Three Interns, One Equal Heart

January 14, 2015

They work out of a one-room office just south of campus.  As interns at the One Equal Heart Foundation, Ella Youtsey (left), Sara Haugen (middle), and Taylor Denton (right) use their language skills, classroom learning, and volunteer experiences to support families and communities of Tseltal Maya.

One Equal Heart provides funding to support leadership development and locally sustainable agricultural practices among the Tseltal Maya in Chiapas, Mexico.  To address high rates of infant mortality and malnutrition, the Seattle nonprofit partners with local organizations to train indigenous communities to make nutritional supplements from crops that they grow. The foundation also supports environmental practices, such as sustainable gardens and worm-composting, as well as leadership development.

“It’s both empowerment and sustainability for long-term health and well-being,” Youtsey said. “I help with special events, blog posts, social media, and translation.”

Youtsey, who graduated in December, majored in Spanish and minored in International Studies. She planned to study nursing when she came to Seattle University, but after taking a Spanish class, she changed her major. As a senior, she traveled to the Universidad Iberoamericana in Puebla, Mexico, where Seattle University has had a study-abroad program for more than 20 years.

“We had lots of classes that were about culture and history,” she said. “They opened my mind to accepting different cultures and their practices. I gained an understanding of what they needed to do to better themselves within their own cultural context. Those experiences are close to my heart and influential in my life.”

Youtsey spent additional time in Mexico, volunteering for Fundacion en Via. The nonprofit provides interest-free microloans to women in Oaxaca. On tours for visitors, she explained local culture and customs, gave them an understanding of development issues, and showed them first-hand how microfinance works and the impact it has on the community.

Youtsey plans to get a master’s degree in international education and work in a study-abroad program.

Sara Haugen also had solid language skills and volunteer experiences before joining One Equal Heart as an intern. In Oaxaca with Amigos de los Americas she taught workshops on hygiene to children and coordinated two community murals with her volunteer partners. For Hope of the Pokomchi, she served as a cultural liaison and translator in Guatemala.

She came to Seattle University for our extensive programs in international studies, Spanish, and nonprofit leadership.

Haugen studied at the Jesuit-run Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua last summer, which is a new study-abroad program affiliated with Seattle University. Now with her internship she is gaining greater understanding of how international nonprofits work in the United States as well as how to bring long-term sustainability and leadership to lead communities toward self-sufficiency. After graduation, she plans to volunteer again in Guatemala and then return to work in Seattle “where there are a ton of nonprofits.”

Like Youtsey, Taylor Denton stumbled on Spanish as a freshman.

“Spanish clicked for me,” she said. “I decided to go on the Puebla program my sophomore year.”

“Puebla is awesome,” she continued. “This was the first time I traveled internationally on my own, but I was comfortable having the safety net of my host family and my professors. I got on the bus and explored. I got a good grasp of the culture and expanded my knowledge.”

Denton decided to major Cultural Anthropology and then added Spanish as second major.

Studying Spanish at Seattle University goes beyond just learning a language. The program focuses on culture, history, and the ways people interact. Cultural Anthropology students examine cultures comparatively. Classes in ethnography, visual anthropology, and culture and personality provide students with a well-rounded view of what anthropology is.

At One Equal Heart, Denton is learning about fundraisers and helping with social media and outreach.

“I can use my Spanish and my knowledge of cultural differences and cultural acceptance and apply it to a real-world situation, which is what we are all striving to do.” she said.

Denton is interested in working for nonprofits and may pursue a master’s in public health, concentrating on global or community health, after graduation.

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