors but has since developed into a private school which along with teaching normal school classes, covers world issues, global views, and changing the world through fundraising and volunteer work. My favorite classes at school are Biology and English. My favorite activities outside of school are DJ’ing in my school’s media lab and at parties, listening to music, and of course traveling the world and helping people.
How did the idea of traveling to Bangladesh and Bhutan came along? How long did it take you to prepare the trip?
My mom’s personal friend and doctor, Dr. Abu Alam, had been speaking to her about a hospital that he had set up in Bangladesh (Nandina General Hospital) and encouraged us to raise money to buy medical supplies and deliver them ourselves. It took about a few months to prepare the trip, we used the website Causes to create a page for our cause and to raise money and awareness about our project, all we had to was send the link to a few friends and the word was out.
What were you hoping for before leaving new york and was it fulfilled?
I was hoping that I would be able to make an impact, which we had. The hospital is now financially independent. There is hope in the next year for an additional wings, which will accommodate 200 more beds and a nurse school. I was also hoping that I would be making friends along the way, which I did and these are life friends.
The goal of the trip was to try to make a difference in a hospital where I had never seen in a country I had never been to, I think that is the goal of every volunteer trip or project to make a difference for others that are not so fortunate.
What do you think you learnt most in this journey?
I learned that we take many things for granted in the developed world, like clean water, good hospitals, roads, food, etc. These things that we see every day and are part of our everyday lives here, are sometimes harder to come by in countries like Bangladesh.
What were the greatest challenges, fears that you might have experienced?
One of the bigger challenges was getting to the actual hospital. First we took a 15 hr plane ride to New Delhi, a few short plane rides to Dhaka (capitol of Bangladesh) then a 6 hr car drive on bumpy roads in a car driven by an insane Bengalese driver to the small town of Nandina where the hospital was built. Then you have to do it all again to get back home.
Can you share a special moment?
My mom and I hiked the Tigers nest in Bhutan. 4 hour hike into thin air at 4000 meters high, gasping for air every minute. Our guide was named Karma. He is truly an Angel from the high heaven. He was our good Karma all the way ! I am in touch with him on Facebook. The view from the top is unbelievable! We hung a flag for a special person who had just passed away. As we were doing so, the wind starting blowing… It was incredibly moving! I also distributed candies at the hospital. Kids eyes were bubbling. Parents were happy! It was such a small gift !
Do you have practical tips to share as advice to other teenagers who would like to engage in a similar experience by themselves (ie. if there school is not active that way they know where to research).
I found that Causes was a really great website to find organizations and/or charities to support, they even use Facebook. The internet is a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood or around the world, just find something that you think looks interesting, grab some friends and go change the world.
My favorite quote is a Dr Seuss one . I think it applies. Dont think about it, just gO!
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Bravo Harrison & Thank you for sharing this special trip with us. May your will of GOing never fade!