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    In the Loop: Volunteering as a family in Papua New Guinea

In the Loop interviewee Jenn Rodemeyer and her family

A six-month overseas mission trip with her family was life changing in many ways for Jenn Rodemeyer, including how she views her work as a child life specialist at Mayo Clinic.

Jenn Rodemeyer stood among her students, sharing simple lessons about good hygiene. When it came time to share tips for tooth brushing, she picked up a coconut husk to demonstrate. It was just another day in the open-air office for Rodemeyer, who spent six months as a volunteer with YWAM Medical Ships, much of it caring for patients in Papua New Guinea. Her family — including her husband, Abe, and four children, then ages 13, 12, 9 and 7 — served alongside her on the medical mission.

"My husband and I had always talked about going overseas and doing a mission," Rodemeyer, a child life specialist at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, says. A few years ago, he suggested the time was right. Rodemeyer's initial response? "I thought, 'Are you kidding?' We have four kids. We'd just gotten a dog," she recalls. But soon, she was researching organizations that would allow the whole family (minus the dog) to volunteer. And in July 2017 the Rodemeyers flew to Australia, where they received training and spent time volunteering in indigenous communities before boarding the medical ship that would serve as their home base for three months.

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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.