Photo courtesy of Dania Del Valle


Dania, left, and Cheryl, her best friend during her 2003-04 IVEP year



I was always afraid and scared to meet new people and to be able to speak the language. I had the best place to work – I was very spoiled! They took care of me and they showed me compassion for people who need it. In my time there, they let me do new things to improve the store, they let me wear funny clothes or my traditional dress just for fun or to show people about my culture. I had a wonderful host family, but with all the ladies at the store, I discovered I had 34 moms.


I didn’t realize how much they invest in me; I thought I was doing just some kind of service there, but they did more. They sponsored me, but they were not only my sponsors, they were my providers in everything I needed while I was in Steinbach. They gave me two days a week to volunteer in a retirement home. They gave me time to do many activities in order to learn new things. They were never just a boss to me, they were family.


In my first months there, I didn’t know what to expect, but they were very patient with my language and even took the time to teach me some German. I wasn’t an employee, I was a daughter to them and they took good care of me.


When it was time to come back to Guatemala, I had 34 invitations to different houses for farewell parties. My friends at work were so kind to me. I had the opportunity to go back and visit some time later, and to my surprise they still had my name tag hanging on the wall and had a picture of me with notes of love – who after six years would still keep those things? 


I believe that no more IVEPers were sent there, but that place rocks!!! I still have contact with some of them; some have passed away but the ones that are still there, still talk about this Guatemalan girl who came and served.