Students Experience Life-Changing Eco Foundation Internship in Nepal
Seven Keene State College students – Julia Anselmo, Catherine Cloutier, Hannah Miron, Patrick Rooney, Maddy Thomas, Alyssa True, and Rachel White – embarked on a four-week environmental internship with the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation in Kathmandu, Nepal. Dr. Renate Gebauer, professor of environmental studies, has been working with this organization for nine years and connects students with internships at the Eco Foundation.
Alyssa True ’20 and Catherine Cloutier ’20, both public health majors, discovered the internship when Dr. Gebauer presented the opportunity to her epidemiology class. “I knew that I absolutely needed to do it,” said Alyssa. “It was kind of a spontaneous thing. I didn’t really know anything about it before, and I knew I needed to get more information about it.” Catherine had a similar reaction. When she heard about it, all she could think was, “Why not go to Nepal? It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let’s do it!”
During the internship, students lived and worked at the foundation, which is dedicated to bettering the environment through eco-friendly practices. Professor Gebauer supports this nonprofit organization because it’s “run by Nepali for Nepal.” The Eco Foundation grows their own organic food on biodynamic farmland and prepares it using bio-gas and bio-briquettes. In addition to building glass bottle and eco-brick houses for the community, the Eco Foundation runs a health clinic, employs local women in handicraft and jewelry making, and provides education for children. Students helped with biodegradable farming, gardening, picking chamomile, painting a library, and applying limestone on houses. Looking back on the sustainable projects Catherine was able to help with, she said, “It was amazing to connect with nature.”
In addition to the volunteer work, the students also experienced cultural events and saw many incredible sites, including festivals and Mount Everest and the Himalayas on a flight tour. They also participated in ziplining and paragliding.
As an aspiring public health nurse, Catherine believes that this internship will help her in her future career. In her field, many public health issues revolve around poverty and she explained that this trip showed her what true poverty looks like. She is inspired to keep learning and exploring ways she can help combat this social issue.
The best part of the internship for Alyssa was meeting people from all around the world and learning different perspectives. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. Catherine added, “If you want to do something, you just have to ask,” which is great advice for anyone looking to participate in an international opportunity. Both students said they would do it again, if they had the chance.
“I encourage everybody to find an opportunity to go to another country, especially a developing country,” said Professor Gebauer. “I think it really opens your eyes to your own culture. It also challenges all of our prejudices about different cultures. Finding opportunities to go abroad can be life changing.”
To learn more about this experience and how you can get involved with the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation, please contact Professor Gebauer or check out their website.
-By Madison Olsen ’20