In 2015, the Orange Daybreak Rotary Club piloted a program to offer year 12 graduates an experience of service as an alternative to the traditional schoolies, often of over-indulgence.
Through a competitive selection process 15 candidates were selected. 
The Rotary Club provided three Rotarians as leaders with one older youth as a sort of ‘older sister’, and all the team undertook team building, fundraising and service projects during the 11 months leading to the experience in Nepal.

This essay, by Georgia Nonnenmacher who wrote it for the ABC ‘Heywire’ competition [http://www.abc.net.au/heywire/], tells her amazing story …
 
The wind had teeth up here.
 
It whistled around the tiny figures darting around after the tattered soccer ball. It ruffled the impossibly thin wind cheater of our tour guide in front of me. It bit through my leggings, which were near threadbare from the past three weeks of hand scrubbing them in a dry sack with cold water and a bar of soap because the detergent was running low and might be necessary if any members of the group suddenly got infected by fleas (the likelihood of the scenario is higher than you might expect).  It wasn’t only the wind, however, that had set me on edge. The air was charged with something else – something raw, something organic, something I couldn’t put my finger on.
 
I was not to know when I first clapped eyes on the place, but this was to be the sight of my greatest catharsis in my nineteen years of life.
 
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It started off innocently enough. “The Alternate Schoolies” it was called, and alternate it certainly was. The rag-tag bunch of children that clambered on the plane destined for Kathmandu, Nepal, filled with such excitement and grand ideals, were not the same group that came back to Sydney a few weeks later.
 
Nepal changed each and every one of us, in some way. Some people changed their minds about what they wanted to for their careers, some vowed to devote more time to travel, others decided to do more volunteer work in the future. No matter what the change was, no-one escaped unscathed from the cataclysm of overwhelming poverty, intense natural beauty and the unwavering spirit of the Nepali people - even in the face of extreme adversity.
 
I myself decided to change the way I lived. I decided that each day I would consciously recall my moment of revelation on that remote mountain top. The moment in which, bleary-eyed and caught entirely off guard, I stood and watched the happiest children I had ever seen kick their soccer ball amongst the ruins of what was once their school.
 
Peering through the sticks and tin that comprised their new “classrooms” that day, tears rolling down my cheeks, I felt a tugging at my hand. I could have fallen into the eyes that stared up at me and lost myself in their innocence forever.

“Why are you sad, when we are all so happy to see you?”
 
I shall never forget that child, the child who taught me, unwittingly, that life is about more than purely the material, that even a couple of cricket kits, some school supplies and a bunch of naïve teenagers from the other side of the world can make a huge difference to the happiness of children who have seen more than they should ever have to see.
 
It was a lesson in gratitude. I am now incredibly grateful to the land that raised me and provided me with a brimming abundance of opportunity, and the land and people who taught me to appreciate that.
 
Thank you to the Rotary Club of Orange Daybreak, Hike Himalaya Adventure and our fearless leaders Mary Brell, Michelle Duncan and John Willing. We could not have done it without you.