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<strong>She Dreamed of Africa - And Then She Was Sent There.</strong>

Published by Huffington Post on Sun, 19 Jul 2015

402 Days Done, 402 Left to Go.My daughter joined the Peace Corps last year, right after graduating from college in Florida, with an International Affairs degree. She wants to be a diplomat. After having trekked the World with me during her childhood, she was still dreaming of Africa: the culture, the music, the food, the spirits, the ancestors 'beliefs, the fabrics, everything was always drawing her to Africa.When still in school, she decided to apply to the Peace Corps and tempt fate to see where she would be shipped to, if accepted. The odds of being sent to Africa were slim, as the wonderful program has a presence in hundreds of locations around the planet.Still, she liked the opportunity to do some good, learn many things, and live in a foreign country for a little while - a while that is in fact quite not so little, as a commitment of 27 months is required of all applicants. Yes, that's two years and three months.The Application Process.For months she studied the purpose and intent of the federal program; she filled out paperwork, wrote essays, letters, forms. She gathered tons of information from her past 20 years in this world. She waited anxiously for an answer.It came in April - she was accepted in the Peace Corps program! She still had no idea where on Earth she would be asked to make a life for the next two and more years of her young existence. She had to get all her medical records since her birth, pass medical tests, get many immunizations and boosters. She read testimonials and absorbed the concept and the details of the ultimate goals of the program launched in 1961 by seating President John F. Kennedy.Its purpose, as outlined by the Peace Corps Act: "To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower".Africa! Here She Comes!Finally, 11 months after applying, the long-awaited letter came, and in mid-May she learned with great joy that she will be sent to Africa! With a few tears she added that her new country was going to be Burkina Faso. Huh' Burkina Faso' Ok, I knew it was in West Africa, and that's just about it.We grabbed our world map, spread it on the floor and looked at the massive shape of the African continent. Right at the line where desert (white) meets jungle (green), there it was: the country formerly-known as Haute Volta (in my memory of geography) was just right there, landlocked between Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali and Togo. No Ebola in the country.The first thing she found was how remote it was from any ocean. Being a Miami-born girl, she is a beach child, a surfer, a diver, a sun-worshiper. Well, she will now have to do without all those. But she wanted this, and was happy with it.I have a feeling she was chosen to go to Burkina Faso because she speaks fluent French and that is the official tongue of the country in West Africa. Her purpose there was stated as English teacher. She still did not know her exact location. Would she be in a big city, in a small village'Only 50 Pounds of Stuff Was Allowed to go With Her.The packing of the extra-large suitcase was an adventure in itself - with a long list of items required by the Peace Corps. Then June 3rd came and we said a long goodbye at the airport. Tears and smiles, hugs and kisses. I knew it was going to be hard, but the sheer span of the enterprise was still not completely grasped by either side.Three days in Philadelphia for gathering with the other 30 team members going to the same country; one bus trip to New York City; two airlines stops later (Brussels and Ouagadougou), she finally made it to her temporary new country.Africa, at Last!A couple of days in the capital, Ouagadougou (a name that always made me smile), where they were given cell phones and many instructions, the group of 30 were shipped to Leo, in the south of the country, for their three months of training. She met a few volunteers like her from Florida, she felt good about meeting them.The training is basically about how to live in Africa. It's got nothing to do with how to teach English to African children. They learned of their final destination. Only at that point did my daughter found out that she was assigned to a small village, Bagassi, in the west of the country. They each took lessons in the dialect of their village.She learned Djula. She's good at languages - she was the most fluent in French of the entire group for that session. She made instant friends; she's good at that too.Bagassi.Once in her village, where she is the only white person, she was given a house of bricks with walls of mud - no water, no electricity, no bathroom, but a hole in the ground far away in the back field. She sleeps on a cot under a mosquito net. There is no furniture, just a few tables, used as shelves, wardrobe, cupboard, pantry.The water she can drink comes in plastic pouches. She bought a solar panel to charge her phone. We speak every Sunday. The well for washing water is a mile away and she can fill two jerrycans each day. She got a puppy for company - and that puppy just had puppies, three of them, one got stolen - village people eat animals, there's no such thing as a pet.She teaches English to 200 students of all ages. I sent her many books on ESOL and other beginners' methods. She also started a girls club for the many (all) with questions about their bodies. She put a box for secret questions the girls can ask anonymously. It's always full.When we met in Paris in March, during her first 10-day break, we came upon a translated book by Jane Fonda about the female body, that's all we could find, so thank you for that Miss Fonda, your book is helping young girls in Africa.No Regrets.My daughter says sometimes it's difficult, sometimes it's heart-wrenching, but she loves it - she cannot wait for the other year and a half! She made many friends in the village, and she travels around the country a lot, to see other volunteers and attend Peace Corps meetings.During last October's elections, the worry was to see if the military coup that took place will allow Americans to stay in the country. It did. Now for this coming vote for president, also in October, the same question remains to be answered. She has had experiences she would never have obtained in the United States. She became even more resilient, resourceful, humble, compassionate and driven. I am very proud of her - she is changing lives, and changing the world at the same time.Follow her blog - when she travels to the capital and has access to the Internet, she updates it.Questions' Comments! sidoniesawyer@gmail.comVisit my website for more stories. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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