Krystin, Judith and Shirley at the Forks
MCC Photo/Katie Froese

From left to right: Krystin Kotze, Judith Hege and Shirley Vaca Vargas at the Forks in January 2017.

Every year Manitoba becomes a second home to young adults from around the world through MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). IVEP provides an opportunity for young adults to live and volunteer in Canada or the U.S. for one year, making friends across cultures and joining a local church community.

This year three IVEPers were hosted in Manitoba. Judith Hege (Dresden, Germany) volunteered at Winnipeg Harvest; Krystin Kotze (Johannesburg, South Africa) at Thrive Community Support Circle daycare; and Shirley Vaca Vargas (Santa Cruz, Bolivia) at the Indigenous Family Centre.

Earlier this year, Judith, Krystin and Shirley shared about some of their experiences living and volunteering in Winnipeg. Now, as they prepare to return home, Judith, Krystin and Shirley reflect on their experiences over the past year.

It has changed my ways of thinking, it opened my eyes to see some things and customs that I would like to keep from a different culture than mine.

- Shirley Vaca Vargas

What skills has IVEP equipped you with?

Krystin: I have communication skills to be able to talk to kids and to different people… who come by the resource centre... [I have] more computer skills, planning skills for functions, proper handling for food preparation. To be independent and find my way to different places in Canada via the bus.

Judith: I think I worry less and because I was giving a lot of tours at my workplace I got more confident in public speaking. I learned about other cultures and improved my English.

Shirley: Something that I really appreciate from this year is learning to live in another culture and adjusting myself to a new way of thinking.

Describe a time when you experienced God.

Krystin: Throughout my whole trip! There wasn't a moment where I didn't have Him with me… He would show me how much courage I had in the small things like… [making] a food kit or [answering] the phone at the office… He has been my saving grace throughout this trip and I have experienced God in a new way that has made me grow closer with Him than ever before.

Judith: In winter it can be pretty lonely in cold Winnipeg and far away from home. I experienced how God provided for me through meeting people and protecting me on my travels.

Shirley: I have experienced God my whole year in Canada through different times I faced. I love the way that now I can look back and see how faithful God has been with me.

Judith, Krystin, and Shirley pose with fish statue at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre Judith Hege, Krystin Kotze and Shirley Vaca Vargas sightseeing in Sioux Narrows, ON at the end of year retreat.MCC photo/Katie Froese

What will you miss most about Canada?

Krystin: I will miss my family here… and those at work too. They have been with me throughout this year and helped me when I have needed them and [I have] been there for them when they needed me. I will miss the other IVEPers that I have grown close to and my co-ordinator… These people have become my home away from home and I will be very sad when I have to say bye to them at the end.

Judith: The people I lived and worked with. The friendships I made. The water fountains everywhere and not having to pay for the washrooms.

Shirley: I will miss… riding my bike, just enjoying to go to the river to think, read, and pray. Also I’m going to miss people and food.

What is an experience that really stretched you this year?

Krystin: Winter in general. It was very hard for me…

Judith: Walking to my workplace in the blizzard for half an hour. It was extremely cold, very windy, and I could not see anything.

Shirley: My workplace was different than I thought… That was something that really pushed me to seek God´s plans for my life in this year.

These people have become my home away from home.

- Krystin Kotze

Who is someone you will remember for a long time, and why?

Krystin: I will miss my host Alvina… we have grown so close together… She has helped me understand so much about Canada, been my motivation, my other sense of humour in this and a gran to me when I needed my own so much. Alvina's [family] have become my friends… [They] have included [me] in their family without batting an eye that I'm a stranger. I have been blessed with the family I got and I couldn't have asked for better to spend my year with.

Judith: I will remember my friends, host family and coworkers and some of the volunteers for a long time, because I enjoyed living and working in Winnipeg.

Shirley: My host family and my roommate, one of them in specific who has been so nice to me since I met her, my coordinator and the other IVEPers.

Krystin, Judith, and Shirley under a maple tree in Kenora, ON Krystin Kotze, Judith Hege and Shirley Vaca Vargas standing under a maple tree on Canada Day 2017 in Kenora, ON.MCC photo/Katie Froese

How has this experience influenced your plans for the future?

Krystin: This experience has helped me figure out what I want to do when I finish cause I worked with kids and this helped me figure out if I truly want to be a teacher or not and to see if I have what it takes.

Judith: I think I got more easy-going.

Shirley: It has changed my ways of thinking, it opened my eyes to see some things and customs that I would like to keep from a different culture than mine.

I experienced how God provided for me through meeting people and protecting me on my travels.

- Judith Hege

What would you say to people considering cross cultural service?

Krystin: It's [an] amazing experience and I would recommend it so people could get to know other places and to see more of the world. I would warn that it is hard cause you… have to figure out this new place and new rules and people and food. You will feel alone but if you find a good group of people or family, they will help you through anything that comes up.

Judith: It will not always be easy, but you will learn a lot about other cultures, different ways of thinking and life in general. I enjoyed it.

Shirley: I will [say] that [it] is a really hard experience but it is worth it, because you [will] be able to learn a lot more of yourself, God, and relationships when living outside of what is comfortable and known.

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