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Three international visitors pitch in to aid communities

Jacqueline Stapha Nashon, Maren Pauls, and Desmond Xolani Tsele are part of the International Volunteer Exchange Program and may be seen helping out around the Kidron and Dalton area this year. The college graduates volunteer in the community as part of the program to learn and share their culture with residents here and take back what they learn to their hometowns.

DGKN correspondent

Jacqueline Stapha Nashon is persistent.

Her persistence paid off for herself – and the Kidron community.

In 2019, she applied to be a part of the International Volunteer Exchange Program. Then, the pandemic happened. In 2021, her Visa wasn’t approved until too late into the year.

Finally, on Aug. 16, 2022, she arrived in Pennsylvania for a week of IVEP training — all the way from Tanzania, which is on the east coast of Africa.

While waiting, she kept busy at the hairdressing salon she and her mother co-own. A college graduate with a degree in Human Resource Management, Nashon is accomplished on many levels.

Nashon is one of three IVEPers to come to the area. IVEP is a yearlong volunteer work and cultural exchange opportunity for young, Christian adults. Every year 60 IVEP participants come from more than 25 countries around the world to volunteer in the U.S. or Canada, where they live with a local person or family. Since its beginning in 1950, IVEP has emphasized peacemaking and building understanding across cultures. (

“I think it is important for people to understand that these are not high school kids but young adult college graduates, often leaders in their churches and broader community,” wrote Lydell Steiner, who served with MCC in Nicaragua and now works with Sales and Service at Tilmor.

The extended Steiner family has been supportive of the MCC IVEP program for many years, dating back to 1983 when they sponsored Mark Rockson from Ghana. More recently, they have sponsored Wilmar from Guatemala in 2011, Mizinga from Zambia in 2017, and now Desmond from Zimbabwe.

“Our goals are such that we understand the importance of sharing our time, gifts and experiences with others so that they can go home and have a positive impact in their communities. At the same time we understand that we have much to learn as well, IVEPers bring a unique set of experiences, maturity and energy that often brighten our days and can bring a unique perspective to the work we are doing on our farms or in our businesses,” Steiner wrote.

Desmond Xolani Tshele will be working with Steiner at Tilmor and Venture Heritage Farms, Nashon will be serving at MCC Connections in Kidron, and Maren Jessica Pauls will be working at Central Christian School as a German and Keyboarding teacher, and a teacher’s aide, for classes from Kindergarten through 4th grade.

Pauls graduated from university in February, with an English and Portuguese language and linguistics major. Since the start of 2021, she was a middle and high school German teacher at a school in her hometown.
Pauls actually grew up in a Mennonite colony in the south of Brazil, of about 2500 people.

“There are a few Mennonite groups that settled there after fleeing their home country,” Pauls said. “It is also a rural area, so the community was quite closed off for a long time, which helped keep a lot of the traditions alive, as well as the languages, German and Plattdeutsch. Nowadays, the colony is a lot more open, and has since become a spot for tourists coming from nearby cities.”

Pauls’ mother was a participant in the program and used to tell her about her time in the US, which made her want to be an IVEPer.

Varying in levels of English comprehension, all three of the IVEPers know some English, and are friendly and eager to talk.

“Every person I’ve met has been very kind and welcoming, which has made the adjustment process a little easier during these first days here,” wrote Pauls.

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