Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This blog is about a year of travel and volunteer service by Steve Grey, Joe Tepe, and David Conway.

Steve and David traveled from July 2008 to August 2009, visiting 26 countries and doing volunteer service in 15 countries with 22 different organizations.  Joe joined Steve and David for the first 5 months, visiting 11countries and doing volunteer service in 8 countries with 9 different organizations.  Our schedule and all our blog entries are listed in the column to the right.

The most meaningful part of our journey was meeting people who are giving their lives away to help others.  If you're interested in reading about the inspiring people we met, here's a summary of the places where we did volunteer work:

  • Honduras - Helped build a small church for a hill village near Siguatepeque
  • Nicaragua - Painted a sports complex for children outside Managua
  • Peru - School for disabled children in the jungle region of Pucallpa
  • Bolivia - Crafts, games, and puppet shows for children's Bible school in Cochabamba
  • Brazil - Children's home for 180 street kids in Campinas and 50 street kids in Vittoria
  • Tibet - Orphanage for 80 children outside Lhasa
  • China - Taught English in night classes to Chinese children in Wuming
  • Vietnam - Orphanage for disabled children in Hoi An
  • Thailand - Home for 120 girls who would have otherwise been sold into prostitution, outside Chiang Kham
  • South Africa - Community development, literacy, and after-school programs for a squatter camp in Kensington
  • Mozambique - Orphanage for 200 street kids plus outreach to people who live at the dump in Maputo
  • Uganda - Vocational school outside Gulu for 60 boys and girls abducted by rebels during the war
  • Tanzania - Sports, games, and after-school programs for hundreds of village children at "Kid's Club" in Kigoma
  • Kenya - School for 100 village kids who can't afford public school and Catholic orphanage in Mashaka
  • Calcutta, India - Boys home for 40 street children
  • Varanasi, India - Day program for 30 train station boys, after-school tutoring,  and Mother Teresa orphanage
  • Indonesia - Children's homes in Gunung Sitoli and Teluk Dalam, Nias and in Denpensar, Bali
We hope this blog inspires you to travel or to volunteer your time to help others at home or around the world.

Best wishes,
Steve, Joe, and David

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


When we realized that our flight from Australia to the U.S. flew through Fiji, we thought, “Why not stay for a week?” So we did.

Fiji is the last of 26 countries we would visit on our year-long trip around the world. We spent a week on Taveuni, one of the remote islands that is known as “The Garden Island of Fiji” because of its abundant tropical palms, flowers, and ferns. Though only about 40 km long and 10 km wide, it is said to have over 200 waterfalls, many of which splash into pools surrounded by lush tropical plants that instantly evoke the feeling of being in a tropical paradise. (And yes, we got to swim in several of them.)

This is Ronna Goldstein and some of the wonderful staff at the Coconut Grove Cottages (www.coconutgrovefiji.com) on Taveuni. Ronna left the U.S. corporate world 18 years ago to open a small restaurant on Taveuni. Over time, she added a few beachfront cottages for guests. TripAdvisor.com rates Coconut Grove as one of the “hidden gems” in the South Pacific and it’s because Ronna and her staff go out of their way to make sure all her guests have a fantastic stay. We’ll always remember the taste and smell of coconut bread, papaya curry, ginger fish and so many other delicious dishes... and how Ronna and her staff made us feel invited into their family. Thanks!

One night some local schoolchildren demonstrated the traditional dance of Fiji – the “meke” - accompanied by the sweet sound of island guitars and ukeleles or the thundering boom of Fijian drums.

Since it was our last week of our trip, we spent our time relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty of Fiji – hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving.

We were thankful to have Simone (shown here with four of his six children) guide us through breaking ocean waves (some as high as 10 feet and looking quite treacherous) when we were kayaking around the island to some beautiful waterfalls and jumping rocks. (Click on the photo of the waterfall to see a larger view of David jumping over the 45-foot precipice).

We also enjoyed two dives on the world-famous Rainbow Reef. It definitely lived up to its reputation with Technicolor fish and coral plus underwater visibility up to 50 meters. One of the dive sites was called “Fish Factory” and it was easy to see why. You could look in any direction and see at least 25 species of stunningly colorful tropical fish.

Taveuni is one of the few places on earth where the International Date Line crosses land. That’s the 180-degree longitude line where one day starts and another day ends, so you can step across the line and be in the next (or previous) day. Thousands of people descended on Taveuni just before January 1, 2000 so they could be among the first people to greet the new millennium.

We wished we could stay longer in Fiji. With its friendly people, soothing island breezes, relaxed vibe, and spectacular scenery, we can see why so many people come to visit but then decide to stay. We think we’ll be back.


With the end of our time in Fiji comes the end of our year-long trip around the world. It has been an amazing adventure that has changed us forever. Throughout the year, we have felt God’s protection and blessing. We are so thankful that we didn’t have any serious illnesses or accidents. And we know that’s because so many people were praying for us. Thank you!

Along the way, we have met many inspiring people. Some have persevered through tragic circumstances to build new lives for themselves. Some are giving their lives away to help others in need. Some are still in the midst of heart-breaking situations trying to find a way out. But all of them have shown us a resilience, perseverance, hope, and faith that inspire us to try to make a difference wherever we are.

And we know that because we are blessed with much, we have an obligation to use what we have to help those in need… not a handout, but a hand up. I was once told that God’s will for our lives is where our talents and passions intersect with the needs of the world. I hope we can all find that place… where we live with meaning and purpose because we know that we are living the life that God made us for.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your love,
Steve and David

Friday, July 31, 2009


1 broken clutch, 2 flat tires, 4000 miles and countless kangaroo road kill. We sure will remember the roads of Australia.

As this is my fourth trip to Australia and I have never been to the west coast, Steve and I decided Perth would be the best place to start. Our first stop was Margaret River, one of Australia’s renowned wine regions. I am not a wine connoisseur but at a ritzy and beautiful wine estate when one sample described as “dry and fruity with a hint of meadow grass” tasted as I would imagine my backyard lawn I figured wine wouldn’t be a bad business to get into.

In Perth we found a tour that went up to Ningaloo reef and Exmouth, where we hoped to swim with whale sharks, with a few interesting stops along the way. Our first stop was “The Pinnacles” which are natural geographical formations but were initially mistaken for an ancient Aboriginal city due to their odd shapes.

I was disappointed when I heard there are no monkeys in Monkey Mia but the dolphins made up for it. Wild dolphins in Monkey Mia have grown lazy or decided that people are better at catching fish than they are, so every morning dolphins swim up to shore for tourists to feed them. From Monkey Mia we drove to Exmouth.

In Exmouth we were able to fulfill one of my life dreams – swim with whale sharks! Swimming within a few feet of the biggest fish in the ocean was quite a thrill! While the whale sharks we saw were about 23 feet, there have been documented sightings of 60 feet and undocumented sightings of over 70 feet.
On the boat ride back migrating humpback whales decided to give us a show! These massive yet graceful whales swam within 10 yards of our boat and one breached (jumped out of the water) 8 times! Or so I am told as I was inconveniently sleeping for the breaching part… From Exmouth we drove back to Perth to catch a flight to Cairns on the east coast.

In Cairns we were able to spend a day with my friend James. I met James nearly three years ago on my first trip to Australia while working on an old Crocodile farm. James is one of the most brilliant and interesting people in the world (and I think I can safely say that after this year). A day with James is always exciting and interesting with his firsthand accounts of near death experiences in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, ocean exploration expeditions, or enlightening you about the marvels of nature. He is one of those guys that you can mention some topic, even something totally obscure, and he knows enough to write a book on the subject. How he can remember it all I don’t know… He also gave us advice and helped us map a route to Sydney so we could see the highlights of Australia within our limited time. Cannot thank you enough James!

With James’s advice we went to Hartley’s Crocodile Farm to see these reptiles and other animals up close. From Hartley’s we went north to Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation, Mount Sorrow, and Shipwreck Bay are not as bleak as Captain Cook (who named them) made them sound. “Cape Trib” is one of the few places in the world where rainforest and reef come within a few meters of each other.

We then drove south to Mission Beach where I lived and worked my way up to Dive Instructor two years ago. I was able to visit a few friends and dive on the Great Barrier Reef. This is Steve demonstrating how to put on a life jacket for a safety demonstration. The guy who you may have mistaken for a movie star standing in the foreground is “Pygmy” otherwise known as Andy who I lived and worked with.

After Mission Beach we quickly drove down the coast to Sydney stopping at Airlie Beach, Noosa Heads, and Port Macquarie, all postcard-worthy examples of Australia’s beautiful beaches and coastline.

We arrived in Sydney just in time to see the main sights and catch our flight to Fiji – our last international stop before returning to the U.S.
- David

Monday, July 6, 2009


From Turkey, David and I flew to Medan, on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. We were excited because we were getting visitors! David's 17 year-old brother Blake and his 15 year-old friend Riley Murray flew in from CA to join us for 3 weeks to help volunteer at some orphanages and children’s homes in Indonesia.

At the end of 3 weeks, here are some of Riley's memories:

"Towering palm trees to black sand beaches, Indonesia is easily the most beautiful place I have ever been. Women working in the rice fields or the children at the orphanages, everyone wants to be your friend. When we arrived at the small island of Nias, I wasn't sure what to expect. The first day, we visited two small children's homes. The first one was filled with younger kids who could play until their arms fell off.

The second home had a wider age range of kids and some who even spoke English. After breaking the ice, we were able to have fun teaching them limbo and flying kites.

After traveling south to the bottom of the island, we spent a week volunteering at a third children's home. The pastor, his wife, and the kids at this home spoke the least English, but with a translator at our side most of our stay, we were able to connect easier with the children.

Our next stop was the island of Bali to volunteer at another children's home. This was the most developed orphanage and had been operating successfully for many years. With just a mama, and a papa, they have developed a system where each of the 64 children has his or her own jobs and chores to keep the home clean and running smoothly. Since these children spoke the most English, we were able to develop the closest relationships and I feel that we made the biggest impact there. We ended the trip by taking 13 of the children on a trip to go scuba diving, something none of them had ever done before."

- Riley Murray
As Riley described, we visited four children’s homes. Our first stop was in Gunung Sitoli on the island of Nias where we met Senta Leo and his wife Aprium.
On the day after Christmas 2004, Aprium and her two daughters, Abbigale and Michelle, were vacationing at a beach on the Indian Ocean. Aprium felt a kind of premonition and called her children in from the beach just before a devastating tsunami swept in from the ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia. As his eyes teared up, Senta told us he felt that his children were spared but that God wanted him to help other children who were not so fortunate, including those whose parents were killed by the tsunami. Leaving a very successful business in Jakarta, Senta and Aprium moved to Nias to start a children’s home that now has about 24 young children, the one Riley said was filled with “kids who could play until their arms fell off” or until ours did.

We spent most of our time at two other children’s homes – one with about 20 children in Teluk Dalam at the southern tip of the island of Nias, and one with about 60 children in Denpasar on the island of Bali.
This is Pastor Lucas and his wife Farida. For the last 3 years, they have been running the “House of Love” children’s home in Teluk Dalam. They don’t have much, but they clearly love the children and treat them like their own (“mama and “papa” to all the kids).
Though you can see holes in the thatched roof and the boys sleep on a wooden platform rather than real beds, the children seem healthy, happy, and full of hope. We spent our time playing soccer and Jenga, drawing and coloring, taking the kids to the beach, and generally trying to let the children know that they are important and loved. Pastor Lucas and Farida are doing an amazing job at giving these children a real home that is truly a “house of love”.
We want to especially thank Saniago Dakhi who spent a week with us in Teluk Dalam as our translator and guide. He is a teacher at a local high school just passed his entrance exam for a Masters program in Education. Saniago was very generous with his time and he helped us in countless ways. Thanks, Saniago. We wish you the best!
Since the children were in school on some mornings, we had a few hours to try the surfing at Sorake Beach, near Teluk Dalam. Though we didn’t have the skills to tackle the world-famous big waves at Sorake (where they hold international surfing competitions), there was a great beach break for beginners and intermediates just a few hundred meters away.

On our way from Nias to Bali, we decided to take a day to trek through the jungles of Sumatra to see orangutans in the wild. For the first several hours hiking through slippery jungle trails in the mud, we saw nothing even though our guide was using his best orangutan call (“wooooo-utt”). Finally, we were rewarded with several curious and hungry orangutans who would swing down through the vines to collect our offerings of bananas.

When one hesitant orangutan failed to come down, David decided to climb up to give her a banana treat.

In Bali, we met Sandra and Tommy Elim. Both are native Balinese. Tommy’s father started the first children’s home in Bali in 1963. Now Sandra and Tommy are “mama” and “papa” to over 60 children with no staff beyond their two sons. How does it work? Just as Riley explained, all the children have jobs and chores every day to keep the home running smoothly. We were amazed to see how much responsibility the children have taken, including all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for the home.
Sandra is an amazing woman and an unstoppable force. Decades ago, people began to hear about this humble Balinese woman and her husband (who is also a pastor) who were tirelessly working to improve the lives of children. Sandra, who had never been on an airplane, was invited to speak in foreign countries and at international conferences. Now she has a network of donors from around the world to help sustain the children’s home. And the children we met were amazing. As Riley mentioned, many of the teenagers spoke some English, so we were able to learn some of their stories and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Some want to work in the tourist industry at a hotel or on a cruise ship. Some want to be engineers or work in the government. But all of them seem to have hopes and dreams… dreams that wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support of Sandra and Tommy.
After almost 3 weeks, it was time for Blake and Riley to head home. We loved the time we got to spend with them and were impressed that they had the initiative to join us in Indonesia. They both had great attitudes and were always eager to spend time with the kids. Many children we met in Indonesia will never forget their smiles, enthusiasm, and the love they felt from Blake and Riley. Thanks for coming guys… you made a big difference in the lives of many kids!

- Steve