Family, Faith Inspire International Service


Andrew Grupe

Thirteen houses were built in Mexico near Tijuana by 250 high school students and adults during spring break 2017. The trip was organized by Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church. This accomplishment and experiences gained were celebrated the following Sunday during MVPC’s Mexico Sunday Worship Service.

Aleksandra Markovic, Staff Writer

Senior Kaley Grupe knows something about community service.

Grupe has traveled to Tijuana, Mexico the last 4 years with her Church to build houses for people in need. “The first 2 years that I went– so freshmen and sophomore year –we built a house,” said Grupe. “This year and last year I was a photographer and tech, so I would document what each team was doing when they were building their house and I helped create the video that we make every year. “

During this year’s trip over spring break, Grube was a team leader. “I would tell the adults on my team what to do, how to do it, when to do it and I also helped my dad collect all the photos after the fact,” she said.

Grupe has also traveled to Ghana the last 3 years with the City of Refuge Ministries (CORM), which is an organization that provides safe homes for children recovering from slavery and other abuses.


“She [Grupe] was still a young girl and nervous about experiencing a new culture. One of our kids asked her why she was so quiet, and she responded by beginning to engage our children on a daily basis,” said Autumn Buzzell, Director of Education at CORM’s school Faith Roots International Academy. “She practically moved into our children’s home, loving on our kids and making friends.” 

“Each time has been a little different, but for the most part it’s playing with the kids, actually being a tutor because it’s an orphanage and a school attached to it,” said Grupe about her work in Ghana.

Grupe also documents her work in Ghana with photography. Buzzel said, “Her ability to capture our children and schoolkids through her photography has been a fantastic gift for our organization.”

Ghana’s technology has significantly improved over the past few years that Grupe’s been there. Grupe explained that “because it keeps progressing so much, they need a lot of help coming in and telling them how to run certain stuff and help them with anything if something doesn’t run correctly.”

One of the obstacles that Grupe faces in Ghana is the language barrier. Ghana’s official language is English, but it also has  national languages like Ewe, Ga, and Gonja. “Sometimes it’s difficult to understand them [citizens of Ghana] and to really be able to communicate because there is a slight language barrier because they speak English in a different way than we speak it,” said Grupe.

Grupe said that Ghana is “actually a pretty prosperous country at this point” because their “economy has grown over the past 10 years.” Trading Economy website statistics state that, “Ghana’s economy expanded 4.1 percent year-on-year in the last three months of 2016, higher than 3.9 percent a year earlier.”

“For the most part, a lot of Western customs have been accepted and have influenced that country,” Grupe said. “So, you see it’s a lot more common for people to have iPhones and have their Macbooks.”

Even though Ghana resembles America more today than before, Grupe said that Ghanaians’ “behavior and customs are very different.”

“There’s a lot of like wearing more modest clothing, so skirts and dresses for girls,” said Grupe. “With guys it’s more okay to wear tank tops and shorts and what not, but women need to be modest.”

 “So, if you’re not Ghanaian or if you’re not Nigerian or anything, but you’re obviously white or Asian or any other ethnicity, they will often stop you for no apparent reason and ask for bribes, either hit on you or be very rude to you,” said Grupe. “So, it’s just like either you’re very sexualized or you’re very negatively viewed. That’s one thing that’s kind-of difficult when you’re going into Ghana.”

Still, Grupe focuses on the postives. “I have good opinions of Ghana just because I’ve had so many good memories there, but I’m sure it’s different for everyone if they were to go,” she said.

Group said her family is most responsible for her interest in service. “We’ve always done some sort of community service together as a family or at least with a few other family members,” said Grupe. “Since I was little, I would like help at soup kitchens and done a lot of stuff with my church.”

Grupe’s parents are originally from Germany. They were influenced by the post the World War 2 environment they grew up in. Grupe said, “Those generations learned that they need to help their community and serve those around them that may be in more need than they are. So, it’s just something that my parents had thought me and I try to like replicate and really show and do.”

Grupe’s mom Kristina and dad Andrew both grew up in households engaged in community service. Kristina said, “I kind-of always thought that’s normal to do, the same for my husband, so we did the same as a family.”

Grupe’s planning on taking a gap year in Ghana before attending Diablo Valley College. Buzzell said, “While we have had a few gap year students come and serve with us in the past. We do recognize that it is a sacrifice and not the ‘normal’ way that most students want to spend their time after high school.”

Grupe’s 2 older brothers also took gap years and went to Germany to do Social Dienst or social service, a common practice for students in Germany. “I like the idea of a high school student taking a gap year to figure where they want to go with their life after that and I’ve encouraged all my children to go where they wanted,” said Kristina. “I know that Kaley’s heart and passion has been with Ghana from the time she was 13 years old, so I’m excited and completely supportive of her decision.”

Grupe still hasn’t decided on a college major, but has interest in psychology, technology and science. She likes photography, but considers it more of a hobby than a serious career.

One thing that Grupe’s sure of is that she will continue with community service all of her life. “I don’t personally make any profit of of it, but I guess this is like very cliche and very sappy thing to say, but I sort of profit of of it in a sense that I’m able to see how I impact other people’s lives and also the impact that those people have on me,” said Grupe.

“I’m really always supportive of any student who takes time away from their own personal life goals and agenda to serve the underprivileged in any regard, be that here in the US or be that overseas,” said Kristina. “I think we live in such a bubble here in Lamorinda so for anybody to have the chance to go look on the other side of the fence and realize how many other people in the world have so much less, and how they deal with this, and how we can help them not by doing stuff for them, but help them to help themselves is something I’m always supportive of.”