By: Madison Boswell ‘13
With only a hiking backpack and a passion for service and travel, Simpson junior Taylor Sharp had the experience of a lifetime this summer.
With her enthusiasm for service work, Sharp took it upon herself to find unique service opportunities in India – and then she raised the money to pay for it.
“I have always felt like I had a calling to go to India,” said Sharp, whose hometown in Kearney, Neb. “I have always wanted to go there and I love doing service. So I decided to seize the opportunity of summer and kind of combined the two and did service in India.
“ I wanted to do extended service, so I literally Googled service in India, and a group called Cross Cultural Solutions came up, and they had opportunities that seemed really appealing and fit what I wanted to do. I had incredible support while fundraising, and covered the rest of the cost on my own.”
While in India, Sharp had the opportunity to volunteer as an English and math teacher with Cross Cultural Solutions. At the school she worked mainly one-on-one with students who had learning and physical disabilities.
In India, the physically and mentally disabled tend to be ignored in the regular school system. The school in which Sharp worked, Harmony Through Education, is fairly new, starting only three to four years ago. Among the 30 students who attend Harmony Through Education there is a wide range in age from five to 22.
Part of Sharp’s learning experience included adapting to communication with the students, as Hindi is the predominant language in that region.
“We did a couple Hindi lessons, and I was never fluent by any means, but it was enough to communicate with hand gestures,” she said. “During my time there I grew really close to these students. They are beautiful people and I had spoken with them predominantly in Hindi. On the day I left, I started crying and a couple of them started crying as we exchanged hugs. When I started walking towards my car to leave they all shouted as a class ‘We will miss you’ in English and it was the most beautiful moment. It was fantastic.”
Having not traveled extensively before this summer, Sharp had the opportunity to spend a month backpacking through Europe before her month spent in India.
“This experience has given me the travel bug, a lot, but it has also solidified my interest in working in the non-profit field,” she said. “It opened my eyes up to the limited perspective that I had before of what I wanted to do, but now I am much more open to a wider range of things. International non-profit work has now been added to the list of post-graduation ideas.”
Sharp hopes to travel abroad through Simpson to Israel during May term and travel domestically next summer when she also hopes to continue her service work with an non-profit internship.