The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 14, 2000 Issue
Local News

Warmth to a warm place

Marinette students traveled with a medical mission to Ecuador

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Are you traveling south for spring break?

Three Marinette teens recently returned from a warm destination, but they weren't sitting poolside or relaxing on the beach. Catholic Central High School students Maggie Kornely, Colleen O'Rourke and Lesley Sterzing spent two weeks in February helping people in need as a part of a medical mission in Ecuador.

The girls, all fourth-year Spanish students, joined physicians and volunteers to set up temporary clinics in the villages surrounding Vilcabamba, Ecuador. They joined the mission to serve as translators for the medical professionals.

"We didn't do that (translate) as much as I thought we were going to," said Kornely. "There were people from Ecuador who translated. We helped in the pharmacy with the distribution of medicines."

The students, all members of Holy Family Parish, Marinette, did have plenty of opportunities to test their Spanish speaking skills, though. They interacted with people of all ages through their travels.

"When I first heard them speak, it was so fast," said Kornely. "I thought I was never going to understand what they were saying. By the end of the trip, I could pick it up so much better. That was exciting."

"The people were very friendly," said Sterzing. "They were so thankful that we were there to help them. I felt really good about myself, knowing that I was making a difference."

Kornely saw first hand the effect they had on the people of Ecuador. She joined two other mission group members in delivering a pair of chickens and a goat to a poor woman in one of the villages.

"She was really happy," she said. "She kept mentioning God over and over. You could tell how much it meant to her."

The girls stayed in a hotel. Their diet consisted mainly of rice, soup and bananas. Other than stepping on a cockroach and having mud pour out of the shower following a rainstorm, the teens did not miss the comforts of home.

"It was a lot nicer than I thought it would be," said Sterzing. "The showers were cold, but there was running water, so we were lucky."

The girls had to pay their own expenses for the trip, which was coordinated by Medical Missions International. They turned to the community for support by writing letters to area businesses and organizations.

"Burger King of Marinette gave us $1,500," said Kornely. "We were supposed to receive a certain amount for hours worked, but instead they just gave us $1,500. People were very supportive when they found out what we were doing."

The girls collected toys and over the counter medicines, which they distributed in the villages. The children had a lasting impact on the teens.

"The kids were the best," said Kornely. "They loved you and were always so happy and friendly. We gave them coloring books and small toys like the ones you get at McDonald's. They really appreciated it."

"We take things for granted here," said Sterzing. "We are spoiled and selfish."

Medical Missions International organizes similar trips throughout the world. All three girls, juniors at Catholic Central, would like to return to Ecuador or visit a different country next year.

"I want to go back," said Kornely. "Next time, I would definitely try a lot more Spanish."

"If you have a chance to go, you should," said Sterzing. "I was really nervous before we left. I was crying and was unsure if I wanted to go, but it was really worthwhile."

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