COLLEAGUE YEAR: 2018
PLACEMENT: Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos
Not knowing any international service volunteers, Thomas Dempsey was both excited and apprehensive about starting service in Parramos, Guatemala. “Sharing my concerns and hearing from people at the Krista Foundation conference who have been through it all was a real comfort to me,” he says. Now deep in the “whirlwind learning experience” of a new language, culture, and community, he is putting the wisdom of his peers to work.
Besides spending time with the youth who live in the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos community, Thomas has been asked to develop a recycling and composting system. The environmental sciences graduate was eager to begin but wasn’t certain whether the project was right for the home. His cohort’s orientation workshop “Staying for Tea” gave him practice grappling with the ethical complexities of serving effectively.
“The workshop’s ideas about entering a new community or culture and tapping into the human element of work and interaction helped,” he says, “especially the part about really sitting down and hearing from as many people as you can.” After slowing down and talking with stakeholders, he began to feel more comfortable about proceeding.
“Communicating the why of recycling has been challenging, but people are really taking to the idea and it seems like every week we are making progress.”