By the time graduation rolls around, most students won’t have as many stamps on their passports as Mount Pleasant senior Grace Duthie.
This 23-year-old political science major has loaded her résumé with worldwide trips to lend a hand in underdeveloped countries, and these experiences have given her a perspective that only few can appreciate.
“I went to Kenya for three months; I took a semester off college and did that. I was in Uganda for three weeks, and last summer, I was in Egypt for about five and a half weeks,” Duthie said.
Her interest in volunteering overseas was sparked by a mixture of curiosity and her love of travel.
“I really like other cultures a lot,” Duthie said. “I hope to live in different places every few years. I love traveling, so helping overseas is like killing two birds with one stone.”
In March 2011, Duthie traveled to Mombasa, Kenya, where she volunteered for three months teaching underprivileged children to read and write in English.
Duthie sought out the program online through a company that offers various global volunteer opportunities.
“There’s a program called Global Vision International, which is a British company I found online (that connected me) to the Kenya trip,” Duthie said. “There, I taught English at a school for disadvantaged kids.”
With poverty and disease running rampant, the children of Kenya are gratified in some of the most unique ways; like a child named Saied, who won a special place in Duthie’s heart.
“One of my happiest moments (in Kenya) was with one of the kids, Saied, and he was probably 13,” she said. “We had this medical clinic that was giving out free HIV tests, and he wanted me to be with him when he got it. It took about two minutes to get the results and his was negative. I’ve never seen a kid just light up like he did. I was just so happy.”
In August 2012, Duthie made a trip to Uganda, where she spent three weeks helping build and paint in various communities.
“For the Uganda trip, I found out about a local organization called Heart Cry International,” she said. “We did a lot of building. We helped paint and did construction-type work there and helped teach kids how to paint so they could start their own businesses.”
The final trip in her saga ended with a trip to Cairo, Egypt this summer, where Duthie worked as a teacher at a children’s summer camp.
“The kids were so energetic. They’ll ask you just about anything. There was a lot of curiosity as to why I wasn’t married yet,” Duthie jokes. “They were really hyper and very cool.”
Duthie’s international trips have reinforced her passion for helping others and have inspired Duthie to pursue a career with the Peace Corps.
After a rigorous application and interview process behind her, she received a nomination to go to Sierra Leone.
“I’ll go there sometime in June to do legal and medical background checks with others who have been nominated for the same area,” Duthie said.
Afterward, Duthie will be considered, along with other applicants nominated to her region, to fill open Peace Corps positions.
Faculty members began to show their support for Duthie’s plans. One of her supporters is political science professor Justin Hoyle, who recommended Duthie for her teaching position in Egypt.
“She is one of the brightest, most motivated, intellectually curious students I have had at CMU,” Hoyle said. “Furthermore, she has a strong passion for helping people. In my view, the Peace Corps will allow her to combine all of these strengths in a very exciting way.”
Grand Haven senior and good friend Emily Brouwer is confident in Duthie’s future.
“Grace is one of the nicest people I know. When I met her around a year ago, we were almost instant friends,” Brouwer said. “Her good spirit and love for volunteering makes me want to be a better person and follow in her footsteps. I know that in the future she will be doing great things.”
Her passion for helping others has allowed Duthie to sympathize with those living in underdeveloped countries.
“Sometimes there wasn’t any electricity or running water, so you get used to a simple living,” she said. ”(You) see a different kind of world and the different conditions people live in. It’s definitely eye-opening, and you’ll come back as a completely different person.”
Despite the attention, Duthie remains humble and true to the reason she began her journey: Her passion for helping people.
“I’ve been really lucky in my life and I’ve been given a lot of great opportunities, and it breaks my heart knowing that there are people out there who don’t get those opportunities, so it’s always been a goal of mine to help others,” she said.