From North Central College
At , the summer serves not only as a time for relaxation and renewal, but also as an opportunity to reach out to others around the world and offer support and fellowship.
Two North Central athletics department staff members are taking advantage of that opportunity over the next three weeks as they lead a group of five students on a service trip to the Republic of Kenya in East Africa.
Coordinator of recreation and assistant athletic facilities and events manager Lydia Pond and graduate assistant coach for women's cross country and track and field Nathan Warstler, class of 2011, is leading a group of five North Central students on a trip organized by the College's Office of Ministry and Service.
The group will be spending time volunteering and visiting homes for street children, visiting education and community development organizations in Kibera, the world's third-largest slum, and learning about microfinance and sanitation projects in the slums as well.
“Anyone can go on vacation, but if you can use that time to do something that impacts a life, that's much better,” Pond said. “I've accepted the fact that it's probably going to be a life-changing experience. It's a small group, so we have more opportunities for connections and personal growth as a group, and if we come back having made a difference in even one person's life, that's good enough for me.”
The group will also visit a completely sustainable village created to rebuild the family structure for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
The opportunity to work with young people and see the world through a different light appealed greatly to Warstler, who will be venturing outside the United States for just the second time.
“I think what we're going to see will give us all some different perspectives on our own lives,” he said. “A lot of what we're doing is visiting organizations that already exist. We're going to be outreaching with a lot of youth, and I don't know if we're going to make a huge impact, but we're definitely going to help continue some of the operations that are already going on.”
One of the students making the trip, Callie Rezin, class of 2015, is preparing for her sophomore year at North Central and is a member of the women's basketball team. She views the excursion, the seventh student trip to Kenya organized by the Office of Ministry and Service, as a natural extension of the mission trips she participated in with her church in her hometown of Rockford.
“I've done mission trips in the U.S. with my church, and they were some of the best experiences I've ever had,” she said. “I wanted to go further than the U.S., and when I found out about going to Africa, I decided that was for me. I've always wanted to go to Africa.
“They did tell us that we have to mentally prepare before we go into the villages and meet people. Some of the stuff we're going to see is going to be said. We want to bring happiness and good energy when we go in, so we definitely have to prepare. I'm just excited because we want to let these people know that we're thinking about them and we care about them, and we want to shine God's light for them.”
The group is scheduled to return from Kenya on Aug. 5.
Each year, more than 1,000 North Central students give more than 21,000 hours toward service and volunteerism. Many classes include a service-learning component, and all of the College's 60-plus student organizations plan at least one service project throughout the year.
To learn more about service and volunteer efforts at North Central College, visit northcentralcollege.edu/content/serve-others.