Emma Lobbezoo finds joy in helping the world

Senior Emma Lobbezoo spends her days digging through culture, but not the way you might expect. The bins filled with clothing are both an instant teleportation all over the globe and a time machine to the past. 

Not only does Emma love finding these uncommon treasures in thrift stores, but is also resourceful when it comes to making changes if needed.

Emma, who loves to sew, sometimes finds outfits that look incredible but aren’t quite the perfect fit. Thankfully, this is not a worry for Emma; she can put her sewing skills to work on the clothing she has picked up.

“If I find a dress or something that’s a little big for me,” Emma went on to say, “or [if] I want to do a different style, I definitely just tear it apart and find some other fabric and just see what [I] can do with it.”

Thrifting is Emma’s favorite pastime, and at the same time, she feels that she is helping the environment by recycling the treasures she finds around Grand Rapids thrift stores. 

Although some call shopping a guilty pleasure, Emma isn’t as concerned with thrifting since she is always finding second-hand clothes, donating, or selling her own.

“[I love thrifting because] it’s second-hand,” Emma said. “[It’s helpful] for the planet [and] it’s better for the world. It’s really close to my heart just because we’re tearing apart the planet ever so slowly right now.”

Emma feels especially close to thrifting because many local thrift shops are a part of work to help the homeless and people in need of financial assistance. Emma herself has also been a part of these missions.

Through her Uncle’s church, Emma has been able to travel to Guatemala twice on mission trips to help build houses. Her second trip—and most recent trip—took place just over a week ago.

“[My uncle] offered to bring me one year because he knows I love Guatemala,” Emma said. “I’ve always wanted to travel to Central and South America, so [he thought] I would definitely want to try it. I tried it one year, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I want to go back again!’”

Since Emma had been yearning to travel to that part of the world, going to Guatemala was a dream come true for her.

Emma’s interest in Guatemala was first sparked when she took AP Spanish Language and Culture. When she finally was able to go on a mission trip to Guatemala, she was ecstatic.

“Since I’ve taken a lot of Spanish classes [like] AP Spanish, that was really cool,” Emma said. “We got to learn about the culture of different countries, and I really got into Guatemala.”

While Emma spent much of her time i Guatemala helping to build houses, she learned more than just about the structure of buildings. During her trip, Emma was able to meet many of the natives and learn about their lives.

“It was super cool [being in Guatemala]; the people there are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet,” Emma said. “It was fun because you get to communicate with people and learn that their lifestyles are completely different than ours—it’s a third world country.”

It was fun because you get to communicate with people and learn that their lifestyles are completely different than ours—it’s a third world country.”

— Emma Lobbezoo

Emma doesn’t plan on ending her experiences in Guatemala any time soon. This summer, she is hoping to work at a refugee camp there which the government funds since a volcano erupted there a few years ago.

For her work, Emma could stay on-site or with a host family, and although she hasn’t quite decided yet, Emma would love to stay at the camp.

“They desperately need workers through this program, [and] because of COVID-19, I couldn’t go this year,” Emma said. “I really want to work down there during the summer between the time I go to college [and now].”

Emma loves meeting new people from all over the world. When she was younger, she was very introverted, but she has learned to come out of her shell to experience the lives of others.

“[When doing mission work] you’re meeting strangers,” Emma said. “You really have to put yourself out there because you barely know the language; you’re just going to try it and do your best, and most of the time, people are super accepting and really surprised that you are trying to learn their language—that means a lot to them.”