By Elizabeth Arnold
Summer break for most college students means lounging by a pristine pool, savoring home-cooked food and catching up with childhood friends. But for 43 Buckner International volunteers, summer means go time.
[caption id="attachment_9376" align="alignright" width="300"] Follow along with our Project Go volunteers on Instagram -- check out the hashtags #hopeshineshere and #projectgo2014 to see what they're up to. [/caption]
Project Go sends college students and young adults on month-long mission trips across the globe. Participants join Buckner Family Hope Centers in seven different countries spanning Russia to Mexico to provide lasting, holistic care to vulnerable families and children.
Buckner recruits Project Go participants from across the country. This year’s students represent six states, 14 universities and a plethora of majors.
Lafayette, Ind., native Maggie Wetzel rejoiced when she recently turned 19 to meet the Project Go age requirement. She has traveled with Buckner to Lima, Peru, on four different short-term trips since she was 12 and fell in love with the culture. On May 26, she returned to Lima as a Project Go team co-leader for the first summer session.
“I hope lives will be changed and they will be able to relate to people on a whole new level and learn how they can use their skills to impact people,” Wetzel said.
Teams will lead Vacation Bible Schools, teach classes, construct homes and assist short-term teams. Trip leaders like Wetzel are also responsible for contacting drivers, managing the team’s finances and coordinating with the local Buckner Family Hope Center.
Wetzel’s co-leader, Garrett Brooks, plans to attend Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall. But before he buries himself in studies, Brooks relishes the opportunity to spend his summer serving Peruvian children. He does not claim to know his Bible backward and forward, but one thing he does know: he can love kids.
“With children, it’s serving the children with all your heart,” Brooks said.
Whether a student has traveled the globe or never left the metroplex, Project Go opens students’ eyes to the larger world.
Baylor University senior Rachel Stone grew up with a mission-minded family. She attended Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas and traveled with Buckner on a shorter trip to Guatemala in high school. This summer, however, she will embrace a new adventure as she leads a four-person team to Peru during the second summer session in July.
“It’s something where you learn a lot about yourself and others and about flexibility,” Stone said.
The extended length of Project Go trips allows participants to fully immerse themselves in the culture of their respective country. They experience new languages and customs while serving alongside locals, providing students a greater appreciation for unfamiliar lifestyles.
“People in America are very used to structure and in foreign countries it’s not that way,” Stone said.
Project Go began in 2003 as the Buckner Internship Program. Russia housed 16 interns and Guatemala housed nine. At the time, the program focused largely on assisting local orphanages. Since then, the program has served 10 different countries, involved up to 60 participants each summer and continues to grow. Click here to learn more about the service opportunities available through Project Go.
Follow along with our Project Go volunteers on Instagram -- check out the hashtags #hopeshineshere and #projectgo2014 to see what they're up to.
Get uplifting stories of how Buckner is shining hope in the U.S. and around the world!