A selfless spirituality is what drives Jacklyn Janeksela of Cambridge.
Making her fifth trip to India in early February for volunteer work, Janeksela had no idea how the growing coronavirus crisis would impact her plans to return home in early April.
“My flights have been canceled numerous times,” Janeksela said
But she didn’t panic.
Instead she went to work teaching art therapy and mindfulness to the Nepalese refugee children at Ramana’s Children’s Home, while also serving food rations to the surrounding community.
“We’re feeding about 70-80 people,” Janeksela said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. government reached out with an offer of a rescue flight home, she said, but there was a catch: “The flight cost will be between $2,000 and $2,500 USD, and we have to sign some promissory note that states that we must pay it back.”
That's about four times as much as the one-way portion of her original roundtrip ticket. And if she defaults on paying the government back, she loses eligibility for a U.S. passport.
“Most of the people who are coming to India, we are not wealthy people,” said Janeksela, “we’re coming here kind of like on a shoestring budget.”
As the U.S. has surged to the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, Janeksela says the people of India are warning Americans of the dangers of heading home.
So for now, she’s taking her chances thousands of miles away from her loved ones.
“And this is a developing country, it’s a third-world country,” Janeksela said. “The irony of it, right? They’re telling me to stay in this country because it’s safer here than one of the richest countries in the world.”
As of right now, Janeksela is scheduled to fly home in June, but she knows that flight may be canceled too.