Bethany Hartzell spent part of her summer reading letters of gratitude written by children to the people who were helping to make their education possible. She was interning at the time in Indianapolis with International Child Care Ministries, a program affiliated with the Free Methodist Church.
“ICCM has several avenues to provide education to children such as schools, child-development centers, and hostels for children to stay in while they attend school,” Hartzell says. Her responsibilities included facilitating letters from students to their sponsors and vice versa.
The program requires students to write four letters per year to their sponsor. Part of Hartzell’s responsibilities was to screen the correspondence and to prevent sharing contact information, which is not allowed.
“Most letters from the children to sponsors are thank-yous,” she says. “Others are very verbal about their experiences, such as in the Philippines, where children often write more than four times a year and get to know their sponsors very personally.”
An International Studies major from Bedford, Indiana, Hartzel hopes to work with international non-profits after college. The internship gave her new insights.
“Working from a smaller office state-side really helped me understand all the moving parts that are required to run an international non-profit,” she says.
Some of the challenges she faced included working with different government systems, figuring out what would be most helpful without interfering with how things already function. The answers were not always easy to come by, but she did come to better understand the type of international organization she wants to work for.
“My career goal is to work with international non-profits that work both ways,” she says. “What I mean by this is that sometimes we take so much pride in our own respective countries that we tend to think that we have so much to offer the other countries of this world without realizing that other countries have so much to offer our own.
“This program confirmed for me the workability of a non-profit that works both ways since ICCM not only has ‘sponsored’ countries, but also ‘sponsor’ countries besides just the U.S. Although ICCM headquarters are located in the U.S., they also have sponsor programs in the UK, China, Canada, Japan, and a few others that are all contributing financially to provide education to children who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise.”
Hartzell also spent four days on a mission trip in Honduras, to share a program called Bible Quizzing with a school there. Among other things, it showed the power of teaching not only for the students, but for the teacher.
“Teaching 60 children and four teachers how to conduct a quizzing program that took me at least five years to fully understand within four days was crazy,” she says. “But it caused me to learn how to let go even while I was there so that I could help the teachers go ahead and take over once I left without feeling like they didn’t know what they were doing.”
Besides all of the teaching and helping she did, one of the biggest lessons she learned was how to leave. “Sometimes, as a leader, I tend to step up, do my job, and then leave without training someone else to do the position that I filled. This throws the next person for a loop in learning how to do the position.” She made every effort that wouldn’t happen for her in the Honduras.
High impact experiential learning experiences are at the core of an Earlham education. Through the Earlham Program for an Integrated Curriculum (or EPIC), hundreds of students per year are placed in internships or research experiences that allow them to put their education into action. Every student is eligible for about $5,000 in funding to cover the cost of such an opportunity, and many Earlhamites complete multiple internships, research experiences or off-campus study programs during their four years of college.
Hartzell also has served as convener of Earlham’s Christian Fellowship for a year and a half.
“Being the convener of ECF really taught me about being a leader in a variety of ways, but specifically in the value of investing time in people,” she says. “I tend to be a type-A person and can easily pass up spending time with people in order to get a job done. Being a convener of this group showed me a lot about getting to know the members and taking the time to make other people feel valued. It creates a sense of community and trust between the leaders and the club members that really ground us together as a family.”