1st-time mission trip impresses local woman

When local resident and recent Misericordia University graduate Ann Kaufman heard about the university’s mission trip to Guyana, in northern South America, she knew she wanted to be a part of it.

“I heard about the experiences previous groups have had and wanted to experience similar things. I also love to travel, so when I was given the chance to be a servant to others in a place I’ve never been to, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman, of Williamsport, and four other Misericordia students and recent graduates along with two chaperones traveled to Georgetown, Guyana, to work with The Sisters of Mercy, who founded Misericordia. Beginning June 1, the group spent 16 days in South America working with St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital to visit with patients and work in HIV/AIDS outreach, St. John Bosco Boys Orphanage and School to tutor and interact with boys who live at orphanage and the Mercy Wings Vocational School to tutor academically challenged students and organize self-esteem groups. Misericordia has been running service trips to Guyana since 1990.

Prior to the trip, the students took a service-learning class to prepare them to enter the country.

Kaufman had never participated in an international service trip before signing up for the trip, and she was concerned about the country’s safety. But after talking to an adviser and going through the required training course, Kaufman felt prepared to enter the country.

“During the spring semester, our service-learning course taught us about the economic inequities and how prevalent it was. As a group, I think we all want to be of assistance in any way possible – whether that’s playing with boys at an orphanage, or helping with day care children, or teaching school children how to read,” she said.

Though she had taken the classes and knew the country was riddled with poverty, she wasn’t prepared for the smell. She said the streets were filled with a variety of odors from goats, horses, trash and gasoline.

But still, Kaufman believes it was worth it all for the work that the team did. Working with the kids was a personal highlight.

“They are so willing to just jump in our arms, without asking questions, and don’t want to be put down,” she said in a blog post. “Whether we are playing tag or just talking to them about what they’re learning in school, they’re happy to have someone take a personal interest in them.”

To keep friends and family updated, the group posted on Tumblr and Twitter. The updates can be viewed at muguyana2014.tumblr.com or on Twitter by looking at the hashtag ‘#MUGuyana2014’

Kaufman earned a bachelor of arts degree in government, law and national security at Misericordia. She will attend University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in the fall pursuing an master’s degree in security and intelligence studies.