Cameron Wehr - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I have always had a bit of wanderlust. I love to travel, and I have always wanted to go to somewhere in Asia, so when the opportunity to go to India presented itself, I jumped on it.

Why did you choose Global Leadership Adventures?

I chose GLA: India because it looked like I would get the most bang for my buck with this program. I liked the program because I knew that we would get to work with children, but also have time to explore the local cultures, through the local temples, the boarding school for children in the slums, Dharamsala Animal Rescue, and many other adventures. And of course, seeing the Taj Mahal has always been a goal of mine. And for my parents, the program looked super safe and trustworthy (which it was).

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, as presented by me

What was your favorite part about India?

The people were by far the best part, more than the movies and food (but those were amazing too). Even in some of the most disadvantaged parts, they were still able to find genuine happiness through each other.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

I think any experience abroad is unique; however, this was India. The diversity within India is so wide-ranging that it is breathtaking. From the Punjabi culture that we experienced in the beginning in Amritsar, to the Hindu religion in Dharamsala, to Tibetan Buddhism in McLeod Ganj, everything was so interesting to learn and embrace.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff provided everything for us, essentially; food, cars when we needed them, schedules, and emergency rides to the hospital when we were sick. They were so accommodating and some of the nicest people in the world. They taught a whole lot of different lessons about the different traditions they practiced and the customs of the region.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

On a typical day, we would wake up at 7:30 a.m. and have breakfast at 8:00 a.m. (sometimes yoga postponed this until 8:30 a.m.). We would then prepare for placements and leave at 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. depending on where you were working (in sports camp, arts and crafts, or daycare). We would spend time with the children and teenagers until about 1.00 p.m. then have lunch at 2:00 p.m. In the afternoon we would have an excursion (to McLeod Ganj to shop, Dharamsala Animal Rescue, Tong Len School, etc). We would come back for dinner at 6:00 p.m or 7:00 p.m. Then we would have an evening activity at the home base.

Himalayas trek campsite
Our campsite for a trek in the Himalayas for a weekend

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading and resting was nice, but other than that we had ‘organized’ free time (like shopping) in certain areas. The program was jam-packed with activities that were all exciting.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

We stayed in the King of Kangra's summer home, which was (obviously) very nice. It is fit for a king. The nicest thing was that it shielded us from monsoon season, so while it was pouring outside every other day or so, we could be comfortable inside.

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

The hardest part about volunteering abroad was not knowing the language. Though GLA gave us a very basic lesson in Hindi, I still could not converse really well to some of the students. Luckily, most of the older ones knew a bit of English in order for us to teach them.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

We only knew basic sayings, such as "Hello", "How are you?", and "How old are you". We also knew the numbers up to 20 and shapes and fruits, so we could get our point across but we couldn't have verbose conversations about world crises. We had translators about those topics.

What surprised you most about India?

I would say that the most surprising aspect of India was the people’s perseverance. Even though many of the people lived in houses without running water, this didn't stop them from bathing, from washing their clothes and dishes. We went on a trek into some of the Gaddi villages in the Himalayas. the trek took about five hours, but people were still able to live in such rural areas. They would climb up and down in order to get from the city to their homes, which I found truly awe-inspiring.

Temple of Shiva in Dharamsala, India
The local Shiva temple in Dharamsala

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in India?

I wish I had known what monsoon season was like. Living in California, where rain is nearly non-existent, having rain pour down so hard and as much as it did in India was a struggle. Luckily I brought a poncho, but whenever I wore my sweatshirt I would get soaked.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to India?

Make sure you have a lot of rain gear. And rain boots. And sunscreen. The weather differs from the morning to the night-time; you just want to make sure that you have clothing that accommodates both sunny and rainy weather (a difficult task for most).

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

I definitely want to volunteer abroad again, but I am still unsure where. I would like to see a lot of the world and the diverse cultures that it has to offer. I am looking especially toward southern Africa (Madagascar, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa), anywhere in South America, or Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand).

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

The biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is, I believe, the ability to see, feel, hear, smell, and taste the cultures of the world, cultures that are so unlike my own. I feel like I became a more global citizen through my experience.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Most definitely! I have gained a new perspective of the world, and that has impacted the way I think and the way I act. I am more conscious of global affairs and interests.

Sri Harmandir Sahib, or the "Golden Temple," the holiest Gurdwara of Sikhs, located in Amritsar, Punjab, India
The Golden Temple in Amritsar

Would you recommend GLA to others? Why?

Yes, I certainly would! GLA has given me the opportunity to meet the nicest people and explore a culture more in depth than I think I ever could on my own.