Tyler DeLange believes he has discovered the perfect family bonding experience—complete with an exotic destination, high adventure, and the chance to change lives.
As one of the founders of Family Humanitarian experience (FHe), DeLange is in the final stages of preparing for two such expeditions this summer: one to Guatemala, the other to Nepal.
“We all want our children to learn to be grateful and to help others, but no amount of showing pictures of poor children and families can impact them the way that serving and bonding with them first-hand can,” said DeLange, an emergency physician in the Salt Lake area. “You spend a week with people in these developing countries and your life is never the same, despite going there to help improve their lives. It’s a humbling and inspiring experience.”
While many humanitarian organizations offer trips for adults to get their hands dirty, FHe offers full-immersion service opportunities for whole families, including children as young as 8.
The Brewer family of Minnesota joined FHe for a trip to Guatemala last year and were amazed at how many opportunities there were for their three children, ages 9 to 11, to participate. They helped plant gardens, painted a schoolhouse, and even assisted dentists with tooth extractions. They also got to know the local children.
“My daughter pulled out her fingernail polish, and the kids were so excited, “ said Jennifer Brewer. “They all formed a big line—even the little boys. I think she painted at least 50 sets of fingernails.”
Brewer, a dietitian, assisted the villagers with agricultural planning. Her husband, Jerry, a dermatologic surgeon, removed painful and cancerous lesions from villagers’ skin and taught local physicians how to perform such procedures.
According to Jerry Brewer, FHe allowed his family to experience life in a developing country in a way that regular trips could not.
“There was just something about being right there with the people, walking with them every day, eating among them, interacting with the kids. You can’t get more involved than that,” said Brewer.
But Jennifer said that the most profound result of the expedition came when her family came home with a far different perspective on life.
“It was rather subtle, but I noticed the kids’ conversations shifting from ‘I want this!’ to ‘Wow! We are so lucky to have this,’” said Jennifer.
The non-profit FHe assists communities in developing countries by “giving them a fishing pole”—not just a fish. DeLange said that participants don’t just “get their hands dirty and pat themselves on the back” for a week of service. Rather, they intimately get to know the people they serve and help contribute to long-term sustainable development by supporting education, economic development, and improving health.
“One example of teaching sustainable skills is the neonatal resuscitation training we provide to midwives. In communities with high infant mortality rates, just a few hours of this training can help save many lives. These skills will persist long after we have returned home,” said DeLange.
DeLange said FHe can use people with any skill set.
“Educators help instruct local teachers, individuals with business backgrounds help with economic development, nurses and dentists assist in training local health workers, builders help with construction projects. We’ve never met anyone we couldn’t put to work, though it may not always be in the way they anticipate,” said DeLange. “We’ve put more than one lawyer to work laying bricks and concrete for school and health clinic building projects. In addition, just coming on an expedition helps support our projects”.
While FHe’s summer Guatemala trip is full and running a waiting list, the Nepal trip (July 31 to August 9) still has some spots available. For this expedition, FHe has teamed up with CHOICE Humanitarian and its in-country director Bishnu Adhikari (the highlighted humanitarian in “Meet the Mormons”) to provide sustainable humanitarian service in Himalayan villages.
Expedition costs cover in-country transportation, accommodations (similar to camping), meals, and also support the villagers’ projects. Participants are responsible for their own airfare.
DeLange, who has participated in multiple humanitarian expeditions around the world since 2001, said that his work in Nepal has been especially rewarding.
“The people are extremely welcoming and warm, but also very industrious,” said DeLange. “They are actively striving to improve their current economic situation and the futures of their children.”
DeLange first began leading sustainable humanitarian expeditions when he was a single emergency physician living in the Washington D.C. area in 2009.
“We had a lot of sharp, young, single professional friends and acquaintances that were becoming tired of self-serving pleasure trips and wanted to do something more meaningful with their time, talents, and money,” said DeLange. “The vacations were nice, but could not compare to the satisfaction and fulfillment we felt from serving internationally.”
DeLange actively served FHe’s sister organization, Singular Humanitarian experience (SHe), for a number of years and still actively supports its efforts. Now married with two children, Tyler, along with many other capable family humanitarians in the organization, is providing families with the same unforgettable experience of serving together in developing countries.
For more information or to register for the Nepal expedition, visit http://familyhumanitarian.org
Addendum: This article was written prior to the earthquake in Nepal. FHe leaders have since corresponded with CHOICE leadership and have confirmed that the joint expedition will proceed as scheduled, though specific projects may vary based on the needs and conditions at that time. There is obviously significant need for organized assistance, and this will all be coordinated though CHOICE in-country director Bishnu Adhikari, who is very in touch with the needs of his community. Bishnu and CHOICE have both indicated that the best way to immediately help Nepal at this time is through monetary assistance. Recommended organizations to donate through include: CHOICE Humanitarian, the LDS Church and the Red Cross.