For 66 years, MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) has been providing yearlong work and cultural exchange opportunities for young adults. Dora Rafaela Ramirez, from Paraguay, is one of the many participants who has taken what she learned through IVEP back to her home country.
Ramirez participated in the program in 2009-2010 when she lived and worked in Goshen, Ind. During the school year, Ramirez worked as an assistant in the Spanish department at Goshen College. This included engaging in one-on-one conversations with students based on content from the classroom curriculum.
Ramirez also volunteered at Maple City Health Care Center (MCHCC), a community clinic for low-income people, the majority being Latinos. Since she was already working as a midwife and nurse in Paraguay, it was natural for her to work with families, particularly by providing prenatal health care through the Pregnancy Circle Group for expecting parents. She also assisted with self-help groups to develop healthy habits for dealing with obesity and diabetes, as well as serving as an interpreter for some Spanish-speaking patients.
When she returned to Paraguay after IVEP, Ramirez worked in a rural community in primary health care. “I applied many of the activities that I participated in at MCHCC,” said Ramirez.
“This included things I learned from the pregnancy circle group and programs that encourage prevention and disease management. They are all focused on providing wellness and overall good health.”
Today Ramirez works for the Paraguay Ministry of Public Health as an epidemiologist, doing health research. “IVEP affirmed my choice of public health as a profession, and I became even more determined in it,” she said. The English skills she developed are also invaluable in accessing scientific information that is mostly in English.
For Ramirez, just as important as the building of job skills were the opportunities for exchange. “IVEP is important to give a vision of different cultures and how to live in harmony with others,” she said.
She remains grateful to the host families, congregations and communities that welcomed her during her time in the United States. “I’m very happy to have been part of IVEP and have friends around the world,” she said.
Looking back on her experience, Ramirez said, “At first I didn’t realize that I had changed, but today I see the world with new eyes. I have a different idea of how to help people in need and how to show Christ through us and our actions.”