Norse to Nations: Students called to serve the region and the world

For immediate release…
Monday – June 10, 2013

- When Kyle Craven was a young boy, he’d follow his parents on mission trips to Mexico never fully understanding the impact of their work. Then, he was just excited for a chance to play soccer with the children from whatever town his parents happened to find themselves in.

Today, the Northern Kentucky University junior sports business major has a bit more perspective. He and 16 others from an NKU student group called Norse to Nations traveled to Chimaltenango, Guatemala, in May for a week of service at a small children’s home and school called Agua Viva. The school serves children ages 5-17 who have been abandoned or mistreated.

It was Craven’s second visit to the school since first hearing about Norse to Nations a few years ago. “I kind of felt called to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to make it out as a religious kind of thing, but I’d never felt that strongly that I needed to do something.” Craven raised money for his first trip by writing letters to family asking for their help to pay the $1,100 trip expense. “I’m a dude, so I don’t like asking for help,” he said. This time around, he worked multiple jobs – including serving as a building manager for the NKU Student Union – to pay for the trip himself.

In Guatemala, the Norse to Nations crew helped prepare a local road for paving and worked on a six-foot fence designed to prevent thieves from stealing livestock from the Agua Viva campus. Colin Kremer, president of the group, said it was tiring but rewarding work. “Everyone had an incredible time and enjoyed every second,” he said. Kremer said the trip was an eye-opener. “It’s always incredible to see another culture. It’s amazing how much you can learn too. They have so much less than us, but seem to appreciate things so much more.”

Three of the NKU students were education majors and got the opportunity to teach English in the school. “Think about that in terms of their resumes,” Craven said. “For them to be able teach in a live classroom in Guatemala, it was amazing.”

Created in 2011, Norse To Nations is an international student organization that devotes time and service to projects within the region and around the globe. In addition to Guatemala and working on multiple local Habitat for Humanities projects each year, 10 Norse to Nations students will spend a week in the Dominican Republic in July working with a local church, teaching at a school and helping the community with various projects.

But when Craven saw the year’s schedule, he felt something was missing. “I looked at it and there was local service and international experiences, but I felt there should be a project beyond our region but close enough for those who maybe can’t afford an international trip,” he said. So he created a new project. Last week, he led a group of about 20 students to eastern Kentucky, where they assisted Hand in Hand Ministries in repairing housing and water purification.

Craven said the service experience he has gotten through Norse to Nations has convinced him that helping others is his calling. He and Kremer are now trying to secure academic credit for Norse to Nations service trips by developing a curriculum around the trips that will include reflection papers and other scholarly features.

About 50 NKU students participated in Norse to Nations service last year, and Craven said he expects that number to continue to rise. “I talk to a lot of students who want to get involved but think they can’t afford it,” he said. “When they learn how little it really costs – and they hear about how meaningful the experience is – more and more will find a way to make it happen.”

The group has developed a Facebook page ( and a blog ( to help spread the word. Anyone interested in attending a Norse to Nations trip next year can contact  Kremer at

And Craven was quick to point out the trips are not all work. When each day in Guatemala was finished, the group would develop special programming for the children. They had an arts and crafts night, and Craven said he was shocked by the talent of the Agua Viva students. “One kid drew a hand with sand falling through its fingers,” he said. “It was one of the most vivid things I’d ever seen.”

He said his favorite extracurricular activity was hosting a sports night where, just as he had a decade earlier, Craven got a chance to play soccer with the children.

Some things never change.

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