Eagle County resident Yesmeen Scamahorn prepares for six months of volunteering | VailDaily.com

Eagle County resident Yesmeen Scamahorn prepares for six months of volunteering

Melanie Wong
Yesmeen Scamahorn (third from left), spent several days in September 2013 helping people whose homes were damaged by floods in Boulder. She'll take her efforts abroad this November as part of a six-month volunteering project.
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Support the Purpose Project

Who: Vail Valley local Yesmeen Scamahorn is raising money to fund six months of volunteer work in five countries.

What: A silent auction, with all funds going to the Purpose Project. Items will include rounds of golf, a stay at a villa in Belize, restaurant gift certificates, and more.

Where: Outside Juniper Restaurant in Riverwalk. Auction attendees can also take advantage of Juniper’s 50 percent off special.

When: Friday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

More info: Find out more or donate online at yesmeenspurposeproject.com.

EDWARDS — Sometimes a calling knows no logic.

It took a while for Yesmeen Scamahorn, 28, to accept it when she was hit with the all-consuming idea that she need to drop everything, take six months off and volunteer for worthy causes around the world. It just didn’t make much sense.

“It hit me like I was struck by lightning,” said Scamahorn. “I knew I needed to start in Vietnam, Cambodia and India, and the rest would become clear. I tried to ignore it, which just made it worse. Something specific told me to do this, so I call it my calling.”

So The Purpose Project was born. Once Scamahorn wrapped her mind around this new idea, she was able to carve out a rough plan — she would go for six months and work at six different projects in five different countries. She has purchased a one-way ticket to Vietnam, where she will work at a holistic rehabilitation center for victims of Agent Orange, and is in the process of raising the $12,000 she will need to complete the six months of volunteering. All the proceeds from a silent auction that will be held Friday outside Juniper Restaurant in Edwards, where Scamahorn is a server, will go toward The Purpose Project.

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Lightning strikes twice

It’s not the first time Scamahorn has been “hit by lightning,” as she puts it. The first time was in 2009, when she got the urge to move to Colorado from California, where she was working as a corporate event planner. The recession hit her like many others, and she decided she needed a change. She packed up her car and landed in Avon. Her job gave her an opportunity to travel around the world during the off season, and a couple volunteer efforts whet her appetite for giving back. She spent time at Round Up River Ranch outside Dotsero, as well as working with a Boulder flood relief group.

She hadn’t considered committing so much time to the efforts, however, until she was hit with debilitating back pain this May. The pain, which she thinks was caused by some sort of nerve or vertebrae misalignment, prevented her from leaving the house or even standing up straight for days, and it was weeks before she was able to walk.

“Those weeks were a dark time, but now I realize that life has a way of getting our attention. I started thinking, ‘Why am I here, and how can I make a difference?’ It took me getting to a place like that to be vulnerable and wallow in my own thoughts,” she said.

Six months, six projects

Scamahorn chose nonprofit causes that weren’t receiving large amounts of outside funding, that function on a more grassroots level and that include volunteer programs for a relatively low cost.

“Every trip I’ve taken the past, I have funded and done on my own,” she said. “With this, as I looked at the volunteer world, I was shocked at how much some volunteer organizations charged people to come volunteer their time. So I started looking for the smaller NGOs,” she said, explaining the process by which she found her projects.

She also points out that the money raised will go only to the volunteer portions of her six months and airfare to get from place to place. Off-days between projects and for-fun excursions will be funded out of her own pocket, she said.

Nov. 3 marks the day she leaves for Vietnam to work with Friends of Asia. Beginning Dec. 8, she works with Globalteer, a U.K.-based project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, that works to build and install clean water pumps in nearby communities. In early January, she heads to India, where she will participate in two separate causes. She’ll start in Calcutta with Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s hospice for the sick, destitute and dying. Then she will go to Ramana’s Garden, an orphanage and English school founded by a Colorado Springs woman in Rishikesh.

March will bring Scamahorn to Sri Lanka, where she will work with the Millennium Elephant Foundation, a sanctuary for abused elephants. Finally, in April she will go to Guatemala to work with International Volunteer Headquarters, where she will help build homes and schools in struggling communities.

So far the effort is 40 percent funded, thanks to generous support from the community, her family and Juniper Restaurant, she said.

She’s not worried whether the rest of the funds will come in during the next six months, she said.

“I’m ignoring the logic. It’s easy for me to try and have a plan, but for me to fulfill this mission, I want to be open for whatever opportunities come my way. This was either going to eat at me forever or I had to just take the jump off the cliff,” she said. “I hope that as I travel and post photos and stories about what I’m doing, people will be inspired to help.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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