Alumni Spotlight: Kallene Ryan

Kallene Ryan is a 24 year old female graduate of St. Lawrence University in Northern New York. While at school she studied political science with a focus in public health and international development. Kallene recently completed a four month project in Tamil, Nadu, South India, working for a small public health focused NGO called Paramedical Educational Trust. Kallene is from West Chazy, New York but currently resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Kallene is currently applying for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health graduate program in International Public Health.

Woman with a group of children in India

Why did you decide to volunteer with VFP in India?

Kallene: I spent a lot of time researching the perfect organization/project for myself. I stumbled upon Volunteers For Peace online and was impressed by their mission and the method with which they display projects available for volunteers based on their desired location, time frame, and subject. I had decided I wanted to do medical work in India and I was able to choose from a list of projects during the time frame I was interested in. I think VFP is a wonderful organization because they hook volunteers up with projects run by locally based organizations that need assistance as opposed to designing projects for volunteers. This method ensures volunteers are provided meaningful and sustainable work.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Kallene: Each day I would wake up to a wonderful breakfast made by my host mom, who is also the head of the NGO. At around 8:30AM I would take the local bus to one of the many tribal villages surrounding our small town (Chengam). I would work in either the schools teaching English and medical awareness or I would work with the women self help groups (established in each village by PET) on various skill training tasks. I would return home for lunch between 12 and 1PM, eat another delicious meal, and then spend some time relaxing with the family. After lunch I would walk to the computer lab and work on the organization's website, facebook page, and our fundraising initiatives. Around 4PM a group of 15 to 20 neighborhood children between the ages of 6 and 14 would come to my house for daily English lessons. My days were full but manageable and extremely rewarding.

What made this experience unique and special?

Kallene: The best aspect of my experience was the family I lived and worked with. I never imagined I could have forged the relationship I did with a family not my own. The Selvanathans were some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met. They were largely responsible for my unbelievable state of happiness while in India. I will forever remember them as my family and I plan on visiting them as soon as I can.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Kallene: This experience is exactly the step in need before attending graduate school. The program I am applying for, as listed above, is in synch with the volunteer experiences I have had. My time in India gave me some of the experience I needed for admissions. I think it was great to get such a positive example of development before continuing my studies in the field.