Ever since she was a young child, Emily Lohmeyer sought to give back to others.
Her mother, Marybeth Paul, recounted stories of when her daughter, at the age of 5, came up with an idea to collect 25 things, mostly from home, to give out to students at school for no particular reason.
Another time in fifth grade, she rallied a group of students to raise money for a go-cart for a fellow student.
“She’s generous and really thinks of other people and thinks of what’s best for the whole,” said Paul.
Lohmeyer has taken her interest in helping from her local community and school, to other places in the U.S. and now the world.
She is preparing for a two-year trip to Managua, Nicaragua, through Jesuit Volunteer Corps to teach microfinance to women.
Lohmeyer has volunteered through JVC in the past, when she worked as a program assistant in the Refugee and Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis, Minn., providing free legal representation to low-income asylum seekers in Minnesota as well as in the Dakotas.
She also traveled to Kenya twice for volunteer work, once in 2009 for a month through Sure 24 at an orphanage and primary school and another time in 2012 for a month through a Stirring the Fire gender equality grant.
“I got really inspired by the kids,” she said. “I caught the bug.”
Lohmeyer said she chose Kenya because she had attended guest lectures in college about overseas humanitarian work, some of which focused on experiences in east Africa.
“I looked for opportunities,” Lohmeyer said. “I just started searching online and looking at different projects and volunteer organizations.”
Lohmeyer also volunteered at Paicabi, a nongovernmental organization working with victims of child sex-trafficking in Chile in summer 2010 and circumnavigated the globe with “Semester at Sea” her junior year as part of her scholarship.
Lohmeyer, who graduated from Nevada Union High School in 2008, said her spirit of generosity derives from growing up in the Grass Valley community.
“I think the different projects I’ve had the chance to work on have just been an extension of that, broadening the definition of community and becoming inspired by people and experiences along the way,” she said.
The Kenyan orphanage she visited was limited to boys only because the program director had personal experience growing up in an orphanage and wanted to help others like himself, Lohmeyer said, adding he had wanted to open up an orphanage for girls as well, but did not have the funds.
She stayed in touch with him and the director was able to open up another orphanage and when Lohmeyer returned to Kenya, she helped the girls in the program.
“I got to go back and help the girls coming off of living on the street who were in the orphanage,” she said.
Lohmeyer’s trip to Managua was inspired by her experience working with Latin American immigrants in Minnesota and also those she talked to while attending University of San Diego, where she studied international relations.
She decided to focus on helping women after “hearing them talk about their lives and different ways they could become dependent on abusive spouses and couldn’t get out of situations, (because) the empowerment model and statistics in Central America of domestic abuse are really atrocious,” Lohmeyer said.
“Their stories really touched me and the right opportunities came up that this was happening, so I wanted to get on board.”
A fundraiser will be hosted from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Banner Grange Hall at 12629 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, which will include live music, a silent auction, presentation of Lohmeyer’s travels, and food and drinks.
The fundraiser will support Lohmeyer’s journey, as participants in the program are expected to fundraise $3,000 to supplement the cost of housing, food and support during the years of service.
“I’m excited for this fundraiser as a way to reconnect with, and be supported by, the community that raised me as I venture off to embrace a new one,” Lohmeyer said.
“The value of community, and a spirituality that inspires defining community in the broadest possible sense, is a strong point of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and one of the reasons I’m excited to continue volunteering with the organization.”
Lohmeyer has never been away from home, let alone in another country, for such a long period of time, but she is excited.
“I definitely am a little bit nervous,” she admitted. “I think it’s going to be a huge challenge, and I know I’m going to get homesick, but I’m also jittery and anxious to jump in. It’s really cool these organizations exist to make it possible for people to do this kind of work.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4230.