Meet the 2023 HNGR Cohort

10 Wheaton students prepare to leave for six-month internships in nine countries.

2023 HNGR Cohort

Finalizing plane tickets, writing letters to host families and figuring out how to pack, the ten participants in the 2023 Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) cohort are getting ready to be stationed around the world. The students, listed below, will be participating in six-month internships from May through December. The HNGR certificate program, established in 1976, requires 16 hours of coursework across multiple disciplines including anthropology, theology, and economics, followed by the internship in the last year of the student’s degree alongside 10-16 credits while abroad, with a capstone seminar upon their return.

Mary Taylor Jackson, a junior applied health science major from Asheville, N.C., will be interning at Camp Hope, a day program and orphanage for children with mild to severe disabilities, in Quito, Ecuador.  

 “Though I am excited to live in a Spanish-speaking context and learn from a new culture, the difficulty of adjusting to a new way of life and to be so independently placed in a completely new context is nerve-wracking,” said Jackson.

She said she loves that the HNGR program “beautifully accompanies communities experiencing poverty and vulnerability.” The length of the internship was a draw to the program for Jackson. 

“It shows how, rather than just dropping into a community for a week or so, HNGR is committed to living life alongside people who are working for transformation worldwide,” Jackson said. 

Elianna Tuggy, an economics major originally from Kampala, Uganda, will spend her semester in Kitwe, Zambia, working with an organization called PLAEP (Partners for Life Advancement and Education Promotion). Tuggy, who hopes to be a missionary after college, will help with the PLAEP’s micro-savings groups, where families from poor households meet regularly to save their money in a safe place and learn about financial management. 

“It’s important to remember our position as partakers in work that God is already doing and learners first in new environments — rather than knowledgeable or prosperous rescuers,” said Tuggy.

Elizabeth Giles, a psychology and Spanish double major, hails from West Hartford, Conn. She chose HNGR for its cross-cultural and immersive language experience. “HNGR allows me to walk alongside a community so different than my own in mutual and reciprocal learning,” she said. 

Giles will be an intern for Fundación Renacer in San José, Costa Rica. This organization serves adolescent girls as an addiction recovery center. Giles will assist group therapy sessions, tutor English and help lead worship. 

Joyce Han, an applied health science major from southeast Pennsylvania, first heard about HNGR from her freshman-year roommate and now, as a junior, is headed to Xalapa, Mexico. Han will be working at a health clinic, Vida en Abundancia, as well as participating in community health interventions, including a nutrition program for infants and mothers. 

“I am most excited to learn from the people in my placement, whether it’s the people at the clinic, my host family, or community members in general,” she said. “I hope to learn a lot about the rich culture, language and history of the community and get to know the people.” 

Megan Smoot, an environmental science major from Anchorage, Alaska, will be stationed at Bethany Land Institute, a farm in Uganda that teaches sustainable farming practices to rural, impoverished youth. Smoot says she chose to do HNGR because she is interested in humanitarian aid work. 

“The hands-on learning experience within my field of study in a different cultural context was intriguing,” said Smoot. Though being away from home for such a long time will be a challenge, she said, she is excited to learn from the work and from the people already learning and living on the farm..

Laura Poetzel, a double major in international relations and Spanish, will be interning with Justapaz, a Christian Mennonite organization that helps strengthen local churches and organizations, in Bogota, Colombia. Poetzel said she hopes to learn about the effects of the country’s low-intensity civil war that began in 1964 and continues to this day, as well as the work of churches and teams partnered with Justapaz.

“The HNGR program really challenges us to think about how we, as humans and as followers of Christ, can pursue ‘justice and fullness of life’ in such a broken, inequitable and hurting world,” she said.

Katie Wilcox, an international relations major from Wheaton, is headed to Moyobamba, Peru to work with a human rights organization called Paz y Esperanza. She will be doing research on environmental politics and its effect on women in the region. 

Wilcox said her heart is “very ready for the slow pace of life surrounded by nature.” 

Caleb Rathburn, also from Wheaton, will work with AMI San Lucas in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. A biology major on the pre-med track, Rathburn will be helping out in the AMI San Lucas medical clinic and making house visits with the doctors to local families in the area. He will also help local churches implement various health programs.

“I am very excited for a change of pace through experiential learning and the opportunity to get a better sense of my calling through clinical and public health experience, as well as building relationships with my host family and coworkers,” he said.

Autumn Simpson is a junior from South Carolina majoring in psychology with a Spanish minor. She will be interning with Christ for the City International in San José, Costa Rica. The organization runs 13 development centers across the country where community-focused programs help rebuild trust between neighbors and local churches and spread the gospel. 

“HNGR is a place where I am at home, surrounded by others who are similarly committed to peace, justice and engaging globally in a humble and informed way,” said Simpson. 

Leanna Seto, a junior psychology major from Centreville, Va., knew she wanted to do HNGR ever since HNGR 114, the first HNGR seminar course. “It taught freshman me to think about and approach both poverty and justice in ways I had never been taught before,” she said. 

Seto will be interning in the Philippines at the SPECS Foundation, a local organization addressing poverty by reaching out to children and families. Seto will be leading daily activities, ranging from Bible storytelling to brushing teeth with children. She will also participate in the foundation’s feeding and outreach program.

Caroline Sikkink

Caroline Sikkink

Caroline Sikkink is a senior communication major. Originally from Asheville, N.C., she enjoys basketball, raspberries, and documentaries.

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