International visitor volunteers at Greencroft

From: John Bender <>

Lesly Vasquez is well on the way to fulfilling her goals for living in a foreign country. From San Marcos, Octolepeque, Honduras, Lesly came to Greencroft to work as a volunteer for one year. She and 61 other young people from 30 different countries are participating in Mennonite Central Committee’s International Visitor Exchange Program.

Participants receive vocational training in mostly Mennonite agencies, institutions and businesses in the fields of social services, business/accounting, farming, education, architecture, pastoral care, computers, construction, and building trades.

One goal the 21-year-old had was to learn to speak English. After seven months she has achieved conversational facility in the language.

The first days were hard, she recalled. “I thought, what am I going to do? I don’t know English.” She, however, met a number of people at Greencroft who speak Spanish and that helped get her oriented while she learned English.

She has gained valuable experience working as an activities assistant with seniors in assisted living and healthcare settings.

Every Friday she helps with a painting class in Greencroft Healthcare. She escorts residents in wheelchairs, helps decorate for special occasions, and helps with various other games and activities for residents. Her hobbies include drawing, computers, bicycling, and handwork, such as crocheting and paper art.

During her remaining months at Greencroft she will also work part time in the Greencroft accounting department. She worked in accounting at a coffee processing plant in her home town. As a university student she is majoring in business administration.

During her time in Goshen Lesly is living with Carol Swartzentruber, a Resident Service Coordinator at Greencroft.

Lesly’s home community has a population of 6,000. She is a member of the Mennonite Church San Marcos (Iglesia Menonita Evangelica), which has 110 members. In Goshen she attends North Goshen Mennonite Church where the service is simultaneously translated into Spanish.  

Lesly’s cousin back home has e-mail and so she has been able to communicate with family that way. Her father is a taxi driver and her mother a homemaker. She has two brothers and a sister, ages 15, 17 and 19. Twice a month she gets to talk with them by phone.

Lesly has appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to another culture, including the ways older adults in the United States chose to live. At home, her grandmother lives with the family, which is the norm in her culture. Living here has given her a new appreciation for home. “I appreciate my country and my family more,” she noted.