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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Local woman plans year service trip to Uruguay - By Michelle Libby


Most college graduates being the arduous task of finding a job in their selected field after graduating, but Kirsten Lowell, 24, of Windham gave up her good paying job in Pennsylvania for the opportunity to travel to a foreign land and learn the culture and language. 
 
“It kind of landed in my lap. I’d been talking about doing a year of service,” Lowell said. “I’d love to learn a new language and live in another country.” 

In February, Lowell was approached by Jane Hartwell, an employee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, asking if she’d ever considered service work abroad. Hartwell sent Lowell the information about Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) even though the deadline had passed. 

“I went to New York for an interview and discernment. It sort of all tumbled into place. It was a God moment,” said Lowell. 



When asked during her discernment where she would like to go, was connected to or interested in, she said, “Anywhere.”

In March YASC told her she’d be a good fit for Uruguay, but she didn’t hear officially until May.
“I always wanted to work in the legal field or with a non-profit, but clearly that’s not what I’m doing,” she said with a chuckle. 

Once she heard about her placement, she told her family, friends, drafted a support letter, set up her blog and spoke with Rev. Tim Higgins at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, which would be her sponsor for the trip. Lowell was baptized and confirmed at St. Ann’s and she is still very involved in the church and the Episcopal diocese, including organizing youth events that she once attended. 

“YASC is the Peace Corps for one year through the Episcopal Church,” Lowell said. 

Lowell has to raise $10,000 to fund her year stay. After she raises the first $5,000, YASC will buy her plane ticket to Uruguay, which is in South America, and then she will be given a leave date. She’s excited for that to happen. She said she has sent out some support letters asking for money from her family, friends, friend’s families and through church. She has raised approximately $3,000 to date. 

“I still have quite a ways to go,” she said. YASC will provide the housing for Lowell, who knows she’ll be staying in a condo in Montevideo, the capital city. The hardest part will be adjusting from rural Maine to city life, she said. There are 1.5 million people in the capital city alone. She will be working with the Anglican Diocese of Uruguay doing administrative projects, organizing their archive room, creating a newsletter and doing outreach. She plans to spend three months traveling to the interior visiting local parishes. She will be the first YASC volunteer to travel to Uruguay, she said. 

She will be given $500 a month to live on while she’s there. That money will be used for travel, food and everyday expenses, she said. 

When asked if she was nervous, she shook her head. “I don’t have any fears. It feels so right that this is what I’m called to do. Once I’m down there, I’ll be afraid of things, but I can’t worry about that now,” she said. 

Lowell spent two weeks in New York, the headquarters for YASC, with 15 other volunteers doing orientation. She made friends and plans to meet with the woman staying in Brazil since they will be only nine hours apart. 

Lowell took a few years of high school and college Spanish, but she’s not too concerned. “Once I’m immersed in the culture and language, I’ll be fine,” she said. She will enroll in a language school once she is there. “I want to learn how to surf, tango, do traditional dances and learn about their music,” Lowell said. 

She expects that living in Uruguay will change her in some ways. “It’s about forming relationships. I have to express my emotions and gratitude in another language, to do that in our native language is hard sometimes.”  

Lowell has strong faith and will rely on God’s help and support during her year abroad. She plans to bring love with her, God’s love, her love and to learn from them. “It’s not necessarily what I’m going to bring to them, but what they will bring to me,” she said. 

Lowell graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in legal studies from Eastern University in St. David’s, Penn.

“The way I changed and the relationships I formed in those two weeks, I can’t imagine what a whole year will be like,” she said. 

Lowell is still taking donations. She estimates that the $10,000 works out to be $30 per day. If someone donates $30, she will do something intentional with that person in mind on a day they select and she will check in with them. Checks can be sent to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church with Kirsten Lowell, Uruguay in the memo, 40 Windham Center Road, P.O. Box 911, Windham, Maine 04062. The other way would be at www.gofundme.com/94jfy0 
Lowell has launched her blog at kirstlowell.wordpress.com.



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