Kushe Pady! : )
That's Krio and is spoken by 97% of Sierra Leoneans. It means "hello friend." And Sierra Leone, well that's where I'm headed to in 45 days.
WOW! 45 days... that's quickly approaching. Welp, this is my first blog post EVER. I wanted to write a post now, so I could comment on preparing to leave, expectations, and all that wishy washy stuff.
I could start with why I'm going? That's a good start, right? Welllll, there's this American volunteer program run by the U.S. government (err, hence my disclaimer up yonder^^^) called the Peace Corps. The program is 27 months and the government sends volunteers all over the world to work in a variety of sectors (governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment).
I've known for a very, very long time that this program was something I wanted to be apart of. I applied in June of 2010, received my nomination in September of 2010 and then finally just received my invitation to serve in Sierra Leone a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I AM SOOO EXCITED!!! I will be a secondary education science teacher. Science meaning Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (ew).
So, I guess another bit of background we need to get out of the way is why the Peace Corps?? Well, I've been asked more times than I count and it has been difficult to put into words. Here goes nothing I s'pose! I grew up in a wonderful, loving family in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, Latrobe (also known as the best (technically) city in the world). I loved my life and felt so fortunate with the opportunities that I had. I followed my two older brothers, Ryan and Sean, to the University of Pittsburgh, which is only 45 minutes away from my lovely Latrobean home. It was amazing to meet people from all over country and to hear about their experiences. I loved these conversations and took this interest into my studies with deciding to pursue a Global Health certificate along with a Neuroscience major, Chemistry minor, and two other certificates, African Studies and Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. I was so glad that Pitt had these types of classes, but I wanted something more. I didn't just want to learn about other cultures - I wanted to experience them. Not moving so far away from my sheltered life in Latrobe, I felt as if I was living in a bubble and as if I was the only one who could pop that bubble. I thought the first step to popping this bubble was studying abroad. I walked into the study abroad office and decided to go to Tanzania (pretty much because it sounded SO different). I got accepted into the program and did research in a rural Tanzanian hospital. I think that's when my traveling spark truly began. My experiences in East Africa opened up my eyes to whole new world. After living in a third world country, I didn't just want to talk to my friends about the problems in the world - I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to be a voice for people that didn't think they have a voice. I wanted to be that person that hugged someone when the rest of the world turned their backs. I wanted to be that lending hand where ever, whenever and for whoever needed it!
I knew in my heart that my life was to be a life of service. In high school, I was constantly volunteering for something - Relay for Life, CropWalk, the Rockdown. I started to shy away from volunteering a little in my freshman year. I was still volunteering, but just not as much. I went on a Alternative Spring Break to Tennessee to build trails freshman year and wanted to go on another one sophomore year. My roommate, Kat, was doing a Habitat for Humanity trip and asked if I wanted to join. It might sound cliche, but I don't care - that trip changed my life. I loved everything about it. I loved the people I had the pleasure to work with in Georgia, the friends I made, the fact that we built a house for a family in great need in a week, and the mission behind Habitat. After that trip, I became extremely involved in Habitat and went on 2 more spring break trips and travelled to El Salvador for a Global Village trip. It was through Habitat for Humanity that fully confirmed to me that I was put on this Earth to help others.
So, that answer was a little long winded, but I hope you understand that I'm not crazy for picking up and leaving for 2 years. I love my life and I love all my amazing friends and family. I thank God everyday not for the things that I have (those are nice though!), but for the people that are in my life that are truly beautiful inside and out. The most difficult part about leaving is saying good-bye. I am reassured when I think of the love in my heart for these people (you know who you are) and believe that they also have that love for me.
My first post EVER is getting so long already. I'm done rambling for now, but before I head out I'd like to put a quote from Milliard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity. This quote is how I want and plan to live for today and for the rest of my life.
"We must put faith and love into action to make them real, to make them come alive for people." - Milliard Fuller