Hear from our alumni about the lifelong impact HNGR has had on their lives and careers.
Rachel Janzen ('97)
My HNGR experience prepared me for full-time ministry in Rwanda. I learned in those 6 months in Ghana that the most important thing about ministry is just being with people, sharing life experiences together, crying with them in their pain and rejoicing in their successes. It seems I rely on my experience in Ghana everyday as I am continually stretched to be more flexible, more patient, to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, to overcome cultural misunderstandings, to see from another person's perspective and point of view and to love others with only the love that God can give.
Jason Polk ('00)
My HNGR internship was a decisive and transformative experience which has shaped nearly every aspect of my life since my time at Wheaton. HNGR helps form the lens through which I view the realities of poverty and community transformation in a interconnected and rapidly changing world. I decided to work internationally in areas of community health and pastoral ministry/church planting because of HNGR. The experiences, relationships, readings, and reflections to which I was exposed during that time form the foundation on which I have continued to build over the past 15+ years, and in many ways have been woven into the fabric of who I am. It would be difficult to overemphasize the shaping influence HNGR has upon my daily life.
Erin Mulholland ('12)
In the few years that have passed since my HNGR internship I have found that HNGR is not a one-time experience, but a lifelong journey. The decisions that brought me to where I am today - where to live and work, what church community to join, what relationships to pursue - were all impacted by the lessons I learned through the HNGR Program. I see my investment in my multiethnic church community as a continuation of my investment in the global Church that began in a small church in Sierra Leone. I see my work seeking healthcare equality among low-income communities in Chicago as a continuation of the work I began in a hospital in rural Sierra Leone.
Alexis Olsen ('95)
As a result of HNGR, I come into cross cultural relationships with a posture of appreciation and a desire to learn. HNGR readings by Henri Nouwen continue to shape my view of compassion and what it means to be in ministry. And I continue to enjoy friendships and Facebook updates from my fellow HNGR interns-there's a sweet fellowship of those who have participated in this transformational program-regardless of when they went.
Laura Montgomery ('77)
As my first fieldwork experience, my internship in Guatemala launched my career as a cultural anthropologist. It taught me deep lessons about the structural injustices that immiserate and disempower the many but enrich and empower the few. The experience left indelible spiritual and intellectual marks that have guided my scholarly work, teaching, and Christian faith into the present. I don't believe that would have happened had I not lived in that Mayan village. The graciousness of the villagers and fellow believers who invited me into their lives taught me a great deal about empathy, humility, and the importance of asking questions.
Chris DeBoer (Uganda, 2010)
I think back to patients at Kagando Hospital and their stories fuel me to use medicine as a tool for social change and to think critically about how my daily choices should be oriented toward reconciliation of disparities in my own community and across the world.
Morgan Younkin (Peru, 2009)
HNGR helped me find the words to begin asking and living the questions. Questions that continue to be prescient for my wife and I are: who is my neighbor, what does solidarity mean for us, and what does it mean to be the beloved community? In Family Medicine, the central question is: how do we affirm each patient's humanity and learn to simply be there? In public health, the question my faith begs frequently is: whose perspective are we valuing?
Esther Prins (El Salvador, 1993)
Associate Professor-Penn State
It was during my HNGR internship in El Salvador in 1993 that I discovered my calling in adult education. The internship-particularly my experience teaching a small literacy class in a squatter settlement and reading Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed-sparked my professional interest in the connection between adult education (especially adult literacy) and social justice.
Robert Miner (Haiti, 1978)
Largely as a result of my internship experience I think that healthy change anywhere depends on right relationships between individuals, communities and nations and I view the transforming power of Christian faith as the most potent force for right relations and positive change.
Josiah Lamp (Burkina Faso, 2004)
Deputy Director of Housing-Chautauqua Opportunities
Today I work in a low-income community in rural New York. As different as that may be from my internship site in Ouagadougou, I still rely on the basic lessons I learned then-to listen first and to see people for their strengths, not their deficiencies. As an anti-poverty practitioner, I want to see people and communities become empowered, so the methods we use are just as important as the outcomes; it has been very rewarding to see local activists, grassroots groups, and low-income people become agents of change in their own lives and in the life of their community.
Elisabeth Farmer (Burkina Faso, 2001)
Livelihoods Specialist-World Bank
One of the main ways in which I still feel the formative effects of HNGR in my life is in my commitment to in-depth engagement with the local community and culture. For many development workers, their host country is simply a temporary posting, and learning the local language -- especially in a country like Ethiopia, which has its own unique language(s) -- is often not a priority. But I learned (the hard way) during HNGR that learning a language a) is important for communication, a sense of belonging, and showing appreciation and respect for my local counterparts, and b) doesn't happen without a lot of hard work!
Elisabeth Vish (Kenya, 2007)
Presidential Management Fellow-US Department of State
HNGR helped me see firsthand how limited public access to clean water, sewer, and well-constructed roads hurts both the poor and the rich.
Erin Mulholland (Sierra Leone, 2012)
Care Coordinator-Lawndale Christian Health Center
HNGR is not a one-time experience, but a lifelong journey. The decisions that brought me to where I am today - where to live and work, what church community to join, what relationships to pursue - were all impacted by the lessons I learned through the HNGR Program. I see my investment in my multiethnic church community as a continuation of my investment in the global Church that began in a small church in Sierra Leone. I see my work seeking healthcare equality among low-income communities in Chicago as a continuation of the work I began in a hospital in rural Sierra Leone.
Sarah Halter (Kenya, 2002)
Medical Practitioner-Lutheran Hospital
My HNGR journey fundamentally shaped how I see the world and my role working in a community and culture that is not my own. I am in Tanzania as a learner and partner, not to do anything for someone but to walk alongside friends and neighbors as they seek to address the needs they see in their own lives and community.
Kerri Garner (Nicaragua, 1991)
I would say that I still draw on the life lessons from HNGR nearly every day. Whether I am guiding our children through transition or cultural conflicts that are typical of Third Culture Kids or I am listening with sensitivity to the cultural values of a family in therapy or allowing the locals to correct my Kiswahili, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that how I navigate all these experiences today has everything to do with what HNGR taught me back then.
Christy Page (Thailand, 2005)
Assistant Director-Westmoor Park
Being on HNGR in Thailand both profoundly influenced my personal growth, as well as directed my passions for post-college life. Today, the work I do in agricultural and environmental education is directly related to what I learned on my HNGR internship, and I reference that time in Thailand often as I try to encourage the students and their families to take a holistic view of their role in the environment.
Ann Kim (Nicaragua, 2000)
My HNGR experience was not about being sacrificial, or saving the world, or transforming communities in the little time spent during my internship. It taught me to see reality, put talents into practice and give back to those in need. And in the long-term, it has helped me understand how to be an agent of change in a increasingly dissonant, dichotomized, and separated world. I am challenged regularly on how to use my talents for the betterment of something bigger.
Kenya Heard (Nicaragua, 2016)
Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
HNGR allows you to see a new culture from the inside out. You learn from leaders, supervisors, mentors, and friends in your context, engage in the intimate home setting of your family, and become immersed in a new place.
Kelly Wilson (Nicaragua, 2016)
HNGR is about posture, relationships, and learning an alternative narrative to live in the world. The process of HNGR should hopefully provide space in which the Holy Spirit reorients, revisions, and redefines your life, future, priorities, values, questions, and way of being in the world.