Voices of Change connects Vail to the world | VailDaily.com

Voices of Change connects Vail to the world

Melanie Wong
Jose Balderrama, of the Bene Rio health foundation, teaches children in the rural village of San Luis Chico in Bolivia how to brush their teeth and the importance of dental care.
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If you go ...

What: Global Solutions Forum’s ‘Voices of Change’

Who: Students and NGO leaders speaking on projects around the world

Where: Vail Mountain School, Vail

When: Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

How much: Free and open to the public

More info: http://www.shouldertoshoulder.com/global-solutions-forum

VAIL — Each year, Vail-based nonprofit Students Shoulder to Shoulder sends American high school students to far-flung corners of the globe to participate in on-the-ground work with various nonprofit organizations. On Friday, leaders from those nonprofits will come to Vail to speak to local audiences about the work they’re doing around the world.

The forum is three days long, but Friday will give the public a chance to find out more about the work these nonprofits are doing and how they can be involved. Voices of Change will host Karambu Ringera, the founder of International Peace Initiatives in Kenya, who will present her Reclaiming Wastelands model of development. For her work uplifting orphans and women living with HIV/AIDS from marginalization to self-resilience, she was awarded the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award by her alma mater, the University of Denver.

The forum will also feature students who returned this summer from Student Shoulder to Shoulder programs. The organization engages students in responsible global citizenship through courses, full immersion service and public presentations.

Students Shoulder to Shoulder Executive Director Bob Bandoni said he hopes Friday’s forum will be a call to action.

“It’s an opportunity for people to see their connection to this work. We want it to change from a passive experience to an engaged experience and, we hope, a genuine one. I hope people walk out and think, ‘I’m a part of this, and I want to do something,’” he said.

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More speakers

Friday’s events will also feature speakers that include Sonam Sherpa, of The Small World in Nepal; Thom Pepper and James Stram, of New Orleans’ Common Ground Relief; and Jose Balderrama Hurtado, of Bolivia’s Rio Beni.

Sherpa, a Nepal native who champions girls education and women’s empowerment in her home country, will speak to audiences about the new challenges Nepal faces as a result of this year’s earthquakes. She’ll also stress the importance of helping women get an education. She would not have had the chance to go to school at all had it not been for the sponsorship of a trekking client of her father’s, she said.

“Education really matters, especially for a girl. She gets the power to decide what she wants and what she doesn’t want, the power to decide right and wrong. I really feel powerful myself being educated, and I can see that it is the solution to many of the world’s problems,” she said.

On the home front, Pepper and Stram will talk about work to restore Louisiana wetlands and revitalize New Orlean’s Katrina-stricken communities.

Balderrama will speak about the work Rio Bene does to bring health services and potable water to isolated communities in the Amazon jungle. The work of a small group of volunteers, such as the 10 students who worked with the project this summer, can make a big difference, he said.

“Installing water filters in these villages is very hard work. You have to haul the gravel and build it in an area that has lots of mosquitoes, with no toilets, showers or clean water. However, with 10 students, they did in three days what would have taken a couple staff in 15 or 20 days to do. It touches the heart — something you can do with your body, but you’re giving them something so valuable.”

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

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