About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains.
Inspired by a news story she saw when she was 14, Julie Kuhnert and her family realized her lifelong dream to help those less fortunate than themselves by leaving the comfort of home and serving as missionaries in Belize.
Julie Kuhnert shares her story helping children and alleviating poverty in Central America.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve taken on?
A: In 2011-2012, we decided to take our five kids to the Central American country of Belize to spend a year of missionary service. While there, we worked to improve education, provide opportunities for children in the arts and we worked with grassroots programs to help alleviate poverty.
With very little money to our name and no specific organization sponsoring us, we spread the word, asked for support from our community, and walked away from the "securities" of home. We trusted that by following our heart and listening to the call, our family would be taken care of.
Q: What inspired you to take on this challenge?
A: I saw a story on the news when I was 14 years old that discussed neglected and impoverished orphans in war-torn Eastern Europe. Ever since then, I’ve felt called to help in a way that was outside the box. As a family, we’ve always had empathy for the poor and an appreciation of other cultures/ethnic groups.
Belize is actually a "melting pot" of unique and indigenous cultures and we saw this as a great fit for our opportunity to serve. After exploring several programs and countries, we realized that none were a perfect fit for our family. When a Jesuit priest, a former St. Louisan, extended an invitation to serve in southern Belize, we saw this as a great opportunity for our family.
Q: Did you succeed?
A: As far as the year of service with open eyes, open hearts, and a desire to build relationships, yes, we could say that we definitely succeeded. We started projects that give a hand up instead of a handout and were able to pass those off to others living in Belize empower the residents there.
Just because we’re back in the U.S. now, our work still continues both here and there for ongoing success. We continue to work on and contribute to projects in Belize and we have taken our new views of the world and made a conscious effort to bring that peace and simplicity into our lives here in the U.S.