A world of experience

Clare and Helen O’Brien

Photo By C. Moore

Clare (left) and Helen O’Brien, 14 and 12 respectively, participated in the Semester-at-Sea program in the fall of 2005. Approximately 100 days on a ship allowed the girls to study abroad and learn the ways of the world. They formed their own charity, Kids Supply International, in order to purchase school supplies for kids in Third World countries. Besides being worldly, these home-schooled Chico girls are intelligent, friendly and precocious.

Where did you get the idea to start supplying international aid to school kids around the world?

Clare: I read that in some Third World countries pencils and paper can be outrageously expensive, so we decided if we meet some kids, it would be nice to get some [school supplies] to give them. We went to the garage and dug up a bunch of old toys and had a garage sale.

Helen: With the money, we went to the dollar store and bought lots of pens, pencils and notebooks and stuff, and we gave them out at a Vietnamese orphanage.

You sailed around the world on a cruise ship. Did you ever get seasick, or was it smooth sailing?

Helen: In the beginning, it was smooth sailing. Around India and around Japan, it was pretty rough. Clare didn’t get very seasick. I did. [Laughs.]

Clare: Yeah, she was really sick. Especially as we were going around the edge of Brazil, we got our first bad weather, and everybody was so sick; they had to project classes into rooms via television.

What, in retrospect, is the coolest place you visited?

Clare: I would definitely have to say Burma, because we got to see all of these amazing little temples and visit them and climb them. Everywhere else you could see Pepsi ads, you could buy a candy bar, but here it was really different.

Helen: I really enjoyed Burma also. I also have to say that Japan was one of the coolest countries, because the ryokan [a Japanese traditional inn] was amazing and we visited all these old temples. I like Japanese pagodas.

Despite obvious cultural differences, did you find you were pretty similar or pretty different to other kids your age around the world?

Clare: Going on this trip made me realize how lucky I am to be an American, because who knows what these kids would be like if they grew up here and had the same opportunities I’ve had. They still like to play, want a better future, and I think for what’s important we’re pretty much the same.

Helen: I couldn’t see any differences.

You started a charity. Is Kids Supply International still up and running?

Clare: No, because we’re not going around the world, but if we do go to a foreign country again, we would probably do the same thing. It was a good opportunity to meet kids and play with stickers.