It’s a joy to continue our Sisterhood of Significance series with Amy’s nominee, Kristine. Amy nominated Kristine for the Sisterhood because “she’s amazing, incredible, lives a life of spontaneity, and started a nonprofit in Guatemala that operates libraries for children.” It’s clear that Kristine is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Kristine! It’s an honor to call you sister.
At just 16 years of age, Kristine had goals and visions for her future. She was bored academically and a lot of her friends were older. So she opted for Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which allows 11th and 12th graders to take college courses and earn college credits on the campus of a postsecondary institution. By the time she was 18 years old, Kristine had all of her generals completed for college!
While at Inver Hills Community College for PSEO, Kristine took a course on Mayan Studies. She’d wanted to study abroad, but her parents didn’t approve because of her age and general safety concerns. So she decided to do a 3-week January Term in Guatemala instead. Kristine didn’t speak Spanish, but she did speak French and Italian which have similarities to Spanish. Given her love of language and eagerness to jump into the experience, it’s no surprise that Kristine picked up Spanish readily during her J-Term. “I fell in love with everything Guatemalan,” recalls Kristine enthusiastically of that first trip to Guatemala in 2006.
After her J-Term in Guatemala, Kristine returned to the United States and attended the University of Minnesota. She triple majored in Mass Communications, Cultural Studies and Cinema. Mass Communications because she dreamed of becoming a sports reporter. Cultural Studies for her love of Guatemala and different cultures. And Cinema because she’d taken a film class in high school and loved shooting videos and editing them together to tell a story. Kristine went to school year round, graduating from college with a triple major at 20 years old.
When Kristine was 17 years old and still enrolled in PSEO, she started working at Best Buy. Two years later, when she was just 19 years of age, Best Buy offered Kristine a position at their corporate office. In February 2011, Best Buy sponsored and organized a vision team to go down to Guatemala. Kristine knew it was time to return! While on the vision trip, she and the team were able to build a house for a family. She also began sponsoring a little boy named Gabino through Common Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting “hope and opportunity in Guatemala.” Kristine’s sponsorship provides Gabino access to education, medical and dental care, and a clean, safe living environment.
Since that trip with the Best Buy vision team in 2011, Kristine has been to Guatemala an additional SEVEN times. On April 29th, Kristine will be taking another trip to Guatemala. (And don’t forget her J-Term visit!) So this will be her 10th trip to Guatemala!
Two years ago in October 2014, Kristine brought her mom, Cheryl, to Guatemala. Cheryl is a school teacher and doesn’t travel much. She didn’t understand Kristine’s love for Guatemala until she went down there and absolutely fell in LOVE! Cheryl did, however, wonder where the libraries were. She nudged Kristine, “We need to start a foundation. We need to get books down here!”
Kristine had parties at her house to collect books and funds for a library. Three months later, in February 2015, Kristine filled 10-12 suitcases with 350 books and hand-delivered them to Guatemala!
To be honest, there wasn’t a good place for all those books, so Kristine reached out to Common Hope about purchasing land or securing space somewhere for a library. Common Hope agreed to add the library onto a school. They painted the library, carpeted it with foam puzzle pieces, and hired locals to build bookshelves, all with funds Kristine gathered from the house parties she’d hosted back at home.
Yes, they called it the “Rutoski Family Library!” The library was a miracle, really. A dream come true for Kristine and her mom, but even more so for the children in Guatemala. The books made an immediate impact. On a later trip, one boy told Kristine he’d read all the books in the library. Now he wanted English books so he could start learning English.
August 2015 marked the official opening of the library. All the kids were invited, and the school principal dedicated the space. In March of 2016, Kristine’s mom flew down and saw the library for the first time.
The original 350 books are now split between two libraries, the original location in San Rafael, and another in Antigua. Kristine wants to expand and build another library in New Hope, but there’s been car theft and armed robberies in the area, so when it’s safer, they will begin working on that project.
Since Kristine brought that first batch of 350 books down in February 2015, she’s continued working with Common Hope to organize and operate the libraries. But now that the libraries have been open for two years, Kristine is working to secure 501(c)(3) status for “Stock the Suitcases,” which will allow it to become an official nonprofit organization. If all goes well, the 501(c)(3) will be finalized by this summer sometime.
But the story doesn’t stop there!
In 2011, when Kristine went down to Guatemala with the Best Buy vision team, she met Felix. Felix works with Common Hope as a construction manager, and helps when vision teams come down from the United States. Felix is also a coffee farmer. He buys small plots of land, and sells coffee to small cafés in Antigua. He gets up at 3:00 am, works the fields, works for Common Hope, then works the fields again until late at night. The land is much cheaper on the top of the mountains because of the long trek up. For a while, Felix had a truck to transport him to the top of the mountain so he could work the coffee fields, but it was an old truck from the 70s and has since failed. So now Felix and his friends are walking up to the coffee fields every day which is a 10-mile journey one way.
Kristine and her mom decided to raise money for Felix so he could get a new truck to drive to the coffee fields up in the mountains. So tomorrow, April 22, 2017, Kristine is having a party to raise funds for Felix’s truck! They’ve already raised $3,600. Their goal is to raise a total of $5,400.
When Kristine returns to Guatemala next week, she and Felix will purchase a new truck with the funds. She’ll also be bringing more books for the libraries and shoes for the children. It’s worth mentioning that Kristine will be bringing her boyfriend, Zach, on this trip. She met him at work, and he just so happens to have been adopted from Guatemala when he was three months old! Zach made his FIRST trip to Guatemala with Kristine in August 2015; this will be his second trip.
When I asked Kristine to share her long-term vision for Guatemala, she responded without hesitation. “I want to move there.” At the very least, she would like to get a place of her own so she can keep some of her belongings there and not have to bring stuff back and forth all the time. Her dad is a pilot, so Kristine is confident it would be easy to get down to Guatemala regularly.
Kristine’s long-term vision for her work in Guatemala led to deeper conversation. During our interview, it became evident that Kristine possesses a rare grit, determination and confidence, that she lives life with little to no fear. I wanted to know whether Kristine was born that way, or whether she learned it along the way.
From her dad, an airline pilot who tackles endless projects at home, Kristine learned to keep trying, to never be afraid, to be persistent and constantly try new things without fear of failure. From her mom, a teacher, Kristine inherited her kind and generous heart.
“I’m never really afraid of failing because I always have my family,” and there’s always “try try again.” Before she starts a new adventure or executes a fresh vision, Kristine plays through worst-case scenarios. “It ALWAYS works out” in the end, she declares with quiet confidence.
Tomorrow, Kristine will host a party to raise funds for Felix’s new truck. Next week, she and her boyfriend, Zach, will travel to Guatemala and purchase that truck with Felix. Those books and shoes? They’re heading straight down in suitcases for the kiddos. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for Stock the Suitcases? It’s certain to be signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the summer.
If there’s one thing we can learn from Kristine, it’s to trust the vision God’s entrusted to you. Work it. Live it. Love it well.
Welcome, Kristine. Welcome to the Sisterhood of Significance. See the significance of your story.
On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Amy nominated Kristine, and in another two to three weeks, I’ll be meeting with Kristine’s nominee, Chris. Chris will share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Chris will pass the torch by nominating someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtags #theSOS and #SisterhoodofSignificance, and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!