Tag Archives: Volunteering

FAQ From the Field

Set the scene. Where are you right now? 

I am residing in the busy little town of Lira, Uganda and commuting each day into the bush to visit villages. Lira is a town that knows no stoplight or bike lane, littering cannot be a fined offense, and people “go on foot” for any journey no matter how far. It is also a town of proud shop and food stand owners, ladies carrying bananas (matoke) on their heads, and jerry cans being used for just about anything (cooking oil, water, garbage bins, flower pots, etc.). When the sun sets this busy town retreats to their villages and turns into an eerie ghost town, but before the sun has time to come up again it is already bustling and alive. The smiles here are contagious.

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What’s the weather like?

Hot, hotter and hottest. Most of my days start off with a nice warm morning watching the sunrise. When the sun comes out to play it heats up fast. However, it is not a humid hot, which is nice. Around 4pm it is the hottest and then a nice rain storm rolls in and cools everything off followed by a picture book sunset. Sunscreen and water have been my best friend.

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What’s the landscape like? What scenes do you see along your travel route?

The landscape goes as far as the eyes can see. Being known for farming, Northern Uganda has scattered fields of sunflowers, pineapples, banana trees, cassava plants, corn stalks, mango trees and the occasional patch of pine trees. Goats run around like dogs and chickens take full ownership of the villages. Along the travel route you are bound to see people bathing and splashing around in small ponds, people gathered under a mango tree for shade playing mancala, and hundreds of vendors selling anything from vegetables, cell phone charging or clothing. Everyone is eager to smile and wave to the foreigner.

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What are the roads like?

The roads are the central hub for activity. Since everyone walks here, the one lane roads have cars, cotton trucks, cattle, bodas, bikes and people all competing for a spot. The red dirt gets thrown about and creates a very dusty scene. Along the roads you see women and children carrying jerry cans on their heads while carrying babies on their backs. Little boys are herding cattle with their little sticks. Everyone has one goal on the roads; avoid the potholes, don’t get stuck in the mud and try not to lose a tire due to bumpiness.

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What makes traveling here particularly challenging?

The lack of road infrastructure and the small paths in the bush that have a million forks vying for you to go their way is challenging. You can get lost easily because all the paths and villages look very similar. When looking for a water site you tend to need village’s guidance on where to go. It is very challenging because everyone knows of a water site and wants to direct you there whether or not it is the right one you are looking for. Also, riding in the truck you get quite the core workout from all the bumps and jostling around that happens. Another challenge is the lack of familiarity. Even though everyone is so friendly and hospitable, it can get lonely not having any familiar comforts from home, but that is how international travel goes! But more seriously, the living situation is so different for the people of Uganda and you get frustrated that you cannot help everyone or provide them basic necessities.

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What makes traveling here awesome and exhilarating?

No place that I have ever traveled has been so remote. You may think you have a route planned out on how to reach a water project and end up going completely the opposite way. The awesome thing about this is the unpredictability. Being in the truck is so fun because many of the paths you think are not passable become a new road due to the truck plowing on through full steam ahead. Here you are liable to meet some of the most inspiring and friendly people just around any bend. People in the villages are so eager to jump in the truck and show you exactly where you need to go so you meet so many characters. Also, wherever you are, you have a panoramic view of some of the most gorgeous views.

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What about your experience has been different than expected?

I am seeing more water sites a day than I had anticipated. Once you plan a day, you realize how close some of the projects are in distance and how easily it is to visit multiple villages. I did not expect Lira to be as big as it is. It is still a small town, however the amount of people in town and on the roads blows my mind. I also expected the villages to be less welcoming of a foreigner but they are always so happy to see me.

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Describe the process of locating a project.

The night before I go out, I plot all of my coordinates on my GPS. I then wake up and during breakfast get on Google Maps and drop pins where I think the turns will be and plug those coordinates in the GPS. I am old school and enjoy doing it this way because it makes it more challenging than having a meter by meter direction guide. (Okay, once and only once I entered the coordinate wrong and didn’t realize it until we had walked 2km out of the way. We laughed it off.) Then, my driver and I hash out where we think it is and take off into the unknown. Once we get close, we ask village people where their closest water source is, if they know the organization and if they can point us in the right direction. Then we turn to the GPS and walk to the point. Once there we look for donor signage, ask the people around the name and gather information.

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What do you notice about the people?

Bottom line, they are the hardest working group of people I have ever met. Everyone is on a mission whether it is to hand plow a field, gather water, crush corn into corn meal or sell their produce. Their energy is high and their personalities are strong. When I enter a village, it takes a minute for people to warm up to the mazungu but after some awkward giggles on my part and smiling, they form an instant connection and make you feel very welcome. Also, many people would label the people as impoverished because they live in huts, but I can tell that they love and are proud of their huts and villages. They worked hard to build what they have and they are very satisfied with living in the middle of nowhere.

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What sorts of activities do you see people doing? What do they do on their off time?

People fill their time with all types of things. The most common is congregating under the mango trees. The children run around and cause mischief when they are not carrying water, in school or helping out in the village. I have noticed many wedding ceremonies, gatherings and meetings. People also love to sit and enjoy the fresh air. It is a very simple life full of simple joys.

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So far, what’s your favorite local food?

The “rolex” or rolled eggs. Two eggs mixed with onion, tomato and other special ingredients all wrapped up in a huge chapati. Chapati is the Ugandan answer to the tortilla and is delicious. I have also enjoyed the cooked matoke, which tastes like potatoes. Samosas are similar to empanadas but have a thinner crust and are deep fried. I also indulge in the banana muffins, pasted peanut flavored chicken, pork and cassava fries, and of course rice and beans.

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Describe mornings in Uganda.

Lira Town comes alive in the mornings. Think NYC minus the skyscrapers, subways and dog walkers. Everyone has a plan and is headed to their little nook of the city. The roads coming into the city are full of walkers from the villages and bicyclists. Early early in the morning there are many runners on the red dirt roads. And as always, bananas are everywhere in the morning.

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Describe evenings in Uganda.

Sleepy and quiet. Many people do not venture out after dark for safety reasons so at around 7pm everyone has made their way home. Before sunset there are always people playing soccer or reminiscing on the day. It is very busy at quitting time with everyone going to the markets but that dies down quickly.

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Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met so far? What’s their story?

Her name is Jenty Samuel Ogoli from the Omanabunga A Village. She moved to the village 40 years ago after she got married. She is a farmer and grows corn and cassava. Her family lives in the village and she has taught her children and grandchildren how to farm. She said her proudest moments are when she can provide the babies in her village with clean water. Her water project currently produces rusty water and they drink from a ground well close by. When I asked her if they boil the water she laughed saying that there is no time. I was sad when she said that but then she said, “We are grateful for this water, even though it is dirty. We love clean water though and our village thrives off of clean water.” Her story was not grand or very unique but her attitude was inspiring. She was grateful to be able to even drink any water because other villages lacked the luxury of having water so close. She hopes for clean water soon to restore her health. Where she lacked in health or clean water she definitely made up for in smiles, laughing and being welcoming.

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Tell us your best story so far!

Literally 10 minutes before this happened I was thinking “I have no great stories”…Today I was being stubborn with my GPS coordinates and insisted that we walk 2km into the bush even though people were insisting there was not a water project out there. My hard headed self led the pack out there only to realize I entered the coordinates wrong. Thinking my crew would be irate with me and want to throw me in the well, I was surprised when they started laughing and saying that we needed the exercise and bonding time. Then when we reached the point, a large group of people were at the site that would not have been had we arrived earlier. The Omanabunga A Village greeted me like I was part of the village and we had a very fun photo shoot. I stayed for an hour and we laughed a lot, they showed me their ground water well and explained how their pump was producing rusty water. Instead of saying why they needed maintenance, the oldest lady there starting acting out how they look when they have clean water and how they look when they drink contaminated water. It was a back and forth charades of standing up tall and proud, and slouching over walking like a granny. As serious as the matter was, we could not stop laughing. To round out the visit, my interpreter was wearing a Kansas Jayhawks Basketball t-shirt randomly, my hometown basketball team, and he told the village that this represented my home. They wanted to take a picture pointing at the shirt to show my family that they support me. This story might not blow your socks off but it was a mix of events that led to a very fun and comical site visit that I will never forget.

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Also, I recently went to Gulu, Uganda to visit my Krochet Kids family. I took a matatu (large van) 2.5 hours up to Gulu and the whole time I sat by a live chicken. I was in the very back row with four people across, inhaling dust and being jostled around by all of the potholes. There were probably 20 people in the van that could hold 10 max. It was quite the experience; I was so happy to get off and stretch my legs because I thought my left butt muscle was going to be cramped indefinitely.

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Show us your local language skills! What have you learned to say so far?

Apwoyo! – hello, thank you, bye, what you say when you don’t know what else to say.

A tya ber – I’m good. How are you?

Ber – good

Mazungu – foreigner (white guy)

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What’s the best part of being a Field Volunteer?

There is no possible way to pin point one exact thing, but the people are what make this worth while. Seeing their culture, hearing their stories, watching them interact, being infected with their smiles and engaging in their lives has been the most rewarding. I love seeing how simple life could (and should) be and I love being reminded everyday that it is not what we have but who we have. Watching their family dynamics is inspiring. Also, I absolutely think it is the best thing to be traveling and adventuring in a new country and rural landscape, all while being the eyes and ears for a fantastic organization and seeing the work that has been done and continues to be done. I also really enjoy learning about the water crisis, seeing what other organizations are doing and hearing the villages input on how to improve water sites. Basically this job rocks and I do not want it to end.

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From the field,

Lucas

PS – Most of these photos were shot with my iPhone…I think iPhone photos can be more candid and raw therefore that is why they are up!

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Peru in Photos

I spent 6 months volunteering with Krochet Kids International and traveling in Peru.

Here are some of my favorite shots and memories…

IMG_1958Lake Titicaca || Puno, Peru

IMG_1900My sister Emily came to visit. IMG_2841Pacifico, Lima, Peru || Home to many KKp beneficiaries.

IMG_9917My new friend and self-acclaimed tour guide, George || Belen, Peru

IMG_1813 Krochet Kids atop Machu Picchu Mountain. #hatsonthings

969691_10200895105913532_692983969_n The #sewperu crew.

IMG_1338 KKp 1st annual volleyball tournament.

IMG_9931 Iquitos, Peru

IMG_2253 So grateful for this little street. || Nicolaza, Lima, Peru

IMG_3646 Dunebuggying and sandboarding || Huacachina, Peru

IMG_1826 Our typical Machu Picchu jumping tourist picture.

IMG_6822 Celebrating with my great friends Lucy and Jacque.

IMG_0141 Dancing with the Bora Indians in the Amazon. || Iquitos, Peru

IMG_7004 Bus riding with Angalo, Emmerson, Estrella and Marisol.

IMG_1047 Arequipa, Peru

IMG_7110 Nike We Run Lima 10K with my dad.

IMG_1371 Champions of 1st annual KKp Volleyball Tournament.

IMG_0688 Colca Canyon, Peru

IMG_9905 Belen, Peru

IMG_6309 Dana and Annie enjoying the ride home in Hank, the VW Van.

IMG_3798 Sunrise || Huaraz, Peru

IMG_0921 Sunrise || Chivay, Peru

IMG_0403 Sunrise || Amazon River

IMG_4137 Last day with my buddies.

IMG_2968 Carmen’s son, Marco, performing folkloric dancing at school.

IMG_4743 Celebrating my 23rd birthday.

IMG_1378 Tyler being Tyler.

IMG_3963 Made it to the top of Huayna Picchu.

IMG_9578 Leonor and Ericka were two of my best friends at KKp.

IMG_2846 A typical housing situation.

IMG_3637 Letting go || Huacachina, Peru

IMG_2485 This little nugget, Estrella, brought me so much joy.

IMG_1571 Emily is the best travel companion.

IMG_2508 Pauly Paul

IMG_3302 One of the main modes of transportation, combis. IMG_2464

Carmen is a knitting expert.

IMG_0261 I hate snakes…when in Rome? || Iquitos, Peru

IMG_7324 Dana, the quirkiest of roommates.

IMG_1420 My nightly run view. || Lima, Peru

IMG_4836 My Peruvian mom and best friend, Chabella.

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A day on the Amazon River. 

IMG_2806 I love this community.

IMG_3872 Lake Charup and KKp + Vans || Huaraz, Peru IMG_2321

Buy a hat, change a life.

IMG_6859 Learning how to knit with Chabella.

IMG_2500 Lunch time chats. IMG_4075

A great friend and mentor, Blake Goodfellow.

IMG_9844 View from Iquitos to Belen.

IMG_2772 A sibling bond unlike any I have ever seen.

IMG_9936 Visiting with George’s family.

IMG_0441 Iquitos, Peru

IMG_1118 Some of the best people I know.

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My First Month in Peru

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do”

– Leonardo da Vinci

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Prior to leaving for my six month trip, some of the labels I used explaining my new journey to Peru included… Community service. Post-graduate volunteering. Mission trip. Charity work. Production assistant intern.

As I sit here on day 27 of my 180 day stay in Peru I realize that none of those explanations 100% accurately depict what this experience is and will be. I realize that this is not about labeling, it is about doing. I am doing something out of my comfort zone. I am doing work that will help me develop my passion. I am doing something to make a difference and expand my worldview. I am doing what others say they wish they would have done at my age. Most of all I am doing this adventure to bring action to my constant “talk” about living my life with purpose and fun. So yes, all of those labels fall into the realm of what I am here for, but they do not give justice to what I am doing here and why I am doing it.

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This first month in Peru has definitely challenged and excited me in many ways. My trip to Lima started in the most predictable way, the word CANCELLED flashed next to my 6 am flight to Newark, and a plane change caused a four hour delay on my outgoing flight from Houston to Lima. My flight finally landed on Peruvian soil at 3:08 am, but thankfully my KKp country director and new friend, Blake Goodfellow, started his Father’s Day morning off by greeting me with a big smile right outside of customs. Moving in to my new home at 5 am went swimmingly and so began my life in Peru.

I live within Lima’s District of Barranco in a great apartment on the first floor of a bed and breakfast with four of the other interns. Ryan, Annie, Dana, Jackie. Very quickly we have fallen into different roles: Dana and Ryan are mom and dad, Jackie and I are the children and we have Aunt Annie. Needless to say we are one big happy family and we are becoming great friends. You can read more about us on the Krochet Kids Intern Blog. Our accommodations are a lot nicer than I expected as a volunteer but I am not complaining. Barranco is a very nice district of Lima and it is situated right along the malecón, the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I have already enjoyed several nice runs along the malecón’s picturesque trail. We are walking distance from the grocery store, restaurants, the bus stop, beautiful churches, the beach and any other entertainment we may think we need. The food is delicious and very cheap; a meal of ceviche, seafood pasta and a coke at a nice restaurant costs 13 Soles or $4.81. I can definitely get used to that! However, I am not used to the gloomy weather yet. Cloudy and chilly. All day, everyday, and it’s not heating up anytime soon. I have pretty much entered into a year of winter because right when I head back to the states it will just be getting hot here. Who needs sun anyways? All in all, I would say I am adjusting well to Lima and can navigate through my neighborhood for the most part.

Krochet Kids Peru

Two and a half years ago Krochet Kids Peru was born. Krochet Kids has been operating in Gulu, Uganda for just over six years and has empowered over 150 women by giving them hope and and a purpose through crocheting and education. When the KKi team was looking to expand beyond Uganda, Lima seemed like a very practical location. They wanted to locate in a place that had great textile and shipping options, and they wanted to empower a diverse group of poverty stricken people. Uganda has been recovering from a span of wars resulting in many impoverished citizens, however Lima’s poverty is more generational. Lima is a city with a large income gap. The middle class barely exists resulting in a huge inequality in wealth. So, to address this issue, Krochet Kids hired my boss Blake Goodfellow and he moved, along with his wife and four awesome kids, to Lima to bring action to a dream and vision. The Goodfellow’s drive and faith has been beyond refreshing to be around. Check out the Goodfellow’s story on their blog. They truly are a prime example of a family doing life for and with others.

KKp has come a long way since its beginnings in one lady’s tiny one bedroom house. KKp operates as an official NGO in Peru and has three different buildings; a two story office and mentoring space, a three story production facility and a childcare center. KKp is located in the Chorillos district of Lima in a town called Nicolasa, which is about a thirty minute bus ride from Barranco. Right now there are twenty ladies, called beneficiaries, in the program and starting next week there will be ten more! The ladies come from different backgrounds and rough pasts but they are all proactively wanting to make their lives better by being a part of Krochet Kids. I am overfilled with joy being around the ladies and seeing the positive gains they are making towards their goals. In addition to the ladies there are full time Peruvian social workers, seamstresses and management all on staff. With the force of about forty-five people, KKp is a busy place. From financial and health classes for the ladies, to making our latest shipment, to cutting fabric for our new “cut and sew” program, to remodeling the mentoring center, there is never a dull moment. Unlike Uganda where all products are made by hand, our ladies have all been trained to use knitting machines which allows for more variety in product and design. My mind was blown when I realized how much work and how many steps each product requires. Also, if you purchase a KKp shirt or sweater rest assured knowing that it was completely made at KKp. The new “cut and sew” program has given more jobs and more opportunity for growth. From cutting the fabric from large rolls, to sewing the shirts together, to adding pockets, to adding labels, to tagging and bagging and finally shipping, it is all done by our team. I could go on for days about the new and exciting things happening at Krochet Kids. Most importantly, the energy is contagious and even though we are all either learning Spanish or English, the spirit and unity is phenomenal.

The Gringo’s #sewperu Top Ten

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1. Waking up to sunshine finally!

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2. Steaming shirts to dewrinkle.

Photo Credit: Ryan Merkwan Dwyer

3. Cuatro de Julio celebrations at KKp.

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4. Buy a Hat. Change a Life.

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5. Checking surfing off the bucket list!

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6. Cooking fresh food in our kitchen.

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7. Hanging out with these awesome people 24/7.

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8. Touring Pacifico, home of most of the KKp ladies.

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9. New KKp signage. “We are the future of change.”

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10. Looking out the window of KKp and feeling at home.

This experience thus far has exceeded any expectations I had coming in and continues to challenge me every day. I am more than excited to see what the next five months have to offer! Oh, I almost forgot! My Spanish is coming along “poco a poco”. Each day I have been learning new words and phrases but it is still an uphill battle. Cheers to becoming fluent in six months.

To keep tabs on me you can follow this blog, read the Krochet Kids Intern blog, the photojournalist Ryan’s blog or check out our hashtag #sewperu on Twitter and Instagram!

Credits: Photos from Ryan Merkwan Dwyer and my Instagram

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My New Journey of Adventure and Empowerment

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As many know, I have danced around with several possibilities as to what I should do after graduation. And, as some of you may or may not know, I am receiving my degree in Social Entrepreneurship in ten days and I am sort of an unconventional business student; I have no desire to wear a tie to work, I do not want to sit in a cubicle and I do not want to work for a giant corporation. So, to make these unconventional desires a reality I spent this past year connecting with as many like-minded people as I could to expand my knowledge of the social enterprise world. From road tripping to California with my best friend visiting socially driven companies in the fall, to becoming involved with Silicon Prairie News and the Big Series in Omaha, to living and working in NYC for a month, I have tried to put myself out in the world to take advantage of the endless opportunities and to initiate as many conversations as possible.

After many months spent procrastinating school work by looking at job opportunities, tweaking my resume over and over, and making tough decisions that could potentially affect my career, I have finally accepted a job offer! I am incredibly humbled, grateful and excited to announce that as of June 15, 2013, I will be embarking on a six-month volunteer journey with…

Krochet Kids International to Lima, Peru! 

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Krochet Kids International is a non-profit organization that I became a huge advocate for after visiting their HQ in the fall. I fully believe that they best fit and align with my life values, goals and desires. Krochet Kids mission is to empower people to rise above poverty. To make this mission a reality, KKi believes that all people can grow holistically and enrich their lives if given an opportunity. They employ women in Northern Uganda and Lima, Peru who have backgrounds filled with poverty, low wages, little hope, but have the potential to do great things in the world. They make handmade crocheted hats, scarves, shirts, headbands and other fashion items that are then sold all over the world. Krochet Kids pays a living wage, provides job training and growth opportunities, facilitates mentoring and education classes, and most of all provides hope within impoverished communities.

Kohl Crecelius, co-founder of Krochet Kids, explains more about KKi and talks about using your passion to make a difference.

Krochet Kids added their Peru location about a year and a half ago so I am very excited to use my entrepreneurial skills in my Production Assistant Intern position. I will have a hand in all things business related in the operation. I will deal with quality control, shipping, inventory, product development and get a little taste of everything Krochet Kids Peru has to offer. Alongside me will be three other Production Assistant Interns and a Photojournalism Assistant intern. We will all live together in an apartment in the Chorrillos District of Lima. I will be entering Peru right as their winter is beginning, so I will experience mild temperatures and a heavy fog called garúa. Aside from working, I am excited to learn Spanish and to learn more about Peruvian culture. Lima is a fairly large city so I will experience new foods, music, styles and people. Also, I may have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest. Even though Lima is a large metropolitan city, there are a large portion of citizens who live in poverty every day. I am eager to learn and see how the different demographics interact and how Lima is addressing the needs of the impoverished. To say that I am completely stoked to live in Peru is an understatement!

This is Jacque’s story, one of the women working with KKp. This video exemplifies the positive impact Krochet Kids is having in Peru.

As I mentioned above, this is a volunteer position. Am I nervous or concerned about not getting paid? No. I trust that everything will work out the way it is supposed to. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to go to Creighton University for the past four years, where we were encouraged everyday to live out the Jesuit teachings to be men and women for and with others. Service was a large influential portion of my college career, from going on service trips to West Virginia to volunteering as a mentor at a local high school. I feel called to use my skills and attributes in a positive way to make a lasting impact on people. There is no better time to answer this calling than when I am 22 years old without any attachments. I hope to grow more than I ever thought I could and I hope to challenge myself everyday.

This was part of my acceptance letter to Krochet Kids Peru…

Our hope and vision for these coming 6 months is that they will stretch you in a unique way.  From being immersed in a new culture, to learning the behind-the-scenes of what we do, to using- and growing- your skills and gifts for a cause you believe in, we want this experience to shape you for the future.  

You will be challenged.  You will challenge others.  Your worldview will be expanded.  And our goal is that by the end of your time with us, you’ll feel more prepared to take next steps toward your career and life dreams. 

Now that’s what I am talking about! Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way of finding my passion. I am excited to share this adventure with you! Follow this blog for all updates.

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Check out their products at www.krochetkids.org

* If you would like to donate to help me fund this journey, you can directly donate to me, or at www.krochetkids.org/donate. Write For Lucas Turner in the “write a note” section, and email nic@krochetkids.org to notify him of the donation on my behalf. All donations are tax-deductible. Do not feel obligated at all to do this. Thank you very much for your support!

Credits: Photos and Videos from krochetkids.org

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