Dear Family and Friends,
Why did you apply to Peace Corps?
When you think about life, about what a life holds, for me it holds purpose. I know this may sound cheesy for some or generic yet I took this moto for life very seriously. From a young age service had always been a large part of my life. I remember having a world map in our bathroom growing up and my mother would pin point a place or even sometimes have me chose a place and we pack our bags and go. Once at this destination whether it was Belize, India, Nepal, China, we would spend some time visiting and touring and the other time giving back. This idea of service never stopped at the small trips we took but became a ritual. A giving ritual. During the holidays I spent my time volunteering at food banks, wrapping Christmas gifts, visiting Veteran hospitals. This became my idea of purpose. I saw what it meant to people that I gave my time. I saw that it meant a difference and produced happiness for them. I saw a purpose. I heard of Peace Corps when I was in Middle School. Unlike other children around that age instead of going to the movies or buying new clothes, I was at dog shelters walking pups, or cleaning trash at the local park.
Once I graduated high school and entered college, I began revisiting the idea of serving in another country for a long amount of time. I enjoy learning about new cultures, seeing new places, and felt that many challenges I could foresee I had already met in my previous travels. .I felt ready. I felt that Peace Corps could provide me with tools to help people serve themselves. Indeed after being here in Madagascar for 18 months, I have learned so much about myself and about how to work in the field. I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
I recently was asked this question and wanted to really dive into what has been my biggest challenge throughout my Peace Corps Service.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?
Biggest challenge I have had during my service is “saying no”. I know it sounds funny, “what does she mean saying ‘no’?” Well, once you have successfully integrated, when babies stop crying at first sight of you, and stares become smiles, people become comfortable with you. Every day community members ask me, “Please can you teach me English? Please would you be able to spare an hour to speak with me? Please can you give me books so that my children can become smarter?” When I first got to site, I felt much pressure to say yes to all requests. Soon I realized I could not split myself into numerous people and did not have enough time or energy to respond to all the wants and needs of my community. I became stressed out, not being able to fulfill everyone’s wants. I felt horrible if I said “no”, and would wear myself out saying “yes”. I was able to conquer this challenge, by asking my community for solutions, having conversations about their vision for Mahanoro. How could I develop something that would help many while still allowing me a good balance. The idea emerged to create a Cultural Center. A place that would provide educational opportunities for children and adults, a library stocked with books, and most importantly a place where the future of Mahanoro could develop and grow in a positive environment.
GIRLS EMPOWERMENT CLUB !
Today we discussed gender roles in the MALAGASY community. Words like
” pounding rice, fetching water, stopping their education” we’re seen on the female side. We held a discussion about the importance women hold in their households, in their community, in the world.
Favorite quote of the day from a 13 year old girl. (Translated)
“Miss Charlotte the reason why need women is well… Boys have no idea how to take care of themselves. We are the WORLD! “
Two weeks ago I brought 4 girls from Mahanoro to participate in a GLOW camp- Girls Leading Our World weeklong camp in Tana. ( the capital). The catch being that when they come back they needed to develop their own Girls Empowerment Club.
This is a photograph taken of their first meeting yesterday! Over 45 girls showed up. My 4 outstanding Presidents of the (soon to be) GLOW Club Mahanoro held an amazing meeting. They discussed and outlined the different topics that will be discussed every week. Topics carrying from “how to further your education” to “how to properly out a condom on”, “how to avoid teenage pregnancy” … Etc. every week we will have a strong woman from the community, a doctor, teacher, mother, come and talk to the Club about her life story and her goals.
It brought tears to my eyes to see 45 girls show up and to see the leadership skills come out in my 4 presidents.
So proud of them.
The concept of beauty. How come even in the most remote places of the world, where many have no running water and no electricity, this twisted concept of beauty exists. The media, the billboards, the advertisements, the television shows- all illustrating one narrow minded view of what defines “Beautiful”. At a young age girls are pressured to mimic what they see in the media and tabloids- going to extremes and using lightening creams, straightening their hair, changing their appearance to fit a mold of “Beauty”.
I was shocked to hear these words come out of my little neighbor’s mouth, as she in my eyes is the definition of “beauty”. Her innocence, her joy, her carefree spirit, her 6 year old smile, her giggle- all of this is true “beauty”.
Women of the world, it is our duty as women to educate our next generation of beautiful girls that beauty is universal. Beauty is found in all colors, all shapes, and all people. Beauty is more than an appearance, an image, a viewpoint. Beauty is who we as individuals are inside, what we do makes us beautiful people.
Please today take the time and tell a young girl you know, a young girl who looks up to you- that she indeed is “BEAUTIFUL”.