News

Bedford woman seeks fellow volunteers for trip to India

Friday, December 6, 2013

By LORETTA JACKSON

Staff Writer

Want to go to India as a volunteer? Want to help a would-be volunteer from Bedford finance her impending trip there?

Bedford’s Sarah Henry-Courtney, 27, is on a mission to spend two weeks in India’s capital, New Delhi. She has signed on as a volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit organization that arranges volunteer experiences in New Delhi, India, and in other parts of the world including Peru, Brazil, Ghana, Morocco, Thailand and Tanzania.

She is looking to motivate others to join her in the experience, one that according to CCS, enables people to travel, see the world, do good and “have the time of your life.”

Henry-Courtney hopes to travel with others from Bedford or nearby towns. She also hopes to generate some financial support to offset expenses of around $4,000 for the two-week session. She leave for India at the end of March.

Thus far, two others are enrolled in the CCS group’s program that begins in India on March 29. Henry-Courtney envisions hearing from fellow adventurers from Bedford or beyond. She hopes for a group of locals that could share the experience with her. If that hope fizzles, she would meet her fellow volunteers for the first time upon her arrival in India.

A graduate of Boston University, Henry-Courtney has yearned to go to India for years, ever since she saw a magazine feature accompanied by a close-up photo of a little Indian girl with big, dark eyes looking out from behind an empty glass. Henry-Courtney clipped the page and kept it for the future. She says the future is now.

She wanted to go on the trip when she graduated from college five years ago. Then, she became involved in a new, full-time job in oncology clinical research for Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. Then, two years ago, she was wed to an engineer. Soon after their marriage, they bought their first home together in Bedford.

“Now is the time to do this trip,” Henry-Courtney said. “I wanted to do it when I graduated but I put it off to find a job. Then, two years ago, I got married and we bought a house. I should do it now, while I can. Now is the time to do it.”

Her two weeks of vacation from work will provide the window of opportunity for her to go on an adventure of giving, sharing, teaching and learning.

“People from all over the world will meet there,” Henry-Courtney said. “So far, only two or three of us are signed up and none are from around here.”

The culture of India is familiar to Henry-Courtney. She grew up in the San Francisco area in the city of Fremont where she was a minority in a community of mostly Asian and Indian neighbors. Her friends were Indian, as were her schoolmates.

“I’ve been to Europe and Hawaii,” Henry-Courtney said. “I’ve been to Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Sweden, Amsterdam and Belgium. Now, I’m studying Hindi and my best friend who is Indian is helping me learn the language.”

Alexis Margolin, of Cross-Cultural Solutions, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., recently expressed appreciation for Henry-Courtney’s enthusiasm and willingness to join the team headed for India. She said volunteers from Henry-Courtney’s group will encounter many opportunities to help the people of New Delhi.

Margolin notes that a volunteer in New Delhi might assist with the care of infants and children. They might help improve education for children. They could be a part of a team focused on ways to improve health and the sense of dignity among the elderly. They might improve the quality of care for people with disabilities. Weekends offer time for sightseeing. The Taj Mahal tops the list of attractions Henry-Courtney intends to visit. The spectacular mausoleum, a gem-studded edifice built by an emperor for his favorite wife, is classified as one of the wonders of the world.

The Bedford woman knows the value of volunteerism. She has spent time on many American volunteer projects. She was a volunteer on college projects in Boston. In addition, she won in high school the Best Buy National Community Service Scholarship award for helping local causes.

She cites her service in the United States when she is asked why she wants to go so far away, when volunteers are needed for local projects. She said that she found a good fit with Cross-Cultural Solutions, in that the organization makes volunteering possible for people with limited time. Most overseas volunteer organizations, she said, require months of commitment. Henry-Courtney has but two weeks of vacation.

According to CCS, volunteers with one available week, or as much as 12 weeks, can experience a CCS program abroad and make a difference in people’s lives. The CCS program enables international volunteering for people who may be engaged in raising families, in full-time education or in full-time employment with some vacation time.

Henry-Courtney already has had some vaccinations and is ready for an intensive in-country orientation with CCS staff. The program’s volunteers live at a CCS home base while engaged in their volunteer duties. They each pay their own airfare and a program fee to CCS that covers all in-country expenses. That fee is tax deductible.

Her finances may be augmented if others sign up, for CCS offers a rebate of $250 for each volunteer recruited by any participant. Meanwhile, she is receiving financial help from friends and a network of supporters that believes in helping the world through helping individuals.

Henry-Courtney welcomes the opportunity to tell others about the trip and about the rewards it could bring to others. Sponsors are encouraged to support her in what she calls a “mini Peace Corps experience” that can be completed with two weeks off from work. She hopes to pay for her airplane tickets and the CCS program fee of more than $3,000 by the end of December.

Program details about the many destinations served by volunteers participating in travel abroad through CCS are noted online www.crossculturalsolutions.org.

For more information on Sarah Henry-Courtney’s upcoming trip or to learn more about sponsoring her or accompanying her to India, contact her by email at sahenry86@gmail.com.

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