For four siblings, a trip to Mexico means the opportunity to spend time together while also helping others.
Dan, Carolyn, Ann Marie and Maggie Edlebeck left earlier this week for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where they are volunteering at Casa de Los Angeles, a free day care for low-income mothers that was founded in 2000 by Donna Quathamer.
For Dan, 25, it is the first trip there to volunteer. His three sisters have gone there in the past to help where needed.
“I think it’s pretty rare – a neat opportunity,” he said of the fact that the four of them are volunteering together this time.
The planning began last fall.
Ann Marie, who is 20 and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is double majoring in Spanish and social work.
In March, her semester abroad in Peru begins. Therefore, this is the perfect time for her to volunteer for a longer period of time. And, since Ann Marie and her sisters had traveled to Mexico in the past to volunteer at the day care, that is where she wanted to go.
Soon, she learned she would have company on her trip.
Carolyn, 23, and a UW-Madison international relations graduate, said, “I should go between Uganda and Uganda.”
She returned home to Waupaca in December after working at the Arlington Academy of Hope and will be going back to Uganda in February, committed to another six months of work there.
This is Carolyn and Ann Marie’s fifth trip to Mexico to volunteer at the day care.
In the past, they went on Young Neighbors in Action service trips through their church St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community.
“We wanted to do something longer,” Ann Marie remarked.
Their parents, John and Kay Edlebeck, began doing research online and then suggested that they ask members of their parish if they were aware of any such opportunities.
One member, Vinal Van Benthem, was.
She knew Quathamer, the day care founder who was a divorced, single mother living and working in Chicago, when she felt called to do something more.
During a trip to Mexico, Quathamer asked the mothers what they needed, and they told her they needed someone to watch their children while they worked.
Today, there are two day care centers there, filled with 100 children, serving 83 families.
As Carolyn and Ann Marie began discussing a trip there, their brother found the timing to be perfect for him.
Since graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in business administration, Dan has worked in Florida and most recently in Chicago. He made the move to Chicago for a job selling Web-based software and was shocked when he was let go shortly after starting the new job.
Dan did a bit of job searching but then began to re-evaluate things, saying in business school he was always pushed to look for the next opportunity. He realized that he did not need to find that kind of job and instead, paid his bills by walking dogs and dropping them off at doggy day care. He also began volunteering at a day care in a Hispanic neighborhood.
When he found out his sisters were going to Mexico, he thought it was the right time for him to go, too.
He had been unable to go with them in the past because of summer job commitments, and of the four siblings, he will stay there the longest.
“I will be there until May 21,” he said. “The main thing I’m hoping to get out of the experience is to see how I can contribute to the organization.”
Maggie, 18, is a senior at Waupaca High School and was not going to be left behind when her sisters began planning the trip.
Maggie made arrangements with her teachers and will be coming back to Waupaca with Carolyn on Jan. 28. Ann Marie will be volunteering there with Dan until mid-February.
The four of them see this as a time to be together.
“We’re all at different stages of our life,” Carolyn said, explaining that in the future, she will not be able to take this much time off from a job to volunteer.
There will be plenty of soul-searching about what each one of them wants to do next and where those decisions will thus take them.
“We’re all going to try to help each other with the rest of our lives,” said Maggie.