Alicia G. volunteered with Hope Through Health in Kara, Togo in 2014-2015 with the support of a Christianson Grant from the InterExchange Foundation. During her eight-month stint with the organization, Goodwin conducted research to evaluate a Maternal and Child Health pilot program and updated the clinic's data collection system. We caught up with Alicia recently and she was kind enough to give us an update on her life post-Togo.
What was the most memorable part of your experience abroad?
The most memorable part of my experience was all the local travel I did as part of my research in rural Togo. Being able to explore all the little villages served by the clinic where I volunteered, as well as some of the bigger cities around the country where we could make possible connections with other organizations, was an incredible way to better understand the country, the climate, and the different populations I was working with.
I had so many fun adventures on the road that wouldn't have come up if I'd stayed put, like trying different foods only produced in some remote areas, participating in local harvest festivals, and figuring out how to deal with a flat tire where no one speaks any languages I know.
What are you up to now and how do you incorporate what you learned during your program into your current work/life?
I recently worked at a full-immersion French summer camp, teaching students French and about the francophone world. I led activities related to Togolese cooking, sewing and fashion, music, and climate; it was a way to share everything I learned and loved with the students! It was especially exciting because we had many West African counselors on staff. We worked together to figure out how to present the nuances between different countries and cultures in West Africa, while also channeling our shared love of key elements universal to francophone African culture.
What advice do you have for future grantees?
The most important advice I could give to future grantees is to make friends with everyone you can and ask them lots of questions! Even if they don't end up becoming your best friend, it's really worth befriending all your neighbors, everyone at your workplace, other foreigners you run into - even the vendors you buy bread from. Knowing a broad range of people from different backgrounds and generations, and being able to ask them questions about their lives, work, and your new community will help you do a better job. You'll not only be being more informed, but you'll also appreciate and enjoy your time abroad that much more!
Seeking funding for a service project abroad? Check out InterExchange's Christianson Grant. To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen between 18 and 28 with a self-arranged project abroad that is at least six months in length.