Any Renz

Montana Blackfeet Leader

1. What inspired you to join VISIONS?

Largely the selection of locations. I’ve lived with indigenous communities in Ecuador and Guatemala but haven’t had the experience to integrate into our native communities in the US. I wanted to learn more about Native American culture and use my skills developed in other countries to facilitate connections between community members and group members.

2. What experiences have shaped your passion for community service and youth development?

Fresh out of college, I had the opportunity to lead a nonprofit in Uganda. We worked on getting solar lights to individuals without a connection to the grid. After that, I moved to Guatemala to teach Math and English in a rural school. I went on to work for a nonprofit in Barcelona and live and work in indigenous communities in Ecuador. These experiences shaped my perspective on the value of service, personal philosophies on how to deliver that service, and the beauty in cultural integration.

Speaking of youth development, I started as a rock climbing supervisor at a summer camp in Colorado. I loved the differences in interacting with kids of different ages and the value of creating impactful moments. I worked with youth in Barcelona and then a year leading service trips in Ecuador. There’s something special about youth development that utilizes a medium (rock climbing or service) as an educational tool. It contextualizes the lessons that we learn and makes them all the more valuable.

3. What is your favorite achievement?

The best decision I ever made was to get a motorcycle in Ecuador. I’ve put over 7,500 miles on her (Lola is my bike’s name—Lolita is a cute way to say it). I’ve seen beautiful places, met wonderful people, and experienced freedom as I’ve never felt it. Living my version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has taught me loads and has in many ways revealed me to myself. I get rained on, chased by dogs, stuck in the mud, push start it when the battery decides to fail, and love every second. I feel every moment.

4. What is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

That’s hard to say. Barcelona is my favorite city, always with something to do and nature adjacent. Italy has a beautiful culture and wildly good food, unique terrains as well. Colombia has some very good dancing.

Ecuador will always have a special place in my heart. I’ve lived here (writing this from a café in Otavalo, EC right now) for close to a year and a half. They call it el país de los 4 mundosthe country of 4 worlds. We have the Amazon, glaciated volcanos, the Pacific Ocean, and the Galapagos all in an area just under the size of Nevada. The cultures vary more: Indigenous cultures of the mountains (mainly Incan), indigenous cultures of the Amazon (some Incan and many very distinct others), Afro Ecuadorian, Mestizo (European mix), and more. The cultures often share an element of warmth. Just last week, I rode my motorcycle into the Amazon and stayed 2 days with a family I met driving through on their farm. Great food the whole country over (a breakfast dish called Tigrillo is the best in my humble opinion though Encebollado, a fish soup, with banana chips, popcorn, and lots of lime is a close second).

5. What is the best advice you’ve received?

If you look at all the situations when you feel fear, something they all share is that they are important to you in some way. Which means if you wish to do important things, the sensation of fear is your compass. The greatest sense of presence lies on the other side of fear.
And—If you learn how to escape submissions, and feel calm in those situations, you’ll never get in trouble. That is, if you can deal with the worst-case scenario, you’re never in danger.

6. What do you hope to accomplish this summer?

Build connections with each participant and help them build connections with community members.

7. What are you most excited about this summer?

I’m excited to facilitate experiences and connections with a culture that many people don’t know much about.

8. If you had to give one piece of advice or words of encouragement to someone on their first VISIONS experience, what would it be?

We feel a connection to an experience based on how much we impact it—hat is, when the experience requires that we do something for it to work out. Moments that require the greatest acceptance of change and flexibility moving forward are those that allow us the greatest chance to impact them. It’s wonderful when things go exactly as planned but the truly human experiences are those when you get to respond to changing situations.
Surfing is cool because there are waves. Learn how to ride them, outside yourself and within, and how to fall on them, and you’ll set yourself up for a trip filled with memories.

 

Meet the rest of our team!

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