Group photo of the Manitoban SALTers
MCC Photo/Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe

From left to right: Manitoban SALTers Anna Siemens, Annalee Giesbrecht, Stephanie Friesen and Maggie Bergen.

As we near the end of summer and start thinking about going back to school and fall routines, 50 young adults from across Canada and the U.S. are preparing to leave on a new adventure. They will be spending a year serving around the world with MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program.

Annalee Giesbrecht (Winnipeg), Stephanie Friesen (Altona), Anna Siemens (Winnipeg) and Maggie Bergen (Altona) are this year’s SALTers from Manitoba. Before they left for their orientation in Akron, PA, we caught up with the SALTers to learn about their placements and see how they’re feeling about the year ahead.

I know that I have brothers and sisters around the world that I would love to learn from and work with and hopefully teach them something and love them.

- Maggie Bergen

What will your job be at your SALT placement?

Annalee: I will be doing communications for the MCC office in Port-au-Prince, Haiti … writing for the blog and taking photos.

Stephanie: I will be a teacher [or] teacher’s assistant in Choma, Zambia.

Anna: I will be a program assistant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the Cambodian Civil Service Partnership (CCSP), an organization that focuses on political advocacy, citizen rights and citizen engagement. I will be editing reports and working on grant proposals.

Maggie: I’ll be working with a local organization, Sahelian Solutions Foundation (SASOL), in Kitui, Kenya as a conservation agriculture extensionist. They work with the local people, helping them implement conservation agriculture which helps them improve their agriculture and provide food security.

Right away I felt like [SALT] could be a really good fit for me. I feel like this is such a valuable opportunity that combines so many of my desires and interests.

- Anna Siemens

Was there something specifically about the country you’ll be living in that drew you to it?

Annalee: Last summer I read a novel about Haiti and it made me interested in the place. That’s the English major [in me]! [I thought,] “I would like to visit that place if the opportunity ever came up,” but I didn’t imagine I would be moving there for a year!

Stephanie: My church actually has an orphanage in northern Zambia. They’ll be there in February actually. Maybe I’ll get an opportunity to see some people from my home church!

Anna: I wanted to do something that was moving me forward in my career path, something to do with social justice issues [and] office work. So when I found out about this position in Cambodia, that’s when I was really drawn to that country.

Maggie: I was open to going anywhere around the world as long as I could work with agriculture. But Africa’s always been a place that I’ve wanted to go to again and spend significant time there.


Manitoba SALTers eat dinner Manitoban SALTers share stories at farewell dinner hosted by MCC.MCC Photo/Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe

What are you most nervous/apprehensive about?

Annalee: I think it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment living with a family. I’m 28 [and] I haven’t lived with my family for 10 years! I’m sure it’ll be great, but that’s definitely one of the things I’m the most nervous about. And going from a very connected kind of existence to no electricity at home sometimes is going to be definitely a big adjustment.

Stephanie: Just mostly I feel like I’m missing out on things here. I’m missing out on a lot of people’s lives, like my youth kids.

Anna: I am a little nervous for potentially feeling a bit isolated at certain points or not close with people because it takes some time to get to know someone. And maybe a little nervous about how not speaking the language fluently might hinder me from having deeper relationships like I want to.

Maggie: I think I’m probably most nervous for staying with a host family [and] that I’ll want to be too independent. But at the same time I think that’s also going to be a very rewarding, rich experience that I’m going to really appreciate.

I was always wanting to do something more with kids, something further away... then MCC showed up in the bulletin of our church and I started getting really excited about it and figured that was where God’s leading me.

- Stephanie Friesen

What are you most excited for?

Annalee: I’m really excited about the job. I’m excited to be doing the on the ground creative stuff and travelling to different parts of the country, meeting different people and learning about a new place. And I’m excited not to have to go through another Winnipeg winter!

Stephanie: I’m so excited to just hang out with kids! But [also] the culture experience and just seeing a different part of this world.

Anna: I am really excited to become close with my host family [and] friends with my coworkers. I’m really excited to see what the organization does and what my role is. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Cambodian people view development and what’s best for their societies.

Maggie: The people that I’m going to meet. Whenever I’ve travelled or gone anywhere new, what always sticks out the most are the people that impact me and the relationships I get to make and the stories you build between one another. So I’m excited to bless other people and I know I’m going to be blessed by them as well.

[I thought,] “I would like to visit [Haiti] if the opportunity ever came up,” but I didn’t imagine I would be moving there for a year!

- Annalee Giesbrecht

Why are you doing SALT?

Annalee: I really love travelling and I like to learn about new places. I’ve always wanted to do a year overseas in some capacity and this position seemed to perfectly fit my skill set and my job experience.

Stephanie: I was always wanting to do something more with kids, something further away, not in Altona. Then MCC showed up in the bulletin of our church and I started getting really excited about it and figured that was where God’s leading me.

Anna: I was led to do SALT because I knew after graduating that I wanted to do something in an NGO [and] I was ready to do something practical. I was on the MCC e-mail list for their monthly newsletter and there was a link about SALT… right away I felt like this could be a really good fit for me. I feel like this is such a valuable opportunity that combines so many of my desires and interests.

Maggie: It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I felt that God had put on my heart to do some more travelling and it just felt like this was the right time. I know that I have brothers and sisters around the world that I would love to learn from and work with and hopefully teach them something and love them.