Frida Alzugaray
Photo submitted by Frida Alzugaray

Friday Alzugaray, 61, is taking part in MCC's Summerbridge program this summer.

“Hi, my name is Frida and I’m 20,” Frida Alzugaray jokes as she stands up in the MCC Canada lunch room to introduce herself to staff along with 15 young adults from all over Canada.

The 61-year-old retiree is taking part in MCC’s Summerbridge program, an 8- to 12-week summer opportunity for people of diverse cultural backgrounds, usually young adults ages 18-30. Summerbridge participants receive a stipend to serve in their home congregations and communities, taking on important projects and experiencing the fulfillment of Christian service.

Frida Alzugaray (in the black and white shirt) helps sort clothes by size at Siloam Mission with other Summerbridge participants during their orientation in Winnipeg.MCC photo/Natasha Tuininga

Alzugaray is the oldest Summerbridge participant this year, and likely in the history of the program.

When Jorge Hoajaca, the pastor of First United Spanish Mennonite Church (FUSMC) in Vancouver, B.C. invited Alzugaray to take part in the program, she gladly accepted, eager for an opportunity to give back.

“After I accepted the position, I realized Summerbridge is for the young,” Alzuragay says with a laugh. “It’s actually very refreshing (to be with the younger participants),” she says about the week of orientation she had with the other Summerbridgers. “I’m not a self-conscious person and it was a great experience to be there.”

Left to right: Eucarís Vallejo, Natalia Giraldo and Norma Laura Holtz take part in the FUSMC crochet class.Photo submitted by Frida Alzugaray

This summer she’s volunteering with FUSMC teaching women to knit and sew three times a week.

Thought it’s coordinated by the church, the women’s group is more of a community group that serves to support Spanish-speaking newcomers in the area. The women’s group is primarily made up of refugees and newcomers from Mexico and Colombia.

It’s nice that a lot of people who are alone here or newcomers get to meet other women and maybe join the church or at least make new friends." - Frida Alzugaray

“It’s nice that a lot of people who are alone here or newcomers get to meet other women and maybe join the church or at least make new friends. That’s my goal or vision for the group. Not to get members for the church, but to help the community to get together,” Alzugaray says.

Left to right: Liliana Villalobos, Marisol Nacho, Maria Teresa Bernal and Irma Cortes take part in the FUSMC crochet class. Photo submitted by Frida Alzugaray

Two years ago, Alzugaray was working as a branch ambassador at a bank in Vancouver. While she was working, she volunteered as much as possible, but she’s upped the ante over the last couple of years since she retired.

I’m very happy to do this with the women. It’s making my heart very full." - Frida Alzugaray

“I’m always looking for something to do to give back,” she explains. “I’m very happy to do this with the women. It’s making my heart very full.”

Though Summerbridge is intended for young people ages 18-30, MCC is happy to support partner churches like FUSMC to make a difference in their community, no matter the age of the volunteer.

Make a difference