In sharing memories from the seventh and final 7 Continents in 7 Years journey, one central theme seems to carry through each attendee’s personal experience: It’s the human connections that are formed that become the most impactful part of the trip.

Connections made with parents and grandparents who are humbly and graciously accepting outside help, with children who are eager to welcome in friendly strangers, and with each other as fellow members of Gen V who share in the simple mission of leaving this world a better place.

Our voluntourists headed out last week to team up with DIGDEEP, a non-profit that brings clean, running water to communities in need. This particular project was set on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico to help Americans living in our own, privileged country receive a basic daily need that we often take for granted.

True, these families will feel the lasting effects of having access to drinkable, running water for years to come. (And, the physical labor involved will certainly be felt for a few more weeks!) However, it’s the feeling left in our hearts that will carry through a lifetime.

As Senior Director of Leadership Development Kim Silvera recalls, there was definitely a lot of hard work put in—she has some great pictures of Ralph Malek getting down and dirty to prove it—but it was the time spent with the children that will stay with her most.

The days were rainy and cold, so naturally the kids needed to find an indoor activity to keep them busy, which wasn’t easy to do in a small house with nine family members, 11 dogs, three cats, and a group of volunteers. Enter Marseil Jackson: Human Jungle Gym. “Those kids just couldn’t get enough of him,” Kim remembers with a laugh.

Kim and Lisa Kenny took turns dancing, tickling, reading and sharing photos of their own kids and pets with the family. It was a time to strip away the layers of differences and unite over the similarities—we’re all parents, children, brothers, sisters and friends.

The strength of the bonds they created was made clear when it came time to leave. As Kim explains, “We were saying our goodbyes, and one of the little girls burst into tears. I told her she was much too cute to be crying!”

Manager of Digital Marketing Danny Mancia felt a similar bond as he helped install solar panels and sinks in two other homes, including one that belonged to Herman. Herman lives alone and is 77 years old (which is fitting, seeing as how this was the seventh 7C7Y trip). He recalls how kind and accommodating Herman was, keeping a fire roaring to make sure the volunteers kept warm in the cold, wet conditions.

_DSC5600Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 4.51.53 PM_DSC5997 _DSC5723