Nothing Short of Epic 

Nothing Short of Epic 

Lillian Stone

Service in the Clouds in India, 2017 | Sacred Valley Project in Peru, 2018 | Tanzania 2019

Lillian is planning on double majoring in Environmental Science and Dance starting in the fall. Her passion for the earth makes her dream of dedicating her career to conservation biology.

All photos have been provided by Lillian. Read her story below!

Fluttering squares of screen-printed prayers layered on primary colors hanging in horizontal lines, heated bargaining for folds of silk and yak wool that covered the walls of market stalls, over packed overnight trains, and deciphering miming to bridge the language barrier are a few of the incredible details that made me fall for India.

In 2017, with the help of a scholarship, I was the only 10th grader to join my school’s first service-learning trip, which ventured to India. While we were there, we built sanitation facilities for families in the rural community of Balla and tutored Tibetan refugees in English in McLeod Ganj.

Cultural collaboration was key to these projects. My schoolmates, the program leaders and those we were helping became a passionate team with a sole focus of making an impact with the community. Observing the ways each person worked and lived inspired me to do more. This trip allowed me to make differences in ways I didn’t know I could.

Spending time with my homestay families and being immersed in the beauty and traditions of their culture truly touched my heart. We were welcomed into their homes, fed excessively comforting amounts of rice and lentils and given unlimited chai. Some of my fondest memories were learning how to correctly eat with my fingers and how to make traditional chapati. The constant abundance of food made each meal a feast: cooked, served and savored with love and respect. My host mother told us that her family was honored to host Americans and in turn, I will forever be humbled to have been welcomed into their lives.

On our last day, we had a celebration and performed the Bollywood dance we had learned. As we swayed and spun in our saris to a song about sunglasses, I noticed my host mother tearing up. After giving us hugs, she explained that seeing us immerse ourselves in her culture with reverence, openness and devotion meant so much to her and her community. It made me realize how putting emphasis on the attention paid to small details can make all the difference in the impact you have on others. This trip accentuated my passion for community and collaboration, nurturing my drive to explore, discover and serve communities in need. Each experience deepened my understanding of the world.

The service trip to India made such an impact on me that I jumped at the opportunity to take one to Peru the following year. There, we worked on projects to help build dormitories to house girls who travel from remote areas to attend high school. One evening, after a tiring day of carrying rocks and mixing and pouring cement, we hiked up to an Incan temple in the hills behind our homestay village. Raoul, one of the program leaders, performed a Pachamama ceremony. He had each member of the group place three bay leaves into a ceremonial package to be burned along with carefully placed goodies and Peruvian symbols. Being present in that moment, bathed by the sunset light pouring into the grotto and observing the towering mountain across from us, made me feel connected and reverent to the earth, imagining each of us as the root of a tree.

My adventures in Peru, India and Tanzania have made me realize how culture, customs and service are grounded in human interaction, inspiring me to revel in engaging and exploring different parts of the world. I strive to discover the intricate beauty of each country, language and tradition, interrelating their values to my own and enriching my perspective on the world as a whole.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in IndiaPeru and Tanzania, or view more Alumni Stories here