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Molly Sova, ’14, witnessed firsthand the power these trips have on students as both a student participant and recently as a staff companion. In 2012, she traveled to Belize as a sophomore. In March, she traveled to Nicaragua as a member of the alumni relations staff. “From a companion’s perspective, I got to see each student have a lightbulb moment when they made that connection or fully understood their purpose on the service trip,” she said. “They saw how they were making a difference in an individual’s life. As a student, you don’t see yourself being transformed, but as companion you get to see it happening.” Grant Otte, ’17, was one of those students who wasn’t expecting a transformation, let alone a complete change in the trajectory of his life. In the early days of his undergraduate career, Otte had no desire to study abroad or travel to a foreign country for a service project. Only after hearing about this transformative experience and witnessing the profound impact an international service trip had on his good friend and roommate did he finally agree. In January 2016, he was on a plane to Nicaragua where his life would never be the same. He spent a week digging trenches and laying down water pipes for a small remote town. During that time, he formed a good relationship with one of the young villagers. At the end of the week, he found himself not wanting to leave, nor did his new friend want to see him leave. “During our end-of-the-week devotional reflection, I remember this little kid left the room because he started to cry,” Otte said. “Then I started crying. I hadn’t cried in years, but something during the week really touched me. When I left, I knew I had to figure out a way to come back.” And he did. That summer he would spend three weeks as a servant leader at Amigos for Christ. By the time he graduated in 2017, he would sign up for a two-year commitment in Nicaragua with Amigos. With half of his initial contract already over, he’s already considering extending his stay at least another year. “The service trip really opened my eyes.” Otte said. “I feel like a more compassionate and empathetic person. I’m more aware of the ways people live and the needs in their lives that aren’t being addressed.” Kriege understands that not every student, staff member or faculty who is able to go on one of the service trips is willing or able to devote years of their lives to serving abroad, but his big hope is that each person will forever be changed in some meaningful, if small, way. “We don’t view the trips as an end unto themselves,” Kriege said. “We view them as a springboard or a step along a student’s path to greater solidarity.”
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