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Sarah's Gap Year

Welcome to my online travel journal! I just graduated from San Ramon Valley High School and I am taking a year off before attending NYU next fall. This September I am leaving for six months to volunteer around the world during my year off. I will be spending one month in South Africa bringing fresh water to a poor village known as Dixie and volunteering in Dumphries doing a variety of projects. Then, for ten days I am going to tour Turkey before I go to Ethiopia for two months to teach English and math. After that I will be touring Thailand for 15 days then volunteering at an elephant refuge in Thailand for two weeks. I will then go to Kerala (Southern India) to train with a medicine man for a month. Finally, I will be spending one month working at an orphanage in Jaipur (Northern India). It's going to be six amazing months and I hope you will enjoy following along on my page!

This all started when my family went to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana for a safari/vacation. I had collected many suitcases of school supplies that I brought to Utha Primary School in Dixie, South Africa (one of the poorest villages in South Africa). Along with the school supplies, I had $250. I asked the superintendent of the schools what I should do with this money, and he asked me to take it home, turn it into something more, and come back to do something big for the community.

One year later I decided to start the Dixie Project. The Dixie Project has been an ongoing fundraiser of mine for the past year. I have spent this year turning that $250 into $9,500 and have only $1,500 left to raise. All of the money will be used to install a filtration system and pump in a borehole in Dixie that will provide the community with clean drinking water that they currently lack. The borehole will be installed near Shiviti Primary School this fall. For more information on the Dixie Project, visit www.bit.ly/dixiesd.

As my plans to give Dixie this borehole came together, I started to think that I might like to go back to Dixie once it was finished and see it. I started researching the idea of visiting Dixie and possibly staying a little longer to do some volunteer work in the community. As I looked into this, I found websites dedicated to volunteer opportunities around the world. I became enchanted. The more I read the more I knew I wanted to travel the world and volunteer. I wanted to learn about the different cultures and help make a difference in impoverished towns.

I brought up the idea with my parents. The thought of taking a gap year to volunteer around the world was new to them, and they weren't sure how they felt about it, but they knew they didn't want to stand in my way. So they told me if I planned everything and raised all of the money to pay my own way, I would have their blessing. Of course, they assumed I would never do all of that.

But I jumped on the opportunity to travel and volunteer instead of going straight to school. I started researching the different volunteer abroad programs in depth and decided which countries and projects interested me the most. After countless changes to the plan, I finally pulled together the itinerary and figured out what I would be doing for six months. On top of planning, I have been working as much as possible in hopes of having enough money to budget this trip. When I told my parents all of my plans, they realized that they had to let me go.

Now that everything has started to come together, they have been very supportive of me and have helped me with a lot of the details. They have even planned times when they can come travel with me for a week or two! I am so excited that this has all worked out and I can't believe that I am already about to leave. It's going to be an amazing experience.

I am sure that as the trips progresses I will have so much to share, so I have started this blog to keep you all updated on what I am doing and where. I am volunteering in third world countries, so I will have limited access to the Internet and will probably only be able to update this at most once a week, but I will do my best.

Thank you for your interest in my trip and I hope you enjoy my blog!
Lots of Love,
Sarah

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