Students united in the spirit of service

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How did you spend your summer vacation?

Nishchal Basnyat went to Bangladesh and worked in microfinance with Nobel Prize winner Grameen Bank.

Nina Vizcarrondo researched the impact of fair trade and agricultural development on a community of Mayan farmers in Guatemala. From Palo Alto, Calif., Liz Altmaier worked with a nonprofit organization connected to community schools in Kenya.

And the list goes on at a nonprofit Web site two Skyline High School graduates created to connect students and share stories about community service projects they're involved in across the globe.

The pair set out to "create something that allows people to see what is going on in the rest of the world," said Omar Musa, 20, now a student at Harvard University.

The idea for theworldblog.org originated when Musa was planning his own trip to Brazil and ran into a friend who planned to spend her summer in Uganda working with an organization that counsels former child soldiers.

"We talked about writing about [our experiences] for ourselves and so our parents could see what we're doing," Musa said.

Musa and his brother Tariq, also a Harvard undergraduate, decided there was enough interest in student projects to merit a full-fledged Web site. With the help of a $1,000 grant from the Harvard Alumni Association of Utah, the two created theworldblog.org.

The Web site now features stories about more than 50 Harvard students spending time overseas.

A map details where each student is located, and as students travel and work, they update the site with stories and pictures from their experiences.

When word spread about the project across the Harvard campus, the brothers had to turn people away to maintain the focus of the site.

Tariq Musa, 19, said he and Omar spent a good part of their finals week working to get the Web site done. It helped that they're brothers, the two said. "We made time," Omar Musa said. "We cut down on our sleep to get it done."

Now that classes are starting again, the brothers will seek out students who can continue to blog about their experiences during the school year.

Hopefully, Web sites visitors will find opportunities to get more involved themselves in global community service. "The goal here is to connect people," Omar Musa said.

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* ROXANA ORELLANA can be reached at rorellana@sltrib.com or 801-257-8693.