LIMA — Kristen Rohdes just graduated from Bluffton University with a major in math education. Like many of her classmates, she began looking for a job, but unlike her classmates, the job she interviewed for does not pay anything and is in South America.
On Aug. 14, Rohdes will leave to work for a year at Guarderia Samuelito, a daycare in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Before her departure, she will spend three weeks in training and language school to prepare her for a year of volunteer work, immersed in a culture very different than her own.
The decision to volunteer internationally was the result of another trip Rohdes took last year to Guatemala.
“It was a college trip,” she explained. “I went for three weeks, and I really enjoyed it there. I decided I wanted to take some time to do something for others. I wanted to volunteer a year of my life doing what God wants me to do which is to help others and build relationships around the world.”
Rohdes started researching her options and discovered the Mennonite Central Committee. The organization does placements for volunteers around the world. According to their website, the organization, “works alongside local churches and communities in more than 50 countries, including Canada and the United States, to carry out disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice and peace-building work in the name of Christ.”
Rohdes explained that she first had to fill out an application with the Mennonite Central Committee. “I had to answer all these questions about my skills and what I was good at,” she said. “You get to say your top three choices of where you want to go, and I told them I really wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking country.”
It took a month of waiting before Rohdes heard back that she had been accepted. After she received her placement, Rohdes then had to do an online video interview with the daycare where she was suggested as a volunteer.
“Once a particular placement gets a name,” she said, “you do an interview with that place to see if you fit.”
Rohdes official title at the daycare will be health/nutrition/classroom assistant. Her jobs will include, but not be limited to, working part time with the children, ages up to 5, organizing medications, working in the office and with the parents.
“I’ll basically do anything and everything they ask,” she said. “I’ll be doing a little bit of everything. They have a garden being set up to grow their own food, so I could be working there, too.”
While it costs the Mennonite Central Committee around $10,000 to send each person to a placement, the volunteer has to come up with half of that — $5,000. Rohdes said she is about 60 percent to her goal, but is still in the process of trying to raise the money.
Rohdes’ room and board will be covered while she is in Bolivia as she will be living with a host family.
“I’m really excited about living with a host family,” she said. “I’ll get to see the culture up close and personal. I can go to church with them and go to celebrations. I’m really looking forward to getting fluent in Spanish, too.”
In an odd case of serendipity, Rohdes older sister Maegan Rohdes will also be in Bolivia at the same time, teaching at Highlands International School in La Paz, Bolivia. The sisters are hoping to meet up at Christmas time.
Despite this coincidence, Rohdes said that her sister’s decision to go to Bolivia really had nothing to do with her own decision.
“What really triggered my desire to go was that trip to Guatemala,” she said. “It just happened that we both ended up in Bolivia, probably because we both have backgrounds in Spanish. I just really desired to visit someplace else, besides the United States.”
Even though Rohdes is looking forward to her year abroad, she does have some concerns.
“I guess I’m kind of nervous about finding people my own age to hang around with,” she said. “I’ll be working with infants to 5 year olds all day, and I’ll want to find friends my own age to do things with or play sports with.”
The other thing Rohdes is nervous about is getting sick. “We all got sick on that trip to Guatemala,” she said, “and I guess I’m nervous about adjusting to their food and stuff like that.”
Mostly, though, Rohdes is excited. “I’m really looking forward to working with the kids,” she said. “I have a passion for young people — that what I chose as my career as a teacher. I’m looking forward to becoming fluent in another language, Spanish, and to learning about another culture besides my own. God really opened my eyes on the trip to Guatemala. His presence is everywhere, and he makes everything beautiful. I just really want to see what else God has out in the world.”
To find out more about Kristen Rohdes and her upcoming trip go to https://donate.mcc.org/registry/kristen-rohdes-bolivia.