This year West Coast MCC welcomes three international volunteers to California and Arizona! MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) is a yearlong volunteer work and cultural exchange opportunity for young, Christian adults. Every year, 60 IVEP participants come from more than 25 countries around the world to volunteer in the U.S and Canada.  IVEPers volunteer with partner agencies to gain valuable skills and experience in exchange for bringing their cultural values and perspectives to the workplace. 

West Coast IVEPers: 

  • Cui Cui from China - serving in Fresno, CA
  • Kwenele Thembani from South Africa - serving in Riverside, CA
  • Andrea Castro from Colombia - serving in Tucson, AZ 

 

Cui Cui from China - serving in Fresno, CA 

Cui Cui, (middle) is pictured with her host mom, Vickie Klassen and host sister, Rebecca.

Cui Cui, known as Esther, is working with Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Minsitries (FIRM), a non-profit serving the refugee community of Fresno. Cui Cui has a master’s degree in Social Work and has years of experience working with disabled children and the elderly. She has spent significant time in Korea, Nepal, India and the United States. 

What has been your favorite part about your work so far?
I’ve enjoyed home visits to clients. Because home visits to refugees help me understand them, and after I see their home I have a better idea of different ways to help them. Second, I enjoy working at the front desk. Third is my work as a Sunday school teacher helper. I like playing with children and I have a big heart for children. I also enjoy learning about American Sunday school.

What has been the most surprising thing about America so far?
The most surprising thing about people in America is that they drink tap water. In China, we never drink tap water. If people drink tap water they must boil it first. And another one is that the highway is free. Every time I come to the US and go on the highway I’m always surprised. How can it be free?! It’s amazing. 

What is one thing you’re looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to forming a closer relationship with my host family. For my work I'm expecting to gain a deeper understanding of the refugee ministry work. I also expect to learn from my coworkers and supervisor and gain a variety of experiences.

What is one-way people can be praying for you?
People can pray for FIRM and that I can handle the work well. 

 

Kwenele Thembani from South Africa - serving in Riverside, CA

Kwenele is serving as a Pastoral Intern with Madison Street Church in Riverside, CA. Kwenele has a certificate in Ministry and hopes to pastor a church of his own in the future. He has experience in leading youth ministry, Bible studies and street ministries. 

What has been your favorite part about your work so far?
My favorite part about my work so far has been getting to meet new people and being exposed to new ways of doing church. I've also been exposed to new ways of working with kids in the kid's ministry.

What has been the most surprising thing about America so far?
People here say things differently than what I’m used to in South Africa. For example, in South Africa we say robots and Americans say traffic lights. We say rubbish and Americans say trash. We say tomato sauce while Americans say ketchup. 
 
What is one thing you’re looking forward to?
I am looking forward to getting to know people and learning about American culture. I’m also looking forward to going on hikes in the mountains and having a cold Christmas for the first time!


What is one-way people can be praying for you?
I would love people to pray for me to get used to this new way of doing things and to pray for me since I’m starting to feel homesick. 

 

Andrea Castro from Colombia - serving in Tucson, AZ 

Andrea (middle) is pictured with Katherine Smith (left) Border and Migration Outreach Coordinator for MCC and Casa Alitas volunteer (right). 


Andrea is serving with Casa Alitas in Tucson, AZ. Andrea has certificates in peacemaking and psychosocial intervention. Her experience working with children and being a leader with the national youth group of Colombia makes her a valuable asset to Casa Alitas’ work, serving immigrants. 


What has been your favorite part about your work so far?
My favorite part about my work so far has been hearing the stories our clients share about their journeys to the US, and seeing people shed tears of happiness when they’ve been reunited with their families after being separated.


What has been the most surprising thing about America so far?
The most surprising thing about America so far is seeing a lot of people, young and old, volunteering their time throughout the week at Casa Alitas, even for just a smile, a hug, or words of gratitude in return. 


What is one thing you’re looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to getting better at my English, experiencing intercultural relationships and sharing God’s love and work through my contributions to the wellness of immigrant families. 


What is one-way people can be praying for you?
I would appreciate if you can pray for my health and for God to give me wisdom to share and continue helping families at Casa Alitas.

 

Want to make a difference in the life of a young adult? We are currently looking for partner agencies that can provide IVEP participants with a wide variety of vocational experiences. We need businesses, churches and other organizations that can offer volunteer opportunities for international young adults to gain job skills. If you are interested in welcoming an IVEPer into your home as a host family, or into your workplace as a volunteer, please contact Thomas Adlard-  thomasadlard@mcc.org.