Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Gambia or Bust!

Hello good family and friends!

I must admit right off the bat that I am hesitantly excited to be posting this first of many blogs. I am excited because, hey!, I'm moving to Africa! Hesitant because, hey!, I'm moving to Africa!

Monday the 24th of September I will be flying to Philadelphia for "pre-staging" before heading to Banjul, The Gambia, on Wednesday the 27th of September.

I have received many questions from family and friends about my service in the Peace Corps, and would like to take the opportunity of this first blog to answer as many questions as possible as effectively as possible.

So to be brutally honest, I'm sure that a good many of my family and friends were quite surprised to learn of my wanting to serve in the Peace Corps. Let's face it, I'm not exactly one who has been known to enjoy "roughing it," let alone living without air conditioning, constant access to American luxuries, or even hair gel. Fortunately, serving in the Peace Corps isn't about me. My outlook on service in the Peace Corps is a true dedication towards wanting to work within a small niche of that sector of society which has been largely marginalized by the world today. My service in the Peace Corps is about dedication, service and hard work; helping others help themselves build a more sustainable way of life for themselves, their families and ultimately the community as a whole.

Throughout the past several years I have felt a strong calling to service for others. A combination of many life events, including the time I spent teaching classes at the Danish Red Cross to asylum seekers, as well as a revelation of how much has been handed to me on a silver platter solely because of my status of growing up as a privileged U.S. citizen in the safety-net of the Midwest, have left a significant calling to service tugging at my heart, mind and conscience. Long story short, at this time in my life, with no real strings attached or major commitments to others, the opportunity to serve working and living in The Gambia, West Africa, is quite literally a dream come true!

Additionally, I believe we all have a social responsibility to promote socio-economic justice, as well as expose ourselves to the harsh realities of what is happening to others in the world. We are called to do what we can, in our own way, style and according to our own ability, to serve the poor, help those in need and love our neighbor as ourself. This is one small and responsible way I am able to answer that call.

So, beginning Monday, the 27th of September, I will be serving with the Peace Corps for 27 months. My first 10 weeks or so will be training. During this time I will learn whatever it is the Peace Corps thinks is necessary for me to be able to serve with great potential, including foreign languages, technical working skills and suggestions for safety and survival. Once my service officially begins in December, I will be living and working in rural Gambia. At this point, the most I can tell is that I will be living within a host-family compound. Additionally, my work will be centered on agro-forestry projects. This could be anything from re-forestry projects to teaching environmental conservation in schools, and from helping start community gardens to promoting bee hive projects and/or other micro-business development possibilities.

When it comes to technical questions about the Peace Corps or The Gambia, I highly suggest you check out the links at the side of the page, as they will offer better insight than I am able to at this time. Feel free to send me emails, but please be patient as I may not be able to respond for several weeks. In the meantime, the best way to communicate is via "snail mail" with the address provided at the side of this blog. (And don't forget to use an international Gambian stamp!)

At the time of this writing I am basically packed and ready to go. Having started my application process to the Peace Corps last September, I am most definitely ready to set my feet on Gambian soil!

Finally, I would like to thank all of my family and friends who have been so greatly supportive! You have all remained very polite throughout this past year during my constant rambling ons of my upcoming service. Additionally, your words, actions and prayers of support are appreciated far beyond what can be expressed through a blog.

As I sign off from this first post (of what will hopefully be many more to come...although with very sporadic times between each posting), I would like to leave you with two verses which have been comforting, challenging and motivational to me these past months:

"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot- and the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him. ..the Spirit of wisdom and understanding...He will not judge by appearance nor make decisions based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited." (Isaiah 11: 1-4)

"The Lord has told you what is good. and that is what is
required of you: to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God." (Micah 6:8)

Until next time, I wish you the best!