Mennonite Central Committee is a faith-based organization involved with Anabaptist churches. According to its website, the three areas of focus are relief, development and peace.

Recently, its efforts have included providing shelter kits to typhoon victims in the Philippines and canned meat to Burundian refugees who have been kicked out of Tanzania. Volunteers also make quilts to be sold at relief sales to benefit those around the world.

Amy Boydell Zorrilla has over ten years of experience with MCC. She served in Bolivia and Honduras for seven years and worked for over four years in some of MCC’s domestic offices. She volunteered with the Materials Resource Center, which puts together kits to send abroad. Zorrilla and her family also contribute to the MRC through assembling school kits for children in need every Christmas.

She and her husband became interested in working with MCC because of “the faith values upon which the organization is based, its reputation for integrity and community centered development and relief and because of our interest in serving internationally.”

When she and her husband served in Bolivia from 1999 to 2002, they ran a program for working children, where they bolstered interest and support for getting an education. While in Honduras from 2009 to 2013, they served as country representatives. They attended to “administrative tasks, meeting with local partners and providing support to our team of international MCC workers.”

While in both places, they were exposed to a variety of socioeconomic levels. They lived in cities where “it wasn’t uncommon to see a nice SUV and a horse drawn cart on one of the main city streets.”

Because many people are moving from the countryside to the cities, “many communities or neighborhoods are still working to get basic amenities like running water or reliable electricity, decent roads and schools.”

Back in the U.S, Zorrilla worked in Human Resources from 2006 to 2009, finding locations for volunteers in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through her current work with MCC East Coast, she sees people “sewing, quilting, weaving, cutting up old t-shirts, recycling cardboard, repairing shoes, etc.” She appreciates the body of support for the MRC, with volunteers ranging from youth groups to senior citizens.

Zorrilla enjoyed her experience with MCC and learned a lot from her cross-cultural living: “One of the things that impacted me most has been seeing how resilient people are. The perseverance, hard work, creativity and commitment to family and the future of people who have very limited or no access to resources many of us take for granted.”

She also enjoyed getting to travel to other agencies nearby and see the work that was being done by others, reminiscing: “I remember a trip we took in Bolivia (to one of the mountain towns where MCC supported a project). It felt like going back in time. Despite the different context, the commonalities of our lives struck me more than the differences.”

Sometimes, it was difficult to witness the persistence of problems like poverty, injustice and violence. Zorrilla pointed out that Honduras’s homicide rate is the highest in the world; there are 90.4 murders per 100,000 people. Through her work with MCC and other partners in Honduras, she was able to try to fight some of these statistics, though she admits that “working to change that is complex, takes time, and requires agencies and people working together.”

Overall, she has a positive impression of MCC after her many years of working with the organization: “MCC is an organization that is committed to people, to service, and to doing things honestly and doing them well.”

She valued the faith basis, cross-cultural peace-building and placement of volunteers to serve as ambassadors between cultures, mentioning that, “MCC workers are encouraged to live among local residents and participate in local churches.”

She also appreciated that MCC partners with local agencies that are already in place, so that the agency does not come into a country believing they know the best way to fix a situation without listening to the people living there.

As of now, Zorrilla is working with MCC through its East Coast division, in its Ephrata, PA office. She is doing part time work, helping out where needed. Zorrilla is just one of MCC’s many volunteers working to bring relief, development, and peace to different regions of the world.

Monica Roth

Sources: Mennonite Central Committee 1, Mennonnite Central Committee 2, Mennonnite World Review 1, Mennonnite World Review 2, Huffington Post, Personal Interview with Amy Boydell Zorrilla
Photo: Flickr