Recently I have been asked the question, “Why service? What inspires you to give back? Why have you dedicated your life to one of service? Why Peace Corps?”
I first decided to join the Peace Corps after my volunteer experience when I was a in high school. I traveled with an organization called Orphanage Outreach to the Dominican Republic. There I volunteered, taught English, and did outreach awareness education about taking care of the orphans. My parents have always been a huge inspiration to me. From a young age I was blessed with the opportunity to travel the world. With each global travel my family and I would reach out to organizations and do some extent of volunteering or gain knowledge about the prevalent issues in the country. These travels allowed me to witness how the rest and the majority of how the world is living. From volunteering in orphanages in the Dominican republic to building libraries in Nepal and working with women’s groups in India there was a magnetic force behind giving back. I simply became addicted.
I sought out volunteering positions and service oriented organizations to be a part of throughout my undergraduate and graduate years. I took every opportunity to become involved. Here I grew to love and build a strong relationship with a non profit called, Strong Women Strong Girls. SWSG works as a mentoring organization sending college mentors to at risk elementary school to mentor once a week. (www.swsg.org) Having a role model and consistent adult figure in these girls lives produced hope and allowed them to believe in themselves and thus achieve goals. I had always grown up with my mother being my role model, someone I could look up to, seek advice, and someone who helped shape me into the woman I am today. I wanted to do the same. I wanted to help young girls believe in themselves and know that someone cared for them. I became extensively involved in the program and governance aspect, serving on the national board.
Moving on to my summer experience. It had always been a dream of mine to go India and Nepal. The culture, the color, the sense of being had always intrigued me. In 2012 I received that opportunity. Before traveling I was in contact with a school in Nepal where I would be teaching English and helping redevelop their curriculum. I recruited my sorority in my university, for which I was service chair, to each donate 2 books or school supplies so that I could bring them to the school. I left summer 2012 with 3 huge duffle bags worth of school supplies, new books, crayons, and materials. I knew I was excited for the new experience, but what I didn’t know is when I would return in late August I would be a changed woman. While spending time in Nepal, teaching at the school and helping out at the neighboring children’s home in exchange for room and food, I witnessed poverty unlike I had seen before. Yet, with this poverty I saw glimpses of hope. I saw opportunities and pockets for change. I brought a different perspective, a creativity, and imagination that the Nepalese school directors welcomed. We built a library in order to place all 425 books my family and I had brought over. We started a garden to teach children about responsibilities and patience. We created a football team and had a local artist embroider “Foot for Change” on plain t shirts. Most importantly that summer of 2012 we instilled hope, that yes amongst all adversities, amongst all hardships these children had faced since birth, they can achieve their goals, they are strong!
That summer I left with a fulfilled renewed feeling. I ended up sponsoring a little girl named Anushka in the children’s home. Her sponsorship provides her with food, medical resources if need be, housing in the children’s home, and school fees and supplies. Going into my last year of grad school and having received my invitation letter to serve in Peace Corps Madagascar- I needed to find ways to fundraise for Anushkas sponsorship. I decided to sell my travel photography. Photographs I had taken in all corners of the world, photographs depicting the children of the world. My idea triumphed! I was accepted into two galleries, sold many pieces of art in order to fundraise for Anushkas dream and keep on providing her with an education and safe place to live.
July 2013 I departed for Madagascar. I am now coming into my 4th month and a Peace Corps volunteer and truly feel as if I have found exactly where I need to be in life. I currently live on the East Coast of Madagascar in a small village called Mahanoro. I work as an English teacher at the local middle and high school. With classes amounting to 120 students! I am planning to start a girl’s empowerment club to educate young girls about all the opportunities they can achieve in the world. I am also collaborating with a health clinic to educate new mothers and pregnant women about prenatal health care and infant health.
I can truly say that service has been a part of my life ever since I was a young girl. The people, the children that I have met, the places that I have seen have shaped me into a global citizen. I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping others serve themselves.
I will leave you with this one story that truly inspires me…
“There once was a boy that stood on a beach covered with starfish. He stood throwing the starfish back to their ocean home one at a time. When an old man came along and said “there are too many boy, you’ll never make a difference,” the boy picked up another starfish, tossed it back into the ocean, and replied, “I did for that one.” Helping ever one child, one woman, one man, makes a difference.”
Be the change you wish to see in this world. Thank you