When Brittany Rauscher graduated from St. Joseph’s College in 2006 with an accounting degree she embarked upon a journey that would take her to the land of her birth, and far beyond, over the following six years.
Rauscher, who was born in South Korea, hasn’t always had an easy road. She was adopted in what she later learned was a black market adoption. The adoption did not work out, and what followed was a series of 18 placements until she landed at Good Will-Hinckley, a group home in Maine, in 1997. There, she formed connections that are still important to her today. “The group of people I was able to build relationships with are the people that I consider my family,” Rauscher said.
Brittany first connected with her biological family in high school, but lost contact by her senior year. While at St. Joseph’s, realizing that she felt a need to know where she came from and who her family was, she once again reached out. The organization that had previously found her birth family succeeded once again. After her graduation from St. Joseph’s, staff and alumni of Good Will-Hinckley sponsored a 3-week trip to Korea so that Raucher could meet her birth family.
She returned to Korea in November of 2006 to teach in the city where her birth family lived. While she visited her family about once a month initially, these visits dwindled off for a variety of reasons, but she remained in Korea teaching for more than five years. “Being in Korea, and being exposed to so many people from so many countries is where my passion to travel came from,” she said.
While in Korea she was exploring opportunities to volunteer in Africa when a friend invited her to join him on a 43-week trip camping through Africa, visiting 30 countries. This travel experience opened her eyes in terms of politics, culture, people and the world. “I think it’s important to be educated on the world,” Rauscher said. One of the highlights of her trip, she said, was in Guinea, where her group camped on a soccer field. The next day, the children skipped school to play a game of soccer against the visiting adults. The whole village turned out to watch, the children played barefoot, “and they beat us!” she said.
In the midst of her travels, she learned about an opportunity with a company called Soft Power Education. Not knowing if another chance would arise to take a year – or even two months – off, she cut her trip short to volunteer in a small village in Uganda, where she worked with children who had special educational needs, assisting the teacher in teaching sustainable life skills and promoting inclusion.
In Uganda, Rauscher lived in a village with a local family. She ate meals with the family, and had the opportunity to really see how another culture lived. “When people think of Africa, they think of four things,” she said. “War, disease, poverty, and then that equates to death, right? But there’s so much more to Africa than that.”
Rauscher said her desire to help others is derived from the help that she received, and her experience in Uganda only increased that desire. A Windham resident, Rauscher works for Creative Work Systems in Portland. Her future goals include returning to school to obtain a Master’s degree in Social Services, and working her way up in an organization that will allow her to provide services to children.