It took me some time this week to think about this post.
Peace Corps week is very bittersweet these days for me but with the roll out of the Let Girls Learn initiative I feel like I should share the importance of my experience and Peace Corps.
Girls around the world have a struggle we will never know. When I first starting talking to my girls in Mozambique, they were shocked that I was single, 23, university educated, and living alone on the other side of the world. My stories of my life and my family support offered them a light to another world outside of leaving school early and getting married to someone you may or may not love. Working with them through REDES (and other programs in other nations) girls learn about dreams they never knew how to pursue. It's not that my girls didn't want something besides early marriage, often times it was more they didn't know how to get something else. Programs like Peace Corps and Let Girls Learn don't plant dreams into girls' heads, they work with the girls to help them be empowered to achieve their own dreams. And there is something beautiful about that.
I didn't want to leave my girls. Actually, because of them, I had considered finding new ways to stay in Africa with a different organization. Their excitement and leadership and ambition was contagious and awe-inspiring. A big part of the Peace Corps experience, I think, has to do with the people you are working with, and my girls made my experience golden.
I miss them, and I often wonder what they are doing now. It's hard knowing that I wasn't replaced in my village and so they don't have a new inspiration coming into the classroom. But I know my time with them inspired enough of them to go out and start inspiring their friends to reach for the stars, and that's what being a volunteer is about...leaving a lasting legacy.
My girls (and the rest of my students) forever hold a special place in my heart...they were the light and joy of my job in Africa and I know for a lot of volunteers, their villagers or students are what makes the experience.
Go out there and inspire.