A year off to travel and volunteer—that’s what Neil and Audrey Rempel are doing.
The semi-retired couple from Winnipeg are part of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) recreational vehicle program, whose volunteers drive their RVs to worksites to assist with rebuilding.
Neil, 66, was a painter for 20 years, and he also built homes. Audrey, 67, worked alongside him.
“We enjoy helping people,” says Audrey of their decision to join with MDS.
“God has blessed us so we can bless others,” adds Neil.
Last summer, the two provided supervision and guidance to young volunteers working with MDS in Williams Lake, B.C., where MDS rebuilt four houses in the area following the wildfires that tore through the northern B.C. region in 2017.
“Through volunteering we’ve met so many good people,” Neil says of how they have volunteered with MDS and several other organizations in North America, Nicaragua and Mexico.
Plus, he adds, “we enjoy travelling. This isn’t a hardship.”
“We get lots out of it,” adds Audrey. “We’re making lifelong friends.”
The couple think that even when the year is over, they will keep volunteering “as long as we are able,” Audrey says.
“Our faith calls us to serve others,” says Neil. “MDS is one way for us to do it. We have skills and talents in this area, so why not use them?”
The Rempels are just one of a number of individuals, couples and whole families who spend weeks or months of every year travelling and serving with MDS across Canada and the United States, says MDS volunteer development coordinator Evelyn Peters-Rojas.
“They tell us they are looking for adventure, a chance to see other parts of Canada and the U.S., meet new people and to do something to help others,” she says. Through MDS, “they are able to do all those things, and come away from it at the end knowing they have made a significant impact on the lives of people who lost homes due to disasters.”
At the same time, she adds, for Canadians there is the added incentive of “escaping the winter” by doing service in the south.
“Winters are long,” she says. “For some, they’d rather work on a house in the warm sun than sit on a beach. Through MDS, they can do that and make a real difference in the lives of others.”