Olivia Bunz '16
‘Beyond Mountains are Mountains’
Message From the President
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Two short weeks after graduating in December, Olivia Bunz, ’16 did something few people of any age would have the courage to do. She packed up all belongings and moved to Haiti. “I remember looking at my mom and saying ‘there is no other time in my life that I’m going to get to do this.’”
Bunz moved to Fond Blanc, a tiny Haitian mountain village accessible only by a single road. As Director of Operations for the Fond Blanc Foundation, she was responsible for overseeing the education, health care and nutritional needs of the 60 children living in the Fond Blanc orphanage.
Bunz credits her studies as a Sociology major with preparing her for the responsibilities of being ‘the orphanage mom.’ “As a sociology major at Edgewood College, I learned to be a good human being and how to interact with other people. I learned to be accepting of other cultures and to understand that—even though I’d been taught a certain way all my life—it’s not always going to work that way. I can’t impose my beliefs on other people. Being exposed to the different classes I took challenged my beliefs and made me want to defend them better.”
Bunz says her love for Haiti developed almost immediately when she transferred to Edgewood College her sophomore year. She and her mother became actively involved in the Fond Blanc Foundation, and the work took her to the country multiple times before she graduated.
As the oldest of four children, Bunz said it was easy to transition into being a caregiver for the children in the orphanage. But she ended up learning a lot from them, too—children who, on the surface, had so little. “One day I pulled a small mint out of my pocket. I had this whole lesson planned to teach them how to share. But before I could even say anything, I handed the mint to one of the children…. Now there are 65 children at the orphanage…. The first child sucks on the candy for two seconds, takes it out of his mouth and puts it in the next kid’s mouth. And he sucks on it for two seconds, takes it out and puts it in the next kid’s mouth. So… here I had been planning to teach this lesson for months. And these children had so little in terms of material possessions, but they love life and they emulate love. They share and they take care of each other. In this 5-year-old’s mind, he had something good, and he had to share. And he did it without being taught.”
Bunz stayed in Haiti until September 2016. She returned again for a few months in May 2017. She left Haiti just weeks before Hurricane Irma struck the area. The horrific winds destroyed the road leading up to the orphanage so that all food and supplies currently have to be transported to the facility by motorcycle and donkey. But that doesn’t stop the work from getting done. “There’s an old Haitian proverb that literally translates to ‘Beyond Mountains are Mountains.’ No matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be another problem. We weren’t put on this earth to be defeated by problems. There’s no one thing that can take you down, because God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle. He only gives his battles to his strongest warriors.”
Bunz has a few short return trips arranged over the next year, but no plans to live there. Her current focus is on her work as the Community Services Director at Noel Manor retirement community in Verona. She will also begin Emergency Medical Technician training in January.
How has she managed to accomplish so much so quickly after graduation? She credits learning great time management skills in college. “My goal isn’t to have people look up to me and think ‘Oh, she’s cool.’ I was placed on this planet to emulate Christ. That’s all I want to do. People always ask when there are tragedies—shootings and all these hurricanes that destroy people’s lives—how could a God that loves this world let something like that happen? But God created people like me—and millions of others—who just want to help others in those scenarios.”
Her biggest piece of advice for other Edgewood College students is to never be afraid to try something. “Moving to Haiti was probably the most terrifying and yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done. As a 23-year-old American woman, moving to a third world country that doesn’t speak the same language was a terrifying concept. But I trusted that my experiences and what I had learned over the last four years of my life would carry me through. And it did. Not only that—it went really well. I will forever be impacted by the experience I had.”