By Nick May ’13 & Connor Bradshaw Van Lier Ribbink ’13
Every year, scores of students travel across the world on immersion trips sponsored by Brophy.
However, every year some students find other immersion trips with their respective church groups or other foundations.
Many hear stories from the Brophy immersion trips but people rarely hear the stories of students who go on immersion trips outside of the school.
Mueller gets ‘experience of my life’ in Ecuador with church mission
This past summer, Scott Mueller ’13 travelled more than 3,000 miles to the South American country of Ecuador.
“It was amazing. It’s a completely different place than any where I’ve ever been,” Mueller said.
Mueller said he had some concerns about Ecuador before he left on his journey.
“I definitely was nervous about going to a different country that spoke a different language than me, but once I got there my nerves were eased and I just enjoyed the experience,” Mueller said.
Mueller left Arizona for Ecuador with his church group in late last July.
“I left with my church, First United Methodist Church, a youth group mission trip. We went down there to help the poor communities,” Mueller said.
Mueller experienced first hand the poverty of the slums of Quito, Ecuador and offered a lot of help to these people.
“It was really a shock. These people were just so grateful for everything. We helped build two houses and helped give dental care to those who couldn’t afford it,” Mueller said.
Even though Mueller had a lot of work, he still found time to make friends.
“I met a little guy, he was about six and we bonded. He would also ask me and my friend Michael to play soccer with him and by the end of the trip he called me his hermano,” Mueller said. “It meant a lot to me that I could have such a great impact on a kid’s life.”
While the trip was mostly centered around the mission aspect, Mueller was also able to experience the culture of Ecuador.
“We were able to go into the city a few times and see the markets and stuff like that. The cultural difference was shocking,” Mueller said.“But I was still able to relate and connect to the people there, which was really cool.”
Mueller also picked up some souvenirs while he was there.
“I really liked the flag of Ecuador so I got a flag and few soccer jerseys including the Ecuador national team soccer jersey, which I really liked because it has the same vibrant colors as the flag of Ecuador,” Mueller said.
Mueller said he found the experience to have a larger impact on him than he expected.
“I knew it would change me but I’m surprised how much it changed me. If I had a chance, I’d leave for Ecuador tomorrow,” Mueller said. “I had the experience of my life.”
Senior spends a dozen days in Uganda
Last summer Robby Leonard ’13 packed up a small suitcase and a backpack with just the necessities he would need to spend a dozen days living in Uganda, Africa, which is by far the farthest place from home he had ever been.
And it wasn’t just for the African safaris.
When Leonard found out that a family friend in California had started a foundation in the East African country of Uganda, he was interested. When Leonard discovered that he was invited to go on a mission trip his summer before senior year, he was in a whirlwind of emotions.
“I had a lot of emotions going into the trip,” Leonard said.“Obviously I was nervous, but I was excited to do something totally different than I had before.”
The mission of the trip was to improve the community physically and mentally through teaching children, bonding with them and improving their surroundings as a whole.
It took Leonard and his group a full day to finally arrive in Uganda and finally their destination, a school for the extremely poor children in the community.
“When I first got to the school the poverty was pretty surprising,” Leonard said. “It was obviously a major culture change, but the kids made me feel extremely welcomed.”
Leonard stayed at a local hotel and each morning at sun up he and his group would walk about a mile down the main road to the basketball courts where they would teach the American game of basketball to the kids of the home.
Following this Leonard would help other volunteers with construction projects such as building new segments to the school and repairing the church.
“Whenever the kids saw me walking down the road to start my day with them they got super excited. I was definitely appreciated,” Leonard said.
After nine days of hard work at the school, Leonard then had the opportunity to go on an African safari.
“It was crazy because I saw so much suffering, sickness and poverty during my time at the school, but on the safari there was just so much beauty,” Leonard said. “It reminded me of the kids. Even though everything around them was rough there was still a beauty in them.”
Leonard said he hopes to go back to Uganda and that school in the near future.
“I think about it every day,” Leonard said. “It was the best trip of my life.”