Colorado Christian University Alumni Heal a Himalayan Community

Each year, Colorado Christian University (CCU) organizes a series of student-led mission trips known cohesively as "CCU2theWorld" to communities around the globe. For nearly five years, CCU graduates Ryan and Amanda Phillips have led the annual trip to India, where students serve alongside villagers in extensive and manual trail reconstruction to connect backcountry villages to the outside world. Having lived nomadically during the past half-decade between South Asia and the United States, the Phillips currently reside near the border of Nepal in the remote hill village of Daragaon in West Bengal, India.

Daragaon is located 30 miles south of Kangchenjunga, a Himalayan mountain widely considered the third highest on earth. Villagers are entirely dependent on a series of footpaths for access to city marketplaces where they sell their produce to earn a living and purchase supplies to bring home. Carrying loads that weigh upwards of 130 pounds, they tread for hours to and from the city along treacherous trails made worse by the monsoon season. Associated with Christian humanitarian organization International Development and Educational Associates (IDEAS), the Phillips' work initially focused on reconstruction of these vital transportation arteries. But Ryan and Amanda soon noticed other significant problems in Daragaon and the surrounding settlements.

The local educational system was in a miserable state, plagued by rotting facilities, low literacy rates, and teachers that did not seem to care. Lack of medical knowledge and inaccessible professional facilities had also turned relatively simple healthcare and childbirth issues into major emergencies, dramatically increasing the mortality rate. Ryan teamed with educated locals to build and operate a new primary school -- having just concluded its second year of classes, the school has nearly 70 students enrolled in the nursery through third grade levels, many of whom are performing at standards several grades higher than government school counterparts.

During 2006, Ryan and Amanda also completed a medical training program in the United States. Ryan was trained as a mission medic and Amanda as a midwife in order to provide primary medical care, education, and maternity services overseas. Construction is currently underway on a community health center in Daragaon that the Phillips plan to open this spring. Built and funded without government support and by volunteer manual labor, the facility is projected to rival any other in the region.

"We hope in some small way that Christ will be incarnate in our village -- that our neighbors will experience Him in clean bandages, a stone path beneath their feet, and the education their children are receiving," Ryan stated. "Development, aid, and charity work is simply a medium for making Christ tangible."

Learn more about CCU mission trips by visiting the CCU2theWorld Web site.