In January 2015, the National Volunteer Center and the English Opens Doors Program were honored with a visit from three very special guests; Kathy and Barry LeMond and their son Kevin. The LeMond family came to visit our Program on behalf of their daughter, Kristy LeMond who was an English Opens Doors Program volunteer for Volunteer Service 4 in 2012 and was placed in San Clemente in the Maule region.
Just after Kristy arrived in Chile in 2012 and was settling into her volunteer experience in the San Clemente community, she felt sharp pain in her leg. After consulting with doctors in Chile, she was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma and was told she needed to return to the United States for treatment where she discovered it had spread to her lungs. After ten months of battling the cancer, Kristy LeMond passed away on May 1, 2013.
In our visit with the LeMond family this past month, they told us about Kristy´s passion for working with children and how it fueled her desire to volunteer with organizations such as The Tanzanian Children’s Fund, which works to improve the lives of marginalized children in Tanzania, and the English Opens Doors Program.
“Kristy wanted us to understand and experience what she felt when she was volunteering at the children’s village in Tanzania and Colegio Paula Montal in San Clemente, Chile. When she knew she was nearing the end of her life, she asked that we go to both places to share her experiences and to scatter ashes so a part of her could be there forever,” shared Kathy LeMond.
During her time in Chile, Kristy blogged about her experiences with her students at Colegio Paula Montal, sharing how much she loved her time both in classes implementing activities and also those unplanned, special moments engaging with students and staff as she was participating in school events and activities. She talked about being touched and excited by how engaged her students were in the lessons she created and the difference she felt she was making as well as the impact her students were having on her.
Kristy LeMond with her students at Colegio Paula Montal in San Clemente
In one blog post, she wrote about her class experience:
“Have I already said how much I love my school? Because I loooooove it. Everything about it! The students are still sticking with me through my lessons and bad acting/drawing so I’m taking that as a victory! The 4th year Medio (Seniors in HS) are learning about love so we did a listening activity today using the glee version of “Marry You”. Let’s just say, it got interesting when I was trying to act out the words “marry”, “I do”, “break up” and I think the students’ favorite “baby”. Me-“What does baby mean?” Class-starts rocking a pretend baby in their arms. Me-“Well yes that is a baby but….” They enjoyed it though and I’ve also started teaching them slang words at the beginning of each class. Today we learned “cool”. Now whenever I say something they respond “it’s cool” haha at least they’re speaking English!”
She also spoke quite a bit in her blog about how meaningful and positive her relationships were with her host family as well as with the greater San Clemente Community. Kristy wrote:
“I have never experienced the genuine eagerness to love and welcome a stranger like I have here by so many people in this town. I have become a part of different people’s lives here and I feel like I have a life here which is what I was waiting for. The first couple of weeks here I was unsure of my purpose and the difference I could make, and more the difference that was going to be made on me. I am now starting to understand the reasons for which I’m here and it has a lot to do with the people who have created a home here for me. It’s incredible and I am getting more and more wrapped up in it as the days go by.” She added in a blog post shortly thereafter, “I’m becoming so attached to this town and it’s because of the relationships and the way people treat each other. It’s something special.”
Kristy with her Chilean head teacher, Rina González
During their visit to Chile, the LeMond family traveled to Kristy´s placement town, San Clemente, where they were welcomed into Colegio Paula Montal and were received with a special ceremony in Kristy´s honor. The LeMonds also visited Kristy’s host family, Julio and Pamela and their children, to share memories of Kristy and her inspiring story. When talking about the experience of visiting San Clemente, Kathy said,
“It was nothing short of amazing. What we did not realize before we visited was the depth of the relationships she had in San Clemente. Her host family, another family she was close to, and the teachers and students at Colegio Paula Montal all cared for her deeply. They were grieving her loss. There were many stories of her time there – much laughter and tears. There was a sense of closure for all of us as we were able to meet each other and share in our love for Kristy.”
Kathy, Barry, and Kevin LeMond visit Kristy’s host family.
After completing their trips to Tanzania and Chile, Kathy said both experiences were “life-changing” for their family. She continued,
“Being able to experience her life/adventures in two completely different countries was such a gift. It brought us closer together as a family and helped us understand what Kristy felt when she was there. The biggest thing we will take away from these trips is that one person truly can make a difference in the lives of others.”
The LeMonds visit Kristy’s head teacher at the school.
In addition, the Kristy LeMond Memorial Fund is donating 15 Nexus tablets, one for each English Opens Doors Program Regional Representative in every region of Chile. Our EODP staff will use these resources to capture meaningful teaching moments of the volunteers as well as perform more effectively as they travel to support the volunteers and schools within the regions. Also, through the amazing generosity of Bananagrams US, the LeMonds are gifting the English Opens Doors Program with 200 Bananagrams®, which was a game that Kristy and her students at Colegio Paula Montal loved to use in the classroom. Kristy left her Bananagrams® at her school when she left and during her family´s visit to the school, the Bananagrams® were still in the classroom where she volunteered. The Bananagrams® will be donated to 200 schools receiving volunteers in 2015 so they can utilize them in their classes and engage their students in learning English the way Kristy had done.
Kristy’s students use Bananagrams to give her a sweet message.
While we feel “thank you” isn’t enough for such a wonderfully generous gift, The English Opens Doors Program sincerely appreciates these helpful donations and we will utilize these gifts to enhance the classroom experience for the students we are serving as well as the function of the Program in the regions to better support and aid our students, teachers, and volunteers.
The LeMonds visit the English Opens Doors Program office in Santiago.
Friends of the Le Monds created blue bracelets with Kristy´s initials and the words “Wake Up and Live,” the name of the blog Kristy kept through her volunteer experiences as well as through her courageous fight with cancer. In commenting on why they thought Kristy chose the title “Wake Up and Live,” the LeMonds shared that,
“We believe she was marking the beginning of her life’s journey – that for her, embarking on these global adventures working with children was waking up and living. Kristy became passionate about working with children. She believed that everyone can discover their passion and “Wake Up and Live” is a type of pseudonym for finding your passion and acting on it.”
Stickers of a sunflower (Kristy’s favorite) with her initials were also created as a tribute so people can post them wherever they like to remember Kristy, her message and her impact.
“Kristy was adventurous and loved to travel. Some friends of hers started a Facebook page called ‘We Carry you in our Hearts Kristy LeMond’. On it people post pictures of their travels with Kristy including a sunflower, sunflower sticker, or their Wake up and Live bracelets in the pictures. It is very fun to look at the different places people take her.”
We want to again thank the LeMond Family for their visit to our Program and for sharing their story and special experience with us. We appreciate the generosity of the Kristy LeMond Memorial Fund and Bananagrams®, and we are honored to share a little bit about Kristy´s experience, the LeMond Family´s story and the amazing initiatives they are continuing to implement so that Kristy´s positivity and generosity can continue to make a lasting impact encouraging all of us to “Wake up and Live.”
Kristy with her students during recess.
Kristy LeMond informational website: www.kristylemond.com
Kristy’s blog, “Wake Up and Live”: http://khlemond.tumblr.com/
Facebook page “We Carry you in our Hearts Kristy LeMond”: https://www.facebook.com/TravelingKristyLemond