By Bella Butler EBS Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – On March 12, eight high school seniors, two business owners, a dentist and his adopted daughter will board a plane to Katmandu, Nepal. At first glance, it seems like a rather unlikely group, but when examined closer, it’s not peculiar at all. These are each individuals with very distinct common ground—they all have a passion for service.

In the summer of 2014, I joined my friends Luisa Locker and Bianca Godoy on a trip deep into the forests of Paradise Valley. Earlier that year, we’d been nominated and selected by the Rotary Club of Big Sky to attend Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a camp aimed at fostering leadership through the power of service. We walked away from the camp with T-shirts, some new friends and a big idea.

RYLA inspired us to found the Lone Peak High School chapter of Interact, the high school division of Rotary International. Since then, our club has done amazing things. Interact’s non-exclusive policy has allowed us to assemble the largest club in the school, which we’ve used to our advantage as an organization.

The Interact Club has sent mosquito nets to Nepali orphans, school supplies to Guatemalan students and personally assembled care packages for Montana soldiers overseas. This summer, the group raised nearly $3,000 to help Rotary in its efforts to finally eradicate polio worldwide.

In addition to our own projects, Interact members frequently volunteer at Rotary events. This past summer, Dr. Peter Schmieding of the Rotary Club of Big Sky asked Interact members to help out at a fundraiser for his organization Tsering’s Fund.

Tsering’s Fund is a non-profit that provides “help to the needy of Nepal,” according to Schmieding, which it is has done through earthquake relief efforts, finding sponsorships for deserving young girls to attend school, and many other life-altering projects for the people of Nepal.

At this specific event, I not only became better acquainted with the mission of Tsering’s Fund itself, but also with a Nepali man, Pem Dorjee Sherpa. Pem Dorjee regaled us with stories of unimaginable despair and hardship, but also enlightened us with the powerful marks left by the efforts of Tsering’s Fund within the struggling nation. I left the event that night feeling emotionally stirred and inspired, which led me to wonder how I would feel given the opportunity to experience Pem Dorjee’s accounts first-hand.

Today, this curiosity has blossomed into a reality. Alongside Interact advisors Dale and Gayle Palmer, and Schmieding and his adopted Nepali daughter Tashi, eight senior Interact members will make the long journey over the ocean to Nepal. During our 16-day trip, our group plans to do hands-on work in schools, orphanages and an elderly home.

We will also be traveling to the Mount Everest region, where we’ll trek through mountain villages and meet people living lives so unlike our own.

“I am most looking forward to the reaction that you kids [will] have,” Schmieding said. “How it changes your perspective of your own lives is unbelievable.”

My fellow travel companions and I are just as thrilled as Schmieding to be a part of something so big. One of the seniors going on the trip, Maria Lovely, expressed her excitement about the service aspect.

Olive B's restaurant donated $7,000 to LPHS Interact Club from a Dec. 7 benefit dinner. The money will be used for the club's trip to Nepal in March, where they will volunteer with Tsering's Fund. Olive B's owners Jennie and Warren "Bibber" Bibbins (top left) present the donation to members of the Interact Club. PHOTO BY DALE PALMER

Olive B’s restaurant donated $7,000 to LPHS Interact Club from a Dec. 7 benefit dinner. The money will be used for the club’s trip to Nepal in March, where they will volunteer with Tsering’s Fund. Olive B’s owners Jennie and Warren “Bibber” Bibbins (top left) present the donation to members of the Interact Club. PHOTO BY DALE PALMER

“We are given the opportunity to help others in need and without a doubt I want to take this opportunity and do everything I can,” Lovely said. Part of the trip will also involve working with Tsering’s Fund administrators, including Schmieding, to find young girls in need of educational sponsorships, a portion of the adventure that Lovely said she’s most excited for.

Interact is about forging lifelong relationships between young people and service, and this is something we hope to achieve by traveling and experiencing helping others at a primary level. Schmieding has set this expectation high, saying that watching others succeed and being part of their transition is one of the greatest joys a person can know.

The cost for each student to go to Nepal is expensive, but with the outstanding support we’ve received from the Big Sky community in the past, we have no doubts about reaching our goal. This isn’t to say we won’t be working hard to get it, though. Fundraising has already begun, and events and contribution opportunities will continue into February.

Sponsorships and donations are greatly appreciated, but showing up at these fun gatherings is equally helpful. On Jan. 28 at Buck’s T-4 in Big Sky, we will host “Winter Ball for Nepal,” a prom-style dinner and dance for adults. The final fundraiser will take place at Alberto’s in the Town Center for a Valentine’s Day dinner on Feb. 14.

Outlaw Partners (publisher of EBS) gave a $2,500 matching grant to the LPHS Interact Club to help fund their efforts in Nepal.

For more information about how you can become part of Interact’s Nepal experience, contact advisor Dale Palmer at (406) 581-2857 or nordichottub@aol.com, or myself at bellabutler@bssd72.org or (406) 570-8446.