During Grade 11’s CAS and Ethics discussion prior to their class trip, we held some dialogues with very interesting people. In the Roots & Shoots session, we Skyped with Manoj Gautam, Director of the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal (and a good friend of IICS). Besides speaking about nature and animal conservation projects that our school can start (and WILL), Manoj offered an incredible volunteering opportunity for IICS: to be able to go to Nepal during October break to do volunteer work with Dr. Jane Goodall herself.

A number of students were interested, and although we emailed the information home to parents as soon as we learned about the opportunity, it was just a bit too short notice to arrange schedules. However, we were thrilled for our Admissions Assistant, Seda Alakus, when she told us she was determined to do that trip. And she did. What a time she had!

Seda was joined by a small group of others from Holland, England, Australia, and Belgium. The trip was specifically to do a rafting trip in rural Bardia with the JGI staff to support and raise awareness for the conservation of the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica). In addition to that, Seda and her group went on safari, saw elephants and a wild rhino and a wild tiger close up (the tiger was perhaps TOO close up)!

“Since I share an office with Jennifer (Gokmen) who has run IICS’s Project Nepal student outreach since 2010, I have heard her say what a paradigm shift she experienced there. Now I know exactly what she means. It is one of the poorest places I have ever visited, but the people are so incredibly happy and I always felt safe and welcomed. It’s only when you experience something like that close up that you realize how conditioned we are to think that material wealth = happiness. That’s an equation we all need to break. Despite the serious economic crisis there, the people expected nothing from me, except sharing smiles and friendship. It was an incredible experience.”

“What an amazing woman. At 82 years old, she is a ball of energy with an incredible light that shines from her. She is on the go non-stop. I asked her where she lives and she admitted she travels so much that she actually doesn’t have a home. When I invited her to Istanbul, she said her calendar is booked solid through the end of 2017. So I asked for a date in 2018!” Seda said Dr. Goodall always had by her side her plush toy chimpanzee that was gifted to her.

“Dr. Goodall told me that she grew up in a poor household, but she was fortunate enough to have a mother who supported her wild dreams and told her that if she wanted to follow her dreams, she needed to do three things: work extremely hard, use every opportunity you find, and NEVER give up.”