“I’ve become more passionate about Spanish language and culture through my volunteer work,” Maria Koinis '08, a sociology and Spanish double major, says of her summer internship with the International Hospital for Children (IHC).

Through its network of medical facilities, the nonprofit organization brings children from six partner countries, such as Guatamala, Belize, St. Vincent and Honduras, to Richmond for surgeries that otherwise would be unavailable or unaffordable. IHC runs solely on private support and provides the children and their families with the necessary paperwork, housing and transportation during their time in the United States; local hospitals like St. Mary’s and MCV lend their staff and resources to the cause.

Koinis learned about the internship in Professor Dulce Lawrence’s “Spanish and the Community” course. She was looking for an opportunity to stay in Richmond for the summer, as well as use her Spanish language skills and gain some experience in a nonprofit setting. Koinis has always been committed to volunteer work within the Spanish-speaking community and was not disappointed by her summer responsibilities.

Interning at IHC four days a week under Richmond alumna Lauren Faig ’05, Koinis filled many roles for the international families, balancing her time between being a translator, chauffeur—and playmate.

“I loved spending time with the kids, who ranged in age from infants to 15-year-olds. I would take them to parks or the pool. The families are alone here, and the children need time away from the hospital to just be kids,” Koinis said. Since interning for IHC, the senior has encouraged Spanish-speaking friends to take advantage of this local opportunity.

“They need the help. And it reinforced the fact that I want to use my Spanish language skills to help those in need, especially children,” she said.

After graduation, Koinis plans to travel Costa Rica to teach and mentor children in rural communities.