The Common Good
September-October 2000

Sustaining a Life of Service

by Julienne Gage | September-October 2000

A legacy of service: Krista Hunt Ausland

I am designed to show God’s love in action," wrote 24-year-old Krista Hunt Ausland in her application for voluntary service with Mennonite Central Committee. The following year Krista died in a bus accident in Bolivia. She was serving in a women’s cooperative with MCC.

Krista’s legacy didn’t stop with her last breath. In 1999, family and friends formed a socially committed organization in her memory. Krista’s parents, Jim and Linda Hunt, direct the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship. The foundation’s board members—drawn from around the world—have launched a mentoring community to encourage and sustain young adults involved in service in developing countries and America’s inner cities. One foundation project is to provide volunteers with talent and interest grants in Krista’s name.

Most voluntary service organizations provide the bare minimum of resources and encourage simple living. Many volunteers don’t have funds to enhance career and life skills during their stipend-based projects. Krista Colleague grants encourage the efforts of volunteers and foster a worldwide community of service-minded mentors.

For example, Krista had graduate school plans after her commitment to MCC. She wanted to enroll in a University of Washington correspondance course in economics while still in Bolivia. The foundation’s grants can cover the costs of such classes.

The Krista Foundation also recognizes a need for emotional release from intense Third World and inner city environments. Creative cultural activities bring vitality back to the volunteers and help them share new ideas and energy with the community.

These grants are fairly open. They can benefit graduate school plans or foster cultural understanding. Most important, they inspire young volunteers to invest in the future. Krista Colleagues mentor future grant recipients. This year the majority of grant recipients were close friend of Krista’s since so many shared her vision. Their Krista Colleague projects reflect her creativity and enthusiasm.

Wakefield Gregg of Tacoma, Washington, used part of his grant to attend a conference on racial reconciliation with civil rights activist John Perkins. He donated his remaining funds to gang members in his neighborhood who rented a van to attend a retreat with Perkins in his Mississippi home.

Valerie Norwood, an anthropologist and Presbyterian volunteer in Kenya, used her grant to pay for translating and transcribing the life stories of the grandmothers in her village. Jack Brace and Valerie’s husband, Tom, also Presbyterian volunteers in Kenya, used their grants to apprentice with Muslim Kikuyu wood carvers.

Krista’s husband, Aaron, has continued to work with MCC in Bolivia on a micro-lending program. He helps poor women buy equipment for their informal sector businesses. Aaron used his foundation money to attend a training conference at the Microenterprise Development Institute in New Hampshire.

A street vendor, Luisa, doubled her income with a micro-loan from Aaron’s program. The needed money transformed her life in spiritual and economic ways. In gratitude, Luisa named her baby "Krista Zoe." Zoe was the name Krista and Aaron planned to name their first child.

"If Krista could visit today," Aaron says, "she would meet women who learned how to write their name for the first time because we sat down with them one afternoon after their frustration became apparent trying to sign a contract."

The Krista Foundation formed out of the untimely death of a globally committed young person, but it fosters new life for young volunteers and their community projects around the world. "We want to cement that idealism that comes out of college," says Krista’s father, Jim. He says that the foundation tells young people, "We’re going to support you in a love of service that will sustain you throughout your lives."

JULIENNE GAGE is a former Sojourners intern who now lives in Spain. The Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, P.O. Box 28773, Spokane, WA 99228; Kristafoundation@hotmail.com

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