Grace Fowler: My experience in India

Grace Fowler, 17, of Greenville, recently visited India. She is seen here with the children from the host family she stayed with.

 

I was fortunate this summer because I got to go to India. Over and over I kept saying to my friends, “Hey guys, guess what? We’re in India!” Going from the small town of Greenville halfway across the world to India — population of over one billion — was a bit of a culture shock.

Some highlights of my trip included working with a blind school, riding camels through the desert and going out dancing after dinner.

One of the most rewarding parts of this trip was the time we got to spend doing community service.

Our first project was to sand and paint the entrance walls of a school for blind men. Another project involved hauling eight-pound bricks to start building a floor outside a temple.

We got to work side-by-side with villagers and learned that we could communicate even though we didn’t speak a common language. We also planted lemon trees in a field behind a family’s hut so they could eventually sell the lemons as a source of income.

Spending a few hours here and there painting and digging holes and being able to help reshape communities was one of the most incredible and rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.

Everything we did during our 16 days in India enhanced and broadened my perspective of the world.

Working with the blind people taught me that you don’t need eyes to see the world or to make a difference in it. These blind men could do the same things we do, they just go about it in a different way.

Another thing that was reinforced during my time there was that it doesn’t matter what other people think as long as you are giving one hundred percent.

We experienced living situations in which people have so little, but are happy with their lives. For example, we visited a large family that lived in a one-room house and every single one of them was infected with tuberculosis. They invited us in for a cup of tea, but because tuberculosis is infectious we had to decline.

There were 11 kids in our group and everyone had very different personalities. But we made it work because we didn’t care who had what brand of shoes or shirts or who had a pool or a big house.

What mattered was that we were able to make a visible difference in the communities we visited.

If there is one message I brought back that I would like to tell people, it would be to open your eyes — go outside your bubble and leave your mark on the world. You don’t have to travel the world to do that. Just appreciate how fortunate you are and give back to your community. Volunteer your time when you can, donate blood, participate in a food drive.

If you are able and have the means, travel. I have been really fortunate because I have been able to visit so many amazing places, and each one has stretched my comfort zone.

Traveling has opened my eyes to how others live and I always come home with a bigger picture of the world.

If you can’t travel, read books about other cultures and educate yourself about the world.

Live up to your full potential and do everything in your power to impact and inspire your community.

 

Grace Fowler is a 17 year old Greenville High School senior who plans to earn a medical degree and travel to third world countries to help provide better health care.

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