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STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 03/28/2007


In Focus: Alumni

A SMALL WORLD by Heidi Driesens '04
I spent the past year in Cairo as a youth worker at Maadi Community Church, composed of 1,500 people from at least 50 different countries. At the end of my year I traveled to Jordan and Israel. For a Western woman to travel alone is generally not recommended in the Middle East, and as I sat in the bus station in Cairo at 5 a.m., I asked God for at least one other female to be on the bus for the eight-hour ride to the Israeli border. When the bus pulled up, I sleepily climbed on board and saw three other foreigners about my age, one girl and two guys. I sat down near them and tried to guess who they were and what they were doing in Egypt.

When we stopped a few hours later, I went over and introduced myself. Katie Amico and I quickly narrowed down our American geography from north of Boston to Wenham--we couldn't believe that we both went to Gordon College! I had not expected such a great answer to prayer. Katie had just spent five weeks teaching English to college sophomores and working in orphanages in China through Gordon's Summer Missions Program. Her older brother, Peter, and his friend, Matt, were Taylor University alumni on their way to a friend's wedding in Israel. We quickly became acquainted and decided to travel together. It was a great arrangement because I didn't have a place to sleep that night, and Katie was desperately in need of some female company after spending the past two weeks traveling with two guys. We stayed at the home of some missionary friends in Aquaba and then went on to Wadi Musa, near Petra, Jordan.

We walked into Petra at 6 a.m., before the tourists, summer heat and overbearing vendors had destroyed the magic. We hiked around for a few hours and took this picture in front of the El Deir Temple, also called the Monastery. It's the largest structure in the ancient Nabataean city of Petra.

Heidi Driesens lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and works for a social service agency on Boston's North Shore. Katie Amico '09 is an international affairs major.



A 2010-KILOMETER HIKE FOR AIDS ORPHANS by Ryan McDonnell '04
Along with six other international students, Ryan McDonnell recently set off on a 2010-kilometer hike from Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa. The charity hike is sponsored by Rotarians for Fighting AIDS (RFFA), and will highlight the needs of AIDS orphans and raise critical funds for children left homeless and at risk by the pandemic. As the team hikes across South Africa, they will speak to schools and community groups; visit programs assisting AIDS orphans, child-headed families and vulnerable children; raise awareness with media interviews; and distribute educational materials. Ryan, a political studies major while at Gordon, states, "The need is completely overwhelming, and I am so glad to be a part of this project." The 20-day charity hike will commence following World AIDS Day on December 1 and will end as the group arrives in Cape Town on December 21.

Ryan has worked with World Relief and CURE International and is currently completing his master's in international development at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.



ROTARY FOUNDATION AMBASSADORIAL SCHOLAR IN MALAYSIA
by Olivia (Turley) Byler '04
"Rojak" is a pastry filled with a mix of fruits and vegetables--such as pineapple, cucumbers, and guava--and covered with a sweet, spicy peanut sauce and a hint of fish or prawn seasoning. It's one of my favorite dishes in Malaysia. Appropriately, "rojak" means "a mixture"--and Malaysia itself is blend of colorful ethnic groups and cultures.    

Imagine an early morning already baked by intense sunshine. People pile into a crowded train car to commute to work. Standing directly in front of me is a Chinese businesswoman in a smart black suit. To my left, an Indian woman in a colorful sari with a dot of red ash on her forehead--an indication of a daily Hindu ritual. To my right, a Malay women adorned in a floral sarong and pastel Muslim headdress. Four distinct cultures, languages, and even religions--all sharing the daily routine of life.  

Everywhere I go, people want to share their stories. What are the Iranian students telling me, the Malaysian orphans learning English, the Acehnese refugee children, the young Cine refugees? The best education I will receive here in Malaysia at the Universiti Putra is not, in fact, a Masters in Community Development and Education. Simply stated, I am here to listen. It is my privilege to listen.



Photos:
1. Heidi Driesens (right) and Katie Amico in front of the El Deir Temple
2. Ryan on the peak of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, before his hike to raise awareness of AIDS orphans.
3. Olivia and Dan Byler '04 with Malaysian orphan children.

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