Photograph provided by Philile Zondi

Philile Zondi, left, with her host sister Nichole Martin, exploring a pumpkin patch near their home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Philile Zondi, from South Africa, writes about some of her experiences as an IVEPer:

My IVEP placement is at Hinkletown Mennonite School in Pennsylvania. I serve as a Pre-K and Library aide, and during my year I get to share about my country and culture with classes from kindergarten to 8th grade. I love working with little children because I learn to be friendly and forgiving. I also learn different American games and it is so inspiring to see little kids who freely share and are eager to teach me new tricks and games every day. It can be challenging to work with people of a different culture, age and background but what makes it all worthwhile is the love and unity that is prevalent at the school among the teachers. The Light of God truly shines bright.

I will never forget a conversation with one of the teachers. She was very much interested in my culture. When she asked me what I missed most I said I miss getting hugs and she gave me a warm hug - that was the best moment! Every single day I see her she is always so joyful and excited to see me and I am truly grateful for that.

Living in a host family has been such an amazing experience. I have such a unique family setting, which is something exciting because I get to see the different dynamics in my family. My host brother Matthew, who is the youngest at home, was teaching me to play Minecraft and the funny thing was I was stuck and I could not get out of a hole. Instead of helping me he laughed and eventually he did help me get out, which was pretty cool. One of the things that surprised me most was the love people have for the fall season, especially pumpkin picking and carving. I could not believe it when I was invited to go pumpkin picking and saw the excitement that people have about this activity. I can now say that I love pumpkin picking and the beautiful fall season with the leaves changing colours and the lovely candles - it is the best season ever. 

I love being in the IVEP program because I get to meet and know young people from different countries and cultures. My greatest encouragement comes from God and my IVEP team members. We pray for one another and always share encouraging messages as we all are in this journey together and show love and care for one another. I am blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to serve and learn here in America. 

By Philile Zondi, from South Africa, placed at Hinkletown Mennonite School, Pennsylvania