Holly Kennedy-Symonds, a registered nurse, is a volunteer with our Vancouver chapter. She travelled to Nepal in 2019 to serve through HOPE worldwide Volunteer Corp. We asked her a few questions about her volunteer experience and are proud to share the conversation with you.
Planning had begun in earnest for what was designed to be an impactful and somewhat innovative HOPE worldwide Volunteer Corps in Nepal during July and August of 2019. The team of volunteers from around the world were planning programs at the HOPE School in Kathmandu as well as at the recently opened Chhaimale Village Center about 2 hours outside of Kathmandu in a village that had been devastated by the 2015 earthquakes that had struck this nation.
Programs were being designed to work alongside local Nepalese doctors, dentists and nurses to assist in assessments, education, healthcare awareness, local skills training, capacity building and knowledge transfer. However, due to “unforeseen circumstances” one of the doctors who had planned to attend was unable to do so, which put a major dent in the team’s capacity to deliver the services and assistance we had planned.
This all happened with just over a month before we were scheduled to be on the ground in Nepal…
So, we stepped out on faith and issued an appeal to our friends and through our networks around the world. We are thankful that from the city of Vancouver, Canada, an experienced Registered Nurse named Holly Kennedy-Symonds heard that call and said to herself, “Here am I, send me” and arranged time off work, got her proper medical tests done and fundraised to get herself to Nepal.
We are so grateful for Holly’s heart to serve and had a chance to catch up with her after the trip to ask her about her experience serving in Nepal.
First, thank you for volunteering on the recent HVC in Nepal! We could not do what we do without eager, dedicated volunteers like yourselves. What initially drew you to volunteer with on this Volunteer Corps?
I got the email there was a need and wanted to help meet that need. I had not considered it before because I thought HOPE worldwide Volunteer Corps were campus and teenage volunteer opportunities and not meant for "mature" volunteers. I was also somewhat scared to travel alone to a far away place to join people I didn't know (both volunteer group and locals), knowing healthcare might not be up to Canadian standards if I should need the help. I prayed and asked for courage; "Here am I Send Me" was my theme song.
What was your favourite part of volunteering with HOPE worldwide Volunteer Corps?
Meeting local people and being able to help in a meaningful way and partner with local leaders. This is so much better than coming in as foreign aide and leaving without understanding issues presented by locals and opportunities to help guided by local leaders. I also enjoyed the teams very capable leadership and their great way of connecting with people.
Is there something you have learned or observed about the communities that we serve in that has helped you or had an impact on you in some way?
I learned people are very grateful for the most simple and humane acts of kindness and care; more so than in my own country where many people can often take things for granted. People without privilege are more grateful. I learned that we could create family wherever we go in the world and I was impacted by the kindness of the people around me every step of my journey. Finally, I learned that facing my fears meant that I had new vistas opened to me that I never dreamed or imagined; take a chance and be bold. Being a mature disciple in my 60s meant people looked up to me as a Mom or Grandmother and that was special for me. It opened doors to conversations with the local women with families and elders as well and they seemed curious about what I was about and very approachable.
Is there a motto or thought that motivates you to volunteer with HOPE worldwide and can you share a bit more about that?
You are never too old to serve!! You may underestimate what you can offer but be very surprised at how valued your gift of life experience is.
Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for humans.”
When I put my heart into it, God is always there to do more than I can imagine and bless me in new ways.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you would like to add, to end our time?
The following scripture is what I'd like to leave you with and certainly this came to mind with any anxious thoughts I had about travel and the unknown. I was certainly filled with God's peace on this trip; returning to Canada with a deep sense of thanksgiving for the opportunity and for the new friends I'd made and for the work completed, knowing some families now have clean water and some people got the medical and dental interventions they needed.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.”