The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Passion to serve leads Rice student to help others here, abroad


    Rice University student Melody Tan wants to motivate others to help the less fortunate. Photo: Tommy LaVergne, Rice University / HC
  • Rice University student Melody Tan wants to motivate others to help the less fortunate. Photo: Tommy LaVergne, Rice University / HC

When Rice University student Melody Tan was in junior high, she began to feel a passion to help those who were less fortunate.
"I felt like I hadn't accomplished anything to make my life worthwhile," Tan said. "I hate seeing, hearing of, or even reading about people in pain or need."
At Cinco Ranch High School, Tan began to volunteer helping a group of Bhutanese refugees in the Houston area. She did this by speaking to her friends at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church in Katy.
"I was passionate about service, and the refugees' story is an important issue because over a 100,000 people were forced to leave their home and go to the United Nations camps in Nepal," Tan said. "They're a part of the Houston community now, and many of their needs aren't those met by money, but by acceptance."
Her motivation spread to others, and soon Grace Fellowship youth and classmates began helping collect clothing, shoes, toys and household appliances for the refugees.
When she started college in 2010, Tan joined organizations like the Urban Immersion Program founded through Rice's Community Involvement Center.
In May 2011, after completing her freshman year, Tan and 11 other students traveled to Guatemala for a two-week service project at the mission San Lucas Toliman. When she arrived at the rural village, she saw how devastated the community had been by violence and lack of health care.
"The most moving experience was learning about the history. I heard firsthand the story of a Guatemalan woman who traveled to Santiago to rescue 11 children who had been orphaned by the Guatemala militia," Tan said.
Moved to become involved in human rights advocacy and global health, Tan traveled to the Ecuadorean villages of Planchaloma and Quito in June 2011 after being accepted into an internship with the Rice's Beyond Traditional Borders program, which focuses on addressing health needs in developing countries.
"When I try to push aside my feelings for others less fortunate, I feel like I'm living a lie," Tan said. "As long as I can, and with whatever I have, I will try to make a difference."
A bioengineering major and global health technology minor, Tan wants to do work that combines her interests in medicine and engineering, while improving the quality of life in the developing world.
"I think many people claim to make a difference, help people and save the world, but are ignorant of actual needs and the necessary steps to take them," Tan said. " A good place to start is by reading books, volunteering and praying."
Tan is eager for future projects, including a yearlong commitment to interfaith community service on campus and a trip to Africa. "I don't want people to remember me when they read this, but be challenged to learn about global issues," Tan said.
"I believe everyone should use their abilities in whatever capacity they are given to serve others."

Michelle Reed is a freelancer who can be reached at

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