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Life Lessons from a World Traveler
Life Lessons from a World Traveler
Posted on 06/22/2020
“I really loved the people there; the people didn't have an ego,” said Sabai. “They were so welcoming and heartwarming- that’s something that I miss the most.”

By Stacia Harris
BCS Communications

Original Story Date: February 2020

One student was missing from Owen High’s Mid-Year Graduation Class in January. As students crossed the stage and received their diploma, Sabai Hartwiger was almost 8,000 miles (and a 20-hour plane ride) away in Nepal building houses for those who need it most. 

“I really loved the people there; the people didn't have an ego,” said Sabai. “They were so welcoming and heartwarming- that’s something that I miss the most.”

Sabai knew months ago that he would have enough credits to graduate early. He knew he wanted to take time before going to college to explore and discover more about who he is and where he fits in the world. 

“This would be a good way to do something different and help people that are unfortunate not to have a lot. It’s also a way to help me find out who I am.”

After some research, he was led to the group Woven Earth. This non-profit, among other international service projects, builds environmentally sustainable houses in underdeveloped countries. Sabai worked on two houses; one for a community school and the other for a homeless elderly man. 

“It was a pleasure to have had Sabai join our program,” exclaimed program coordinator Lucas Trotman. “Sabai was fully engaged, giving 110 percent to help complete the project. Building a home is no small task, especially considering the challenges of building in a developing country like Nepal.”

Sabai spent weeks constructing a home that would make a profound difference in the lives of those in the village. While he provided an immeasurable service, he also received a valuable gift. 

“I think I have grown as a person,” explained Sabai. “I think my goal was to find out who I was … I think I’m happier now. I definitely want to travel more and go around the world and stay in that kind of environment. I think It’s so much more impactful. It was definitely enlightening.”

Woven Earth Program coordinator Lucas Trotman was impressed by not only how hard Sabai worked on this project, but how earnestly he sought to connect to the culture.  

Sabai was quick to pick up some Nepali language and had a strong connection to the local community and our group of volunteers. I can’t say enough good things about Sabai,” he said. 

Now that Sabai is back home, he’s looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He plans to work here in Asheville this spring. He’ll head to Appalachian State in the fall. As he gets back to life in Western North Carolina, he’s profoundly changed by being able to help a community that’s a world away. He has a better appreciation for their experiences and challenges and is inspired to find other ways to help make the world a little bit better.


“We’re all human. They’re living halfway around the world, but they are the same as us,” said Sabai. “We all say we want to help; I feel like you need to see [other parts of the world] to want to make a change in the world. You can’t make a change by staying in your house.” 

Self-discovery through valuable community service. It’s one of the many ways Woven Earth is helping make a difference for people and volunteers around the world. 

“I hope that the program will be a memory for him to cherish and reflect on the importance of service and humility as he navigates the next chapter of his life,” said Trotman.

Sabai will participate in the Spring graduation ceremony with the rest of his senior classmates. He says he plans to major in osteopathic medicine, exercise science, physical therapy, physics, or biology. He also hopes to continue his world travels. His next stop? Japan. 

Photos courtesy: Lucas Trotman, Woven Earth & Macie Tremble ('20), BCS Communications Intern Traveling the World

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