MEI Secondary School
“I have no doubt that my missions experience in high school greatly affected my ability to take on a challenge like doing social justice work in Asia.”
Hi my name is Curtis Dueck. Thank you so much for having me here. It’s been a little surreal to come back to my high school setting seven years after graduating. It’s a little odd looking back at where I came from compared to where I am now. But when I do look back, I see a couple of moments that have led me to where I am today. One of those moments was the opportunity I had to go on a missions trip to Ukraine.
At 17 years old I had very limited experience with traveling outside of North America. At its most basic, the trip was a chance for me to gain a broader perspective and worldview by visiting a culture outside of my own. It wasn’t, however, just a vacation to a place where they spoke a different language. The city of Makyvka we visited was very poor, shockingly so for me. Staying with a host family in a house that had four rooms, walking by dilapidated buildings that still had tenants, and working in the orphanage filled to capacity with children, all these experiences were brand new to me. Hearing so many stories of poverty and tragedy, some orphans who had painful medical conditions, kids who ran away and were influenced by gangs, families who had abandoned these children, I had never even considered the idea that people might live like this while I was back in Canada.
All these stories were sobering, and might have been downright depressing, had it not been for the amazing redemption I was able to witness. We had the opportunity to visit several high schools in the city as well, and the kids, while in a very different circumstance, were just like us. They were so curious and excited to meet us, likely seeing Canadians for the first time. The children in the orphanage, even in their circumstances, were so excited to have our team visit. They greeted us every day with warm smiles and big hugs. They tried to speak as much English as they possibly could, and laughed as we made our own rather poor attempts at speaking Russian. We played volleyball and basketball with them, and saw pure joy on their faces in these moments that they were able to be carefree. Despite their lacking so much that we were privileged to have back home, these children and their caretakers were the ones who seemed to be giving to us.
Privileged. That was a word that hadn’t really meant much to me before. Needless to say it took on a whole new weight once I returned home to relative luxury compared to what I had experienced. I was suddenly aware that my experience is not representative of how the rest of the world lives, far from it in fact. If anything most of the people on this planet live in the same conditions or worse than the people I met in Makyvka. That knowledge undeniably changed my life from that point forward. I changed my major going into college. I actively sought out opportunities to do more missions work. Most of my life up to now has followed the theme of caring for people who are less fortunate than myself. And that road I started on by going on a missions trip with MEI led me to last year, when I got an internship with International Justice Mission working with police to stop human trafficking in the Philippines. My service with IJM was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Living overseas and working in another culture alone would have been amazing all by itself, but doing the work of stopping modern day slavery and teaming with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met gave me a year that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I will never forget my wonderful coworkers, the courageous survivors, or the dedicated citizens who came along side us.
I have no doubt that my missions experience in high school greatly affected my ability to take on a challenge like doing social justice work in Asia. Getting the chance to serve abroad prepared me for culture shock, long working days, and strange, strange food. My experiences at MEI expanded my worldview and got me engaged in opportunities I would never have otherwise got the chance to experience. I wish all young teens had the opportunity I did to visit poor countries and be part of making a positive impact on their own community and the global community.