MCC photo/Brooke Strayer

Ereny, from the Middle East, puts together hygiene kits at the MCC Material Resources Center at The Depot in Goshen, Ind. While adhering to strict sanitizing and social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, Ereny spent several afternoons packing hygiene kits and other materials to prepare for a May 13, 2020, truck shipment to the main MCC warehouse in Ephrata, Pa.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing businesses, schools and disrupting life in general over the past several months, participants in MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) in Goshen, Ind., found themselves suddenly without their regular work assignments.

Ereny (last name withheld for security reasons), from the Middle East, had been working at the Elkhart County Clubhouse and Sethu Ndodana, from Eswatini, was working at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center in Wolf Lake, Ind. While they enjoy spending time at home with their host families, they missed having meaningful work during the long days.

At the same time, the MCC Material Resources Center at The Depot has been closed to volunteers since March. Typically a hub of activity with weekly volunteers and special groups, this created a challenge to prepare kits and comforters for the May 13 truck shipment to the main MCC warehouse in Ephrata, Pa.

Brooke Strayer, young adult program coordinator, had been brainstorming ways for IVEPers to remain connected and engaged. On a recent webinar she heard about young adults in MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program in Cambodia helping pack food kits as the pandemic was beginning. It sparked the idea to see whether local IVEPers in the Goshen area could help with a similar activity.

“It feels like a win-win situation,” said Nadine Zook Miller, material resources coordinator at the Depot. “It’s giving them something to do, and I really need their help because we don’t have regular groups.”

Sethu Ndodana, from Eswatini, packs hygiene kits into boxes at the MCC Material Resources Center at The Depot in Goshen, Ind. MCC photo/Brooke Strayer

While adhering to strict sanitizing and social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, Ereny and Ndodana spent several afternoons packing hygiene kits and other materials to prepare for the shipment.

“I welcome this experience, because it makes me feel useful during a time when I have little work to do,” said Ereny, who admits that it’s hard being way from family and friends. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to do something that will greatly benefit others.”

Ndodana is also happy that he can make a positive contribution during this global pandemic. “It’s great to get out of my home and to do something helpful and productive,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary experience being an IVEPer during this time.”

MCC’s requests for hygiene and relief kits from partners around the world have increased due to the global pandemic. The May 13 shipment included not only hygiene and relief kits, but also comforters, infant care kits, school kits, sewing kits and even canned meat.

The two MCC Great Lakes material resources centers remain closed to volunteers and donations at this time. If you would like to be notified when the material resources centers re-open, please email GreatLakes@mcc.org or call 574-534-4133.

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