Brandt takes gap year to donate time, complete mission work

Aiding Colombian refugees, teaching indigenous people is focus of her work

Caroline Barger

More stories from Caroline Barger

Many seniors are used to being asked what their plans are after they graduate, and most give the same general answer. However, senior Karina Brandt has decided to take a different path than most of her peers. In August 2017, Brandt will be leaving for Quito, Ecuador, and plans to stay for 11 months.

“It is very exciting, yet also a little scary since I don’t know a lot about what I will be doing when I get there. I have no idea where I’ll be staying or who I’ll be staying with,” Brandt said.

Brandt had thought about her future, but had not made a final decision about what she would be doing after high school until her senior year.

“Being a Mennonite I knew that service was an option and I was familiar with several organizations for it,” Brandt said. “One day someone asked me what my plans were and I decided to shorten my answer and say I was going to do service. Once I heard myself say it out loud, I knew this is what I really wanted to do.”

After deciding that she wanted to leave the country Brandt began interviewing with organizations from all across the world, but did not hear back from any. It took several tries before Brandt stumbled upon the organization that she felt was right for her.

“I tried applying to another organization, Journey International. This interview was way more fun than the others and he even told me then and there that he would highly recommend me and he didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be accepted. I took this as a sign from God that this is where I was meant to go,” Brandt said.

Brandt has been involved in volunteer work previously and has been on several different mission trips with her church.

“In the past I have done little mission trips with my youth group but nothing to this extent. This is going to be a huge change for me especially since I’ve never been out of the country before,” Brandt said.

“I am very excited to meet all kinds of new people but at the same time I am still scared to leave the people I love.”

Brandt is still unsure exactly of all the things that she will be taking part in during her time in Ecuador, although she has an idea of the areas she will be involved in.

“The church I will be working with works closely with a lot of refugees that come in from Colombia. I think they have a food distribution program and possibly a daycare,” Brandt said. “There is also an opportunity for me to travel to a rain forest nearby with some other missionaries for a short time and teach English to some of the indigenous people that live there.”

Once Brandt has finished her work in Ecuador, she plans to return home and continue her education and work towards a college degree.

“When I come back I plan on attending college, probably at Wichita State University, and eventually finding a job helping others and using my love for children,” Brandt said.