Claire Weihe served as a short-term volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. She shares how she was able to serve in a virtual capacity and build meaningful relationships.
Hello everyone! My name is Claire Weihe. I am a 21 year old university student in the U.S, studying public health at Kent State University with a hope to go into ministry with a focus on women’s health next fall. I have grown up in the United Church of Christ and I had the privilege of attending The General Synod this past year as a delegate. That is where I found out about the awesome work being done by Global Ministries and the great community partnerships that have developed! In February of 2020 I was confirmed to serve as a short term service volunteer with Global Ministries in Budapest, Hungary.. I was supposed to serve this summer from June through August. My role would be to serve with Kalunba ministries in their work with refugees offering English lessons, women’s health education, and public health education, as well as some ecumenical work with the Reformed Church of Hungary.
Then… the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the world, and international travel was not an option. At first I was sad, but I soon realized that volunteering for Kalunba in some capacity was necessary, because I was to be counted on!
I am from Ohio, so I am behind 6 hours from Budapest. This made things challenging at first, but I have gotten in the habit of learning what times are good to meet between the two time zones. Ezster, Dora, and Akos helped me in the beginning by connecting me with some students to see if there was interest in either English lessons or some form of physical exercise, all through Zoom! I have ended up doing weekly yoga and English sessions with a young woman about my own age. We have become friends, and we get to open up to each other about what is going on in our lives. It is more than just a tutor / tutee relationship. We do yoga videos, we prepare applications for academic opportunities and keep up with each other on social media as well.
Although this experience was not what I was expecting, I have gained valuable skills in communicating through technology, with people whose first language is not English, and with people that have different backgrounds than my own. In addition, I have seen how ministry goes beyond the “church” setting, and that although the basis of my volunteering was not in a religious capacity, I feel the spirit strongly during my time. I am so grateful to be connected to Kalunba and I hope to make it to Budapest soon!