Wanted: Short-Term Volunteers
ER is expanding our after-school program in South Africa and has openings for short-term volunteers. This opportunity involves instructing kids from local settlements who are in need of homework help and extracurricular activities.
Volunteers would join our staff at the ER Dream Centre facility in Cape Town. Typically, volunteers commit to three months to one year and raise their own funds. ER provides on-boarding/onsite support.
Gapper Thrives in South Africa
(Jan. 8, 2018)
“I found out about the Global Gap Year Fellowship (GGYF) program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The description was more than intriguing: a year of service abroad before going to college, ” Shelby shared.
“This was my chance to get away from the everyday classroom-based learning environment and experience life in a new way. I knew I had to apply.”
Shelby signed up with ER in South Africa. Read more:
David’s Story: From Dump Duty to President of Linguava Interpreters
By Tim Fausch, ER Communications
(Aug. 10, 2017)
“‘The secret to living is giving’. That concept has really impacted my heart.” – David Brackett
While in his early twenties, David Brackett traveled thousands of miles to change the diapers of infants and work in the Quito Dump Daycare. Diaper duty wasn’t highlighted in his short-term volunteer job description, but David went to Ecuador willing to serve others – even if it meant tackling some stinky challenges.
David had heard about ER from his cousin Jay and decided he wanted to experience life as a short-term volunteer. He came for two summers in 2004 and 2005, for about a month each time.
He stayed with Jose and Teresa Jimenez, who continue to serve the families of recyclers through ER’s Quito Dump Program. They are highly regarded for their compassion and expertise in counseling, mentoring, nourishment and training women and men in life skills.
“I went to Quito to get out of my comfort zone and serve at the Dump Daycare (renamed the Child Development Center). I mostly cared for the kids at the daycare. I got to help build things that were needed at the daycare and help with other projects at ER.
“I also got to participate in a couple projects that helped impoverished Quito families. I went wherever ER needed me. It was a mountain top experience and Jose and Teresa treated me just like family,” he added.
During his time in Quito, David was working as the Student Coordinator at Semester in Spain, an international school, where he worked for five years. He had summers off, which allowed him to travel to Quito for his volunteer stints.
After his time in Spain ended, David returned home to Portland, Oregon, fluent in Spanish. He had to figure out what to do with his life. He realized his experience with language and culture was in great demand.
“I loved interpreting, connecting people of different cultures. I saw there was a huge opportunity in the U.S. for these skills. I started working full time as an interpreter.
“Over time, I realized there was a better way to provide language services. Many of the interpreters were being treated poorly. I had a vision for how a company could succeed and treat employees well.”
So in 2010, with the help of his family and friends, David launched Linguava and started knocking on doors.
“We grew a little each month. It took a lot of recruiting to find the right people. I had to do a lot of networking. We encountered plenty of growing pains, but today we offer interpreting services in 150 languages.
“My game plan going in was and still remains to put people first and create above and beyond experiences for all stakeholders. I knew we would be a full service agency – meaning provide in-person, telephonic, and video relay interpretation and document translation. Each segment has its own certifications and requirements.”
Today Linguava is thriving and enjoys a positive culture among the staff. This success led David, Linguava’s president, to contemplate what to do next.
“What is going to be really fulfilling for me is touching as many lives as possible to give back. I feel like God is blessing me with a lot of resources and I want to use them to help others.
“I’m still figuring out what this means. I’m starting with making a commitment to incorporate charitable contributions into our business model. I shared the vision with my staff that we would help fund ER projects around the world and slowly build our investment.
“One day, we hope to send some of our staff to see these projects that we’ve helped fund.”
Madison Teaches Dream Centre Kids To Swim
(Feb. 27, 2017)
Madison Drescher is a recent graduate of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, with a Bachelor of Arts, Honors degree in International Development. She is serving as a short-term volunteer with Extreme Response in Fish Hoek, South Africa. Here she shares about a unique opportunity she’s enjoying at ER’s Dream Centre.
The Extreme Response Dream Centre has helped change the lives of South African children in a variety of creative ways. In addition to providing a safe after-school tutoring and homework help program to children in the Cape Town suburb of Fish Hoek, the Dream Centre has taken kids on a safari drive, given music lessons and offered the opportunity to join a running club.
As a volunteer with Extreme Response, I have been blessed to be part of this creative work by teaching 15 Dream Centre kids to swim. I first heard about Extreme Response through a family friend and was drawn to the idea of going to South Africa. I had always dreamed of visiting Africa, so when I heard about a possible internship in South Africa, it seemed like the perfect fit for me.
Working at the Extreme Response Dream Centre truly has been a life-changing experience. The kids who attend the after-school program have changed my life. They are amazing children, and I feel blessed to be able to work alongside them.
I’m also working at God’s Little Lighthouse, a pre-school operated by ER partner ATAIM. God’s Little Lighthouse is located on the same property as the Dream Centre. I work at the Dream Centre Monday to Friday in the afternoons, and at God’s Little Lighthouse Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning. I assist the kids with homework, feed them, help deliver daily devotions, and of course play with them.
Back home in Ontario, I am a lifeguard and swimming instructor. I have been teaching for seven years and my experience includes instruction in the Red Cross Swim Kids program. I’ve always had a passion for swimming and educating people on the importance of water safety.
It’s especially important for children to learn how to be safe around the water, and with Fish Hoek situated on a bay, it made perfect sense to introduce swimming to the Dream Centre kids. Some of them have never had the opportunity to learn any basic swimming skills, even though they live extremely close to the water.
We’re working on things like front and back glides, front and back floats, front crawls, back crawls, treading water, and much more. Although I’ve only been teaching them for a few weeks, I can already see a huge difference in their skill level. I find great pleasure when I see a child gain comfort in the water.
Being in South Africa is an amazing experience! I am having the time of my life, and I know it will be extremely hard for me to leave here without tears in my eyes. I have made lifelong friends, and created relationships that I hope will last forever.
I know I will return, and I hope to return and see how much the children at the Dream Centre have improved. I can honestly say I am already planning my next adventure here.
Want to help the kids at Extreme Response’s South Africa Dream Centre? Consider sponsoring a child who needs a scholarship to attend the Dream Centre. It’s amazing how a few dollars a month can change the lives of these students. Click here to learn more. Click here to sign up in the U.S. Click here to sign up in Canada (select Extreme Kids – Africa Scholarship Fund in the drop-down menu).
ER Volunteer Invents ‘The Shoe That Grows’
By Tim Fausch, ER Communications
(July 15, 2017)
After graduating from college, Kenton Lee thought he might become a missionary. He wanted to help people, especially kids, and set out on a journey to discover his life course.
Having grown up in the small town of Nampa, Idaho, Kenton, did not have much experience with international travel and different cultures. He was searching for his next steps and found out about Extreme Response’s short-term volunteer program.
Kenton volunteered to serve with ER in Quito, Ecuador in 2007 and lived with a host family for several months. While in Quito, he helped with some short-term teams and served at ER partner Pan de Vida.
“I went to Ecuador fresh out of college,” Kenton shared. “It was a fantastic experience. I had never been in an international city as big as Quito. I saw people from all classes, including lower income people who were struggling for food, clothes and shelter. It was eye-opening. Getting to know these people personally had a big impact on me.
“I felt so supported at ER. It was well-run and had a direct impact on me. ER was doing it right and I knew that I wanted any organization I joined to be similar to ER. I couldn’t ask for a better experience.”
A few weeks after his time with ER ended, Kenton traveled to Kenya to live and serve at an orphanage with 140 kids. A month into his tenure, he had an a defining moment that would lead to inventing The Shoe That Grows.
“We were walking to church one Sunday morning. I’ll never forget this one little girl. She was wearing a white dress. I looked down and couldn’t believe how small her shoes were. The front of her shoes were cut open to let her toes out.
“This really bugged me. It was a very poor village in a poor country. I saw many other kids with shoes that didn’t fit, or no shoes at all.
“So I asked one of the leaders why the kids didn’t have shoes that fit. He said they had received donated shoes a year earlier, but the kids had outgrown them. That was the problem – kids always keep growing.
Kenton spent four months in Kenya before returning to the U.S.
“When I got home, I realized I could not become a missionary. I missed Idaho way too much. But I wanted to help and thought, ‘what can I do from Nampa?’
“I read my journal and found my entry on the shoes. I grabbed some friends and shared what I had seen. We decided to create a structure to get the shoes produced and launched Because International in 2009.
“We spent most of the next five years failing and struggling. We tried to give the idea away. We approached all the shoe companies. Everyone said ‘no’.
“So we tried to produce it ourselves. We made some really terrible prototypes. Fortunately, we found a small shoe company in Portland and they produced a good prototype after about one year later.
“We went back to Kenya with about 100 of the prototypes and distributed them at four schools and had the kids test them for a year. After getting their feedback we produced our first run of 3,000 shoes in October 2014.
“We had a story written about us that went viral. In one day, I got about 2,000 emails and 500 phone calls. People wanted to know how they could get the shoes or volunteer with us. It was an overwhelming, crazy couple of months. We received a lot of donations which positioned us to expand our team to six people.”
With the shoes functioning well, Kenton, now 32, and the team at Because International have expanded their vision, including setting up manufacturing in Ethiopia and soon in Haiti, plus creating new products.
“The shoes are doing great. They make a big difference in protecting kids’s feet, helping them be healthy, confident and stay in school. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference in kids’ lives. We’ve now produced 100,000 pairs and they are in 89 countries.
“There are 300 million kids without shoes in the world. We plan to take a bite out of that number. We are working to produce the shoes in factories in the countries where they are distributed in order to bring jobs in production, warehousing and distribution.”
Because International’s vision is expanding to meet other health needs found in developing countries. They are now testing a prototype mosquito net called “Bednet Buddy” to help prevent malaria in three African countries. They are targeting late 2017 to make it available.
“Kenton had an impact when he served with us in Ecuador,” said ER president/CEO Jerry Carnill. “He recently shared with us how ER staff and those we serve impacted his life.
“We will be taking several pair of The Shoe That Grows with us to Kenya,” he added. “We are excited to work with Kenton and his team to provide shoes to kids across our regions.”
Because International is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and partners with other organizations to get shoes into developing countries. They provide shoes for $15 each and ship groups of 50 in big duffle bags.
Unfinished Business: Visit Inspires Olivia to Return
(Jan. 26, 2016)
Olivia Hoppen was part of a team from Muskegon, Michigan that served with ER South Africa in May 2015. Her experience was so profound, she plans to return for a month-long internship this spring. She shares her story here:
When people ask me about my time with Extreme Response in South Africa, I can’t help beaming with joy. From the moment I got an email out of the blue about joining the team, to the moment I got home, it was clear that I was meant to have this experience.
My team had the opportunity to work with several ER partners while we were there. We toured the Cape Town Aquarium with African Hope Trust, spent our mornings painting and playing with children at God’s Little Lighthouse, and in the afternoons helped run sports camps alongside ER staff and life skills educators from Living Hope.
I have countless stories from my time in South Africa, but one that sticks out the most comes from the sports camp in Masiphumelele Township. Because of my lack of soccer skills, I worked with the preschool group. The first day of camp we had about 25 kids; by the last day we had around 130 – talk about overwhelming!
Since these kids were too young for school, only a few of them understood English, but they were still excited about our time together. We sang simple songs, which they quickly learned. During this time, one little boy caught my eye. I reached out to make friends with him, but whenever I looked the other way, he would wander off by himself. I grew to love this little boy even though he was a bit of a troublemaker,
On the next-to-last day of camp, one of the ladies who works with these kids every day told me his primary caretaker at home is his 6-year-old sister (who also attended the camp). Though I was heartbroken to learn this, I had peace knowing that through Extreme Response and Living Hope he is being loved and has some of his basic needs met.
Even before I left South Africa, I knew my time there would not be enough. I had fallen in love with South Africa and knew I would leave part of my heart there. I immediately started talking to ER’s Lindsey Fisher about the possibility of returning, and eventually the opportunity arose to go back as an intern for the month of May. Primarily, I’ll be working with God’s Little Lighthouse and the ER South Africa Dream Centre.
I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity because it is something I feel very called to do. Because I’m majoring in social work and minoring in youth ministry, I also see this internship as an opportunity to further discern what my future entails. I am so grateful to Extreme Response for this opportunity to serve!
Volunteer Continues Investing in Dream Centre Kids
By Amy Townsend, ER Dream Centre
(July 28, 2017)
Three years ago, Olivia Hoppen from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, traveled to South Africa with a team to serve ER’s South African partners.
God’s Little Lighthouse greatly benefited from their work, which included
painting and spending time with the children. As the team left, Olivia remembers thinking she would one day return. She did just that, as a short-term volunteer, each of the past two years.
And Olivia’s commitment to God’s Little Lighthouse, the adjacent Dream Centre and the children of South Africa is not limited to her time on the ground in South Africa. It’s demonstrated throughout the year as she, her friends and her family provides monthly scholarships for two children at the Dream Centre.
In fact, Olivia and her family were the first to fund such a scholarship.
She writes: “I cared deeply for Chris the first time I saw his beaming smile and bright eyes on my first trip to South Africa. Every morning when my team would arrive at God’s Little Lighthouse, he was the first one to run up and give me the biggest hug. As the week went on, I got to know slivers of his story and all that he has been through, yet he remained to be so joyful.
“My connection to Chris has grown through subsequent trips to South Africa. My family started sponsoring him after the first trip because I could not stop thinking about this little boy. He is also one of the only kids who has remembered me from year to year, and I am sure that is because I try to spend intentional time with him while I am there.
“This past year I had the amazing opportunity to work with him one on one each day at the Dream Centre. He had fallen behind in school, particularly in reading. When we first started he could only recognize about half the letters of the alphabet, but by the end of our month together he was reading three and four letter words. Seeing the pride he had in how far he came made every minute so worth it.”
The scholarship program helps provide a hot meal, homework help, tutoring, snacks, character training and a safe place every afternoon after school. Olivia has seen first hand the day-to-day workings of God’s Little Lighthouse and the Dream Centre.
More than 50 percent of the scholarships are provided by people who have been to the Dream Centre and met the children.
“While we set up the scholarships as a way to fund the program, we are actually seeing benefits that outweigh those financial benefits,” says Dream Centre Director Ron Townsend. “We are seeing relationships being built and continued even once the team or short-term volunteer returns to their home country.”
After serving in 2016, Olivia continued to look for ways to serve. We were simply amazed to receive an email from her around Christmas time. She and her boyfriend had decided that instead of giving each other Christmas gifts, they wanted to use the money to provide another scholarship.
Olivia puts it into perspective: “The choice to sponsor both Chris and Krisalyn was easy for me. The Dream Centre kids are truly amazing and deserve every possible opportunity that Extreme Response tries to provide to them through the Dream Centre. Unlike many other sponsorship programs, I know exactly where our money is going and all of the good that is being done with it.
“It is also so cool to receive updates about them, whether through the Facebook page or ER staff members. I have seen these kids grow and flourish over my three years. When I think about it, I waste way more money than the cost of a sponsorship on things that I don’t need. Giving up some of those things to be able to provide opportunities for these kids is beyond worth it.”
ER Intern Captured by the Land and People of Her Heritage
By Allen Allnoch, ER Staff Writer
(May 24, 2016)
Tonya Williams’ father always hoped that his children would one day visit the Philippines. His own father was from Turburan in the Cebu province, and he wanted Tonya to experience “The Land of our People,” as he called it.
Santos Talaugon passed away in 2001, but his daughter has fulfilled his wish twice over, including a two-week ER internship in February. And she hopes to again make the long trip from her home in Santa Maria, California.
“My father was very proud of his heritage,” Tonya recalls. “As I grew up, I remember all the stories he would tell about how his dad grew up in the beautiful land of Cebu. There was never any talk of hardship, poverty or anything negative about his homeland.”
Two of Tonya’s friends, Terri Ramos and Ruth Arteaga, introduced her to ER. After hearing ER Asia’s Joshua Benavidez speak during a visit to California in 2014, she joined the Manila Christmas Team, with whom she helped host six Christmas celebrations and serve more than 800 people.
“One of the bonuses is that I went on my first ER trip with my best friend [Ramos], to a place that would capture my heart,” she says.
The trip impacted her so much, she knew she had to spend more time in the Philippines. Her recent visit was based around Makati, one of 16 cities that make up Metro Manila. There she served with a handful of ER programs, partners and friends, including the Manila Children’s Home, the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program, Youth Mobilization, IBIKE Ministries and There Is Hope.
Tonya’s work ranged from assisting with various children’s programs to teaching ladies at Golden Hands how to sew aprons.
“This trip was different than the Christmas parties,” she notes. “I was directly involved with the day-to-day operations of each partner, and was able to connect with the team members on a personal level. It was truly a blessing to see each leader’s passion and heart for their communities, and to show love to all they come in contact with.”
She also attended ER Asia staff meetings and came away more impressed than ever with Joshua Benavidez and his wife, Ann. “They are strong leaders with a passion to raise up strong team members,” she says. “The respect from their team members is impressive. All of the staff at Asia ER is excellent at what they do. They strive to be better and have a passion to [impact] as many people as they can.”
Tonya came home filled with fond memories, such as the last day of her stay, when she finished out her assignment with IBIKE Ministries.
“We were walking back to the office, blasting music and laughing and goofing off right in the middle of the day,” she says. “Then we finished the day with a home-cooked meal and all ate with our fingers. We had a great time, and although most of them did not understand a word I was saying, they all were so loving and welcoming to me, I felt like I was part of the family.”
Such memories and hospitality already have Tonya yearning for a return to “The Land of Our People.”
“I fell in love with the people, the land and the work,” she says. “Each time I go, I leave a little bit of my heart there. I have gained many friends and now have a connection that will last a lifetime. My father would be pleased.”
Does Tonya’s trip spark an interest in short-term volunteering? If so, click here to learn how you can help make an impact in extreme circumstances.
Not for the Faint of Heart
By Amanda Moxley
(Oct. 24, 2014)
Amanda Moxley spent the last year as an intern at Extreme Response’s Manila Children’s Home, a newly launched project caring for 10 boys who were orphaned, abused, abandoned or neglected. She also volunteered for IT Tender, an ER partner. Amanda shares her experience in this Changing Lives Blog.
I have often thought working with children is like a marriage vow – “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer”. I continue to believe that as I conclude my time in here at the Manila Children’s Home.
The boys are so full of love and laughter even in their unfortunate circumstances. These kids did not choose to be orphans living on the street. It was the hand they were dealt.
I often look at the boys and wonder what they think of their own circumstances. Are they grateful for the place they are at? Do they miss the lives they once lived? Or are they simply just done with the life they are living?
So many things run through my head every day, my hopes for them, along with my fears for them. In the last 12 months, I have grown to love these boys.
Actually I did not grow to love them. It happened the first day I laid eyes on them. And since that day they have wrapped me around each of their fingers. These boys, who came into my life as strangers, have been imprinted on my heart as the first boys to dramatically change my life.
A life was forever changed…mine.
Although a lot of my work in the Philippines revolves around the Children’s Home, I also work in other programs and organizations. I came to the Philippines with a commitment to work at IT Tender (an ER partner here in Manila) every Friday.
As the months went on, I began working with other IT Tender programs, such as Food for Life, where I now volunteer three times a week after my shift ends at the Children’s Home. Food for Life is a three-day-a-week feeding program in the town of Putatan, which happens to be where I live. The program feeds 50 kids using nutritious food packs supplied by Feed My Starving Children.
This was a really cool opportunity for me because, when I was home in California, I had the amazing opportunity to pack the bags that feed these children. It is amazing to see the fruit of the labor of so many amazing people who gave their time to help feed kids all around the world, including kids in the Philippines.
One lesson I’ve learned is that people who go on humanitarian trips or visit people living in extreme conditions don’t know what they are stepping into until they get there.
Many things led me to the Philippines. I could share with you how I felt led here, or how I saw a need and I wanted to contribute my part in helping out.
But what is hard to explain is why I stay. Being here in the Philippines alone, with no family, is hard. It’s hard to be on your own in a place that’s not home. It’s hard to remember cultural sensitivity, because we grew up a different way.
Every day is a battle in trying to remain sensitive to the Filipino people. We try to tip toe through this hallway we call another country, but then we end up trampling all over the feet of the people we came to serve, and bulldozing our way through.
I do have one saving grace. As a country and as a culture, Filipinos are the most gracious, loving, and forgiving people I have ever met!
This leads me to believe that whatever it was that brought me to this country and all the things that made me stay, even if I did not make a HUGE impact, I can take comfort in knowing I met people I never would of met, and did things I never would have of done.
And I changed in a way I never thought I could. This is where the big impact happens. You can feed, clothe, and house a child and feel great about that, because those things enhance people’s lives. But when you build a relationship, that’s where you see the big change in people’s lives. You impact them and in doing so you change your own life.