For Jeannine Curley, life is all about putting things in perspective. Growing up, Jeannine was faced with traumatic life challenges. “As a young person, I felt sorry for myself,” she says. Fortunately, she figured out how to travel and that shaped and altered her life choices forever. “Traveling when I was in my twenties had a huge impact on me, first to Europe and then Asia. It opened me to the realization that my life was actually good. In Nepal, I found such beauty, contentment and generosity—even though people had so little, they were happy. It made me hopeful I could find that in my own life.”
Due to the challenges Jeannine experienced in her young life, she did not complete her high school education, and as a result, felt apathetic and hopeless. However, throughout her childhood, her mother’s Swiss relatives often visited, sparking Jeannine’s life-long passion for travel. “Here were people who spoke different languages and visited new people and places regularly,” Jeannine says. “I decided I wanted to do the same, and worked three jobs to save money for my own adventures. In the 1990’s, I set out on a six-month trip to Asia. That trip stretched into almost two years, including a long stint in Australia.”
After traveling, Jeannine knew she wanted to make more of her life. She says, “I made the decision to go back to school and imagined that one day I would take a group of youth at risk to do volunteer service in Nepal and other places where we could give back. My ultimate hope was to not only help the people we visited, but also to reshape young people’s perspectives, allowing them to realize how fortunate they are and to feel a need to help others, locally, and globally.”
In 1994, Jeannine received her high school equivalency certificate. And five years later, encouraged by her husband and sister, Jeannine pursued her dream of earning a bachelor’s degree at York University in Toronto. She graduated with honors in 2003 with a BA in psychology and humanities.
Moving to San Rafael, California, with her husband the following year gave Jeannine the opportunity to enroll at Dominican University and earn a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Jeannine devotes herself to helping troubled youth throughout Marin County. Still committed to her goal of giving them the chance to broaden their horizons through travel, Jeannine founded Opening the World in 2012.
“The hardest part,” says Jeannine “is raising the money.” With generous support from the community, and fundraising activities such as raffles, holiday gift wrapping, garage sales and hosting community events, Opening the World (OTW) (www.openingtheworld.org) saved enough to travel to Nepal for two weeks in April 2013. There they helped an orphanage, worked with a school, trekked in the mountains, and experienced Nepalese culture. Carmen Ringor, an OTW participant, sums it up this way: “Nepal was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes, mind and heart not only to believe that it was possible for me to get there, but that I could impact other people’s lives as well.”
Jeannine is already planning group trips within the U.S. and to Costa Rica. “I believe we are all on a journey together and we will all need help at some point in our lives,” Jeannine says. “Helping a young person make a better choice and seeing them change and grow is a huge reward. I am inspired by their minds, their talents, and what they have to offer the world. I believe if I help somebody else, just as someone helped me, we can all make this world a more loving and compassionate place.”