Meet Our Journalists

blogger-photo-by-amick-man.jpg
Ayanna Profile PicAyanna Nahmias is the Editor-in-Chief. She is passionate about international affairs, geopolitics, and human rights and writes articles with an emphasis on women's rights and child advocacy. She is working on her first novel and was interviewed about growing up in Africa as the daughter of a radical, Islamist expatriate on Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Click to hear interview.

Twitter: @AyannaNahmias

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorMichael Ransom is a Contributing Editor. He is a recent graduate of The College of William + Mary, where he studied English. Michael enjoys exploring new cultures and learning languages. In the future, he hopes to merge his love for international travel with his writing career. His interests include intercultural exchange, environmental justice, criminal justice topics and all forms of equality.

Twitter: @Mandrewranson

Sarah Joanne JakubowskiSarah Joanne Jakubowski is our Africa Correspondent. Currently, living and working in Accra, Ghana, she reports directly from the Continent.Upon her return, she will resume her studies in English, Philosophy and Anthropology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Sarah is dedicated to combining these interests to make world issues and scientific findings more accessible to the public. She is passionate about human rights issues, global health issues, and art. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in international journalism.

Twitter: @SJJakubowski

Oliva ElswickOlivia Elswick is a Contributing Journalist and Asia Correspondent. Most recently she worked in India at a rehabilitation center for former child laborers. She is currently employed in Yanji, China, on the border of North Korea where she has been reporting on events in the region.She is passionate about art, literature, traveling, and social justice. A recent graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina, she studied Writing & Publication Studies, and Communications.

Twitter: @OCElswick

Vineeta Tiwari, NCR JournalistVineeta Tiwari is our Middle East Correspondent. She is Indian by nationality but travels and works in the Middle East. She is a professional writer and blogger with a passion for issues facing emerging economies and employment markets. She is a computer science graduate who chose to become a writer because of her interest in global economic initiatives and world affairs.

Her area of expertise focuses on immigration challenges facing many countries, especially in the Gulf region. Vineeta writes about the Middle East and other Gulf countries to inform and expose readers to the fact that these countries have become major players in social and economic development.

Twitter: @vinita1204

Allyson CartwrightAllyson Cartwright is our Contributing Journalist. She is a third-year student at the University of Virginia where she is studying English with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. She is passionate about human rights issues, specifically surrounding women's rights in the Middle East. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career in journalism with a focus on the Middle East region.

Twitter: @allysoncwright

Chrycka HarperChrycka Harper is our Poet & Social Commentator. She is currently living and studying in South Africa where she will report on events occurring on the Continent, and continue to provide social commentary through poetry and prose.Chrycka Harper was born and raised in Wichita, KS, and is a Psychology Bachelor of Science candidate attending Howard University. Her interests include writing about significant personal issues and observations through poetry and prose, reading, eating/cooking, learning more about the unknown. After undergrad, she plans to pursue a research career in the Neuropsychology.

Twitter: @Chrycka_Harper

Jessamy NicholsJessamy Nichols is our Africa Correspondent and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with majors in Global Studies and Political Science, and a minor in African Studies.She has traveled throughout East Africa the international affairs realm after recently moving to Washington, DC. Her interests include global human rights issues, international conflict resolution, African politics, regional instability, and multilateral institution behavior.

Twitter: @JessamyNichols

Ty ButlerTy Butler is the Sr. Correspondent on International Development and Conflict. He possesses a Master’s in International Affairs from Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs.

Ty has previously worked with the non-profit Ag2Africa as a technical editor and as an economic policy staff intern with the US Dept. of State, Bureau of African Affairs. Ty’s interests include gender studies, conflict & terrorism, and economic development with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Twitter: @TyWButler

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Facebook: The.Nahmias.Cipher.Report

International Volunteers Series: Infirmary Worker in Montero, Bolivia

copacabana-bolivia-julio-2013-photo-by-dani.jpg

Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:30 p.m. DST, 03 July 2014

Antoinette Moncrieff

MONTERO, Bolivia -- Antoinette Moncrieff, a spitfire of a girl from Michigan, works in an orphanage, or Hogar, in Bolivia with another American volunteer, Natalie Baker. Antoinette was drawn to work in Bolivia because of the opportunity to work in an orphanage and the tropical location.

As the oldest of four children and a second mom to the youngest siblings, kids have surrounded her all her life. She has been a nanny, baby-sitter, teacher’s aide, and has worked at a daycare and summer camp with homeless children.

What is your job in Bolivia?‬‬

‪My first eight months here, I worked in Santa Maria with the 0 – 5 year olds. I did homework with the kindergarteners, occasionally did activities with them, changed their diapers, bathed them, fed them, played with them, and disciplined them.

Now I help Hermana Paulita in the infirmary. I´m in charge of meds for both buildings, three times a day. I also file, take children to appointments, and take children to the doctor. Additionally, I sometimes take care of cuts and scrapes, burns, etc. and keep a note of who has what so that when Hermana Paulita comes in for the day she can have a look at them.

What is a day in the life like?

Honestly, that´s hard to say! Every day here is so different! Even in the nine months I've been here, my job responsibilities have switched around according to the need of the moment.

Typically, the average day here goes something like this:

  • 5:00 am – The girls get up, get dressed, and do chores. (By default, I am awake too. It´s hard not to wake up when your bedroom is adjacent to a dorm of teenagers).☺
  • 6:00 am – I am officially out of bed and go get the breakfast meds ready.
  • 6:30 am – Breakfast bell, pray Hail Mary with the girls before entering, pass out food to our tables (we each have a table, mine is mainly full of middle school age girls) and I hand out meds to the girls.
  • 7:15 am – The girls who go to school at Maria Auxiliadora, which is across town, leave on our microbus with Don Pancho, our handyman and driver. I am usually still chasing down girls who weren´t at breakfast to hand them out meds. The other girls who go to the public school next door leave on foot.
  • 8:00 am – I hand out meds to Santa Maria, our 0 – 5 year olds, while they eat their breakfast. The school age girls do their homework in preparation for the afternoon session.
  • 8:30 am– It really depends on the day. Sometimes I do paperwork; filing girls´ medical records, keeping track of their meds, etc. Sometimes I need to take care of boo-boos, take girls to appointments, or make unplanned trips to the doctor with sick children.
  • 12:15 pm – I hand out lunch-time meds to Santa Maria.
  • 13:00 pm – Lunch bell. Sometimes Madre Rosario, our director, gives the girls a talk while they wait in line. I dish out food for my table and then hand out lunch meds to the girls in the dining room.
  • 14:00 pm – Afternoon session has started. The girls who go to school in the mornings do their homework in preparation for the next day. Santa Maria is either napping or at kindergarten depending on their ages. My routine is then much like the morning.
  • 18:00 pm – Dinnertime meds with Santa Maria.
  • 18:30 pm – Dinner bell. I dish out food to my table and pass out the dinner-time meds.
  • 19:00 – Officially I don´t have anything going on.

But this is relative. Often Natalie and I will have a cup of tea in the volunteer kitchen. Sometimes I get sucked in to taking care of someone´s boo-boos, which usually means that I end up taking care of ten people because if the girls get wind of the fact that I´m taking care of one person, they´ll all want me to take care of them. Sometimes I read or hang out in the library with Natalie and the homework girls.

  • 22:00 pm – A rough bedtime estimate.

How are you able to handle all of your responsibilities while keeping a healthy work/life balance?‬‬

Honestly, it´s difficult. Because there is no physical separation of work and home, and there are children around constantly, it is hard to keep a proper balance. The nature of your responsibilities also makes this difficult as well. I've found that it´s very important to take a bit of time out for yourself, indeed a necessity… Reading, journaling, art, taking a walk, taking naps, etc. have all helped me. When you´re feeling especially burnt out, taking a few days off is important too.

1  Next Page » 2 3 4

Published: 03 July 2014 (Page 2 of 4)

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction you did?

A typical day for me starts with morning mass at 6:45. Many of the students attend this mass as well. After mass I take attendance for the Daughters of Mary which is a Catholic group for young women dedicated to living more like Mary and growing in our faith as Christians. After that we have a quick breakfast and morning assembly. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go with a VSDB sister to a village school that we are in charge of running and organizing.

We conduct assembly there, teach various subjects, get uniforms and other necessary things in order to get the new school on its feet. Those afternoons I teach art and religion at our base school. Tuesday and Thursday I start my day in the secondary school then teach the 5 aspirants we have English and Group Dynamics. The rest of the afternoon after lunch is spent in either art or religion and just being present in the school to assist with conflicts or difficulties that arise. Most afternoons I help a few students practice reading with small books we have here. ‪‬ I've wanted to do mission work since I was knee-high to a duck. I've always been interested in foreign countries and cultures, as well as poverty, human rights and social justice issues.

In college I sat through class and when I wasn't doodling or wishing I was doing something else with my life, I began to be aware of a desire deep inside to go to a foreign country and love the little children who had no one to love them.

It came to a head one fall day when I was supposed to be grocery shopping before work. Instead, I found myself walking through the woods in the park yelling at God.

“What do you want me to do?” I demanded of him.

In my mind´s eye I saw him laughing at me. He popped the question right back to me:

“What do you want to do?”

What were your thoughts about Bolivia before you arrived and how have they changed or stayed the same?‬‬‬

‪‬I think, coming from a first-world country that places a great deal of importance on child safety and development, as well as continuing education, I took it for granted that those I worked with would be of the same mindset. I found that this is not necessarily the case.

What are your hobbies and community involvement at your site?‬‬‬

Once a week, Natalie and I get to eat lunch with the nuns who run our orphanage at their convent. We also take part in the different celebrations at the Hogar. Bolivia has so many celebrations. Often we join the other staff members in putting on a dance.

We've also put on Dia de La Bruja (Halloween), Christmas, Easter, and Mother´s Day celebrations. The staff take turns putting on one major celebration every year; this year our turn was Mother´s Day.

Natalie and I enjoy making cups of tea, hanging out in the Plaza, and watching movies too. Personally, I enjoy reading, writing, journaling, drawing, painting, photography, dancing, and petting my cat. ☺

What are the hardest parts about living there?

I think one of the hardest parts about the Hogar is that there´s just kids around all the time. The noise is constant. You really can´t walk anywhere without running into someone. Even when you try to go somewhere for a little space, like the volunteer kitchen (which ends up feeling like a giant fishbowl) they often find you and spy on you, bang on the windows, etc. Someone´s always yelling, talking or laughing really loud, crying, etc. Even taking showers, going to the bathroom, etc. don´t always have the luxury of privacy. I have had numerous conversations through the shower door. ☺

Food has been interesting. The government only gives eight bolivianos a day (less then $1.50 U.S.) to the Hogar for each child for ALL of her needs. (By the way, this is the same amount that the prisons get.) Food is often very limited and almost always unappetizing. When there´s food we eat and when there´s not we don´t. While there´s always something to eat, there´s usually not enough and what there isn't very nutritious.

We eat a lot of donated things. It´s not unusual for us to eat a small baggie of outdated cookies leftover from the school snack for breakfast or dinner. Once we went through a whole week where the main meal, lunch, was only a bowl of soup. Feeling hungry is often just something you suck up and deal with.‬‬‬

1 2 Next Page » 3 4

Published: 03 July 2014 (Page 3 of 4)

‪‪Do you ever feel unsafe?‬‬‬

‪‬Sometimes. Going anywhere at night is often kind of scary and it gets dark really early here because we´re closer to the equator. Our neighborhood is kind of bad and an especial target for robbers because the market´s right there and people always have money on them. Two months in Natalie and I were robbed at gunpoint and her purse was stolen. That was scary but we learned from it and came out okay in the end. Most of the time we´re pretty safe though. The key is to go out during the day. ‬‬‬‬

What is the most rewarding part about living there?‬‬‬

‪Knowing that you´re making a difference in the lives of the kids. Seeing the small changes in them, as they grow, heal and learn is priceless. I've had the opportunity to build positive relationships with many of the children over the nine and a half months I´ve been here. Every once in a while it blows my mind that I can positively interact with a kid I never thought I would. ‪ ‬‪ ‬‬‬‬ ‪‬What is your best memory so far?

‪‬‬I have so many good ones that it´s hard to choose one! Getting electrocuted by the showers, the day Melani learned to walk, Sandra and Natalie getting stuck up in a tree, Yudid and Emily dancing around in gigantic costume feet, getting my hair tangled up in the wheel of a cart during an impromptu race with a bunch of middle school girls, finding my boyfriend sopping wet during a water balloon war with a bunch of teenage girls and then bringing him to the personnel meeting where he left a gigantic puddle on the floor… There´s so many! ☺

What is the most heartwarming experience you’ve had and the most heartbreaking?

‪I've  had a lot of heartwarming experiences and a lot of heartbreaking ones. Hearing Leidy tell me she wanted to die, the kids not having enough food, having Etcel spill into my lap crying telling me her dad told her she has to stay here always, holding screaming Nataly during her transition into Santa Maria, the day Deimar's adoptive family returned him and seeing how changed he was as a result… those are some of the heartbreaking ones.

Getting peppered in hugs and kisses by Santa Maria, watching Paz turn from a smelly scabies-infested street animal into a loving pregnant kitty, watching Silvana go from a depressed and sick little girl to a smiling joyful girl who can use a pencil and count to ten consecutively, getting a picture from Emily on a really rough day, getting called “Mama,” how excited Francisca was about reading “Bread and Jam for Frances”, Belen's cute secret hand waves as she walks down the hallway. Those are definitely the heartwarming ones and they make it all worth it.

Can you tell me about one child that you feel you’ve impacted or about one child who has impacted you?

I think Silvana was the guiding thread through my first several months of being here at the Hogar. When I first came here she was eight years old but living with the 0 -5 year olds in Santa Maria. She was very sad, withdrawn, depressed and sick. In my first few days of working in Santa Maria, I got Silvana to smile. Gradually she came out of her shell.

In January she started kindergarten. She had difficulty doing simple pencil tracing exercises and the concept of colors was completely lost on her. I talked to our psychologist and social worker and learned that Silvana grew up in the country wandering the streets with her schizophrenic mother.

When she first came to the Hogar, Silvana could not use the bathroom by herself. She just sat and did not interact with anyone. In the year-to-year and a half since then, Silvana has come such a long way. The psychologist felt that Silvana was capable of learning but because of poor nutrition she would come about it in her own timetable and not when we expected her to. He thought being in Santa Maria was the best medicine for her because the children would talk to her; she would learn from her peers.

I kept working with Silvana. Slowly but surely she got the hang of using a pencil. She was able to do all of her homework, even making letters of the alphabet. She even named a color once without my asking her to. She needed constant affirmation but was very pleased with herself as she made progress. I remember the day she counted her numbers and actually started with one instead of two. I was so excited!

She is such a different little girl then she was nine and a half months ago. She laughs and talks with the other kids, smiles and climbs all over the playground. I am so happy she's come so far.

What lessons will you take with you?

‪‬‬I've learned how strong I really am. I´ve learned a number of different nursing skills and life skills that I definitely didn't know when I came down here. I also learned that I can go months on end without seeing my boyfriend and have our relationship come out stronger for it.

Do you find that women are treated differently than men at your site?

Yes and no. We don´t have the same gender inequalities and difficulties that many other third-world countries do, but men and women have very different roles in Bolivia. There are a lot more clear distinctions between what men and women do then there are back home. If a little boy wants to play with a doll, they are very adamant that “that's women's stuff” and scold him. Traditionally anything to do with tools, appliances, building, etc. falls under the male's role. I don't really agree with it.

1 2 3 Next Page » 4

Published: 03 July 2014 (Page 4 of 4)

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your area?

‪‬‬Poverty and a lack of education. Poverty and ignorance breed each other. Knowledge of child development is often nonexistent. Knowledge that we often take for granted in the United States is not common knowledge here. People have hugely unrealistic developmental expectations of children and thinking outside the box or innovatively or in a problem-solving way is not really done here.

In my particular neighborhood, families are very broken. Many parents are not married. It is not unusual for a father or mother to go off to another country and leave the rest of the family. People tend to have the attitude that orphanages can raise their children; sort of like free daycare until the child is old enough to be useful to the family. Once one of our English volunteers was approached by a single mother who looked to be fairly well-off. She wanted to know if the Hogar could take her children.

Do you ever feel like you really belong in Bolivia at the Hogar?

‪‬‬Yes and no. I think the very nature of the Hogar makes it feel difficult to feel fully part of what´s going on. But I feel like I belong in the sense that I am where I am supposed to be, and I've become part of life here and part of the girls´ lives as well, even for the short time I´m here.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve observed or been a part of?

Being a part of the outdoor Stations of the Cross that happen in the streets of Montero during Lent has definitely been one of the most interesting things I´ve been part of.

As for surprising… Life at the Hogar is often a surprise. You never know when you´ll be entertaining a group of American visitors, finding a live bat in the library, going to the dairy farm with Santa Maria, having a party, or watching the tortoise trying to get out of the corner next to the computer like I´m doing right now. ☺

What are your hopes for the people you’ve interacted with?

I hope each one of my children goes on to lead a long, happy, and productive life. I hope they make a better life for themselves then the life they were born into, make positive choices and that they find love and healing. I wish I was around to see the kind of people they grow up to be.

What are your plans once you’ve finished at your site?

I'm going to return to Ypsilanti, Michigan. I've got a job waiting for me at home, working with 5-10 year olds as an after-school program leader. I´m also hoping to train as a volunteer Doula working with mothers who have just given birth.

What do you plan to have accomplished in five, 10, 20, and 50-years personally and professionally?

I don't have a time limit for anything. Life takes many strange twists and turns and it's silly to put a time frame on things. I can tell you what I would like to have happen, though. I would like to become a midwife and herbalist.

I would like to get married and have a ton of kids, do foster care and adopt. I would like to be an urban farmer and continue drawing, taking photos, writing, dancing, painting, and non-conventional learning. I'm hoping to spend my life invested in the lives of my family members, friends, and the community around me. And I hope to continue doing mission work in the future.

Anything else you would like to add?

If you've ever thought about doing overseas mission or volunteer work… seriously. DO IT!  It's so worth it in the end. You will be so much better for it, and you will have made a positive impact on someone else's life.

Return to Page 1 »

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

International Volunteers Series: Caregiver in Cochabamba, Bolivia

1476571_10152793457931002_1848536047_n.jpg

Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 08:07 a.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Imagen 419BOLIVIA, Cochabamba -- This week I spoke with Charlene Becicka, a caregiver at an orphanage in a rural pueblo outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cochabamba is known as the “City of Eternal Sunshine” because of the beautiful weather year round. This orphanage offers a home to 50 girls from 3-17 years old.

Becicka attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and studied English Literature, Secondary Education, and Theatre. “While my education has certainly aided in my work as a volunteer and missionary, it has been my faith that has really sustained me in my work,” she says.

What drew you to the site you decided to work in?

I was drawn to the site Hogar Maria Auxiliadora because of the role of the volunteers listed in its site description. The other sites listed teacher, tutor, nurse...the role for volunteers at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora: mother and friend. I’ve always loved children, so being in the role of mother and friend seemed like the perfect fit for me.

What is a day in the life like?

The role of the missionaries at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora is quite varied. We are responsible for caring for the girls in every aspect of their development. Daily our responsibilities include waking the girls, feeding them breakfast, ensuring they do their chores, helping with homework, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, and just spending time with them. In a larger sense, though, our job is to be a caring friend and role model.

How are you able to handle all of your responsibilities while keeping a healthy work/life balance?

I take a half-hour to hour-long break every day in which time I usually read or write letters. Taking a little time every day to do something I enjoy is very refreshing.

What are the hardest parts about living there?

For me, the most difficult aspect of my work is the language barrier. I came to Bolivia without ever studying Spanish, so my first few months were a real struggle trying to build relationship and maintain authority with the children while learning the language. 9 months later, the language barrier has decreased, but can still be a challenge at times. However, being immersed in a different culture and learning a new language have also been some of the most rewarding aspects of my experience.

What is the most rewarding part about living there?

Seeing the girls make progress toward individual goals is incredibly rewarding. In my time volunteering here I’ve seen girls learn to read, learn to better manage emotions, and make progress toward other personal objectives. It’s wonderful to be a small part of helping the girls develop skills and habits that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

What are some of the most heartwarming experience you’ve had?

The most heartwarming moments are when the girls show their love and appreciation for the work I do with them. Surprise hugs and kisses, words of gratitude, and special notes and pictures from the girls are always touching.

And the most heartbreaking?

It’s heartbreaking to hear the girls wish for a healthy family. While some of the girls I work with are orphans, many have been abandoned, abused, or simply come from families that can’t afford to take care of them. Hearing girls ask why their parents don’t come visit them or why they have to live in Hogar is difficult.

What lessons will you take with you?

Living and working with a diverse group of children has certainly taught me to be patient.

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your area?

One of the most critical problems faced by people in rural Bolivia is illiteracy. Encountering people in Bolivia who can neither read nor write motivates me to help the girls I work with develop this fundamental skill.

What are your hopes for the people you’ve interacted with?

My hopes for the girls of Hogar Maria Auxiliadora are the same as the hopes I have for all the people I encounter: that they will use their unique gifts and talents to grow into the best people they can be and always face the world with a smile.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve the girls and young women of Hogar Maria Auxiliadora in Cochabamba, Bolivia. However, service does not require quitting your job or moving to a foreign country. One of the lessons I'll take away from my mission experience is that propagating peace and justice can start with being present to the people around you, wherever you find yourself.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

International Volunteers Series: Healthcare Workers in Maridi, South Sudan

theresa-kiblinger-and-ariel-zarate-volunteers-in-maridi-south-sudan2.jpg

Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 08:07 a.m. DST, 19 June 2014

"Goma sykestue 64" Photo by: Endre VestvikMARIDI, South Sudan -- For this edition of the international volunteer interview series, I spoke with Theresa Kiblinger and Ariel Zarate, American volunteers living in “the bush,” of Maridi, South Sudan.

Despite South Sudan’s prevalence in international news these day, and obstacles like two hours treks through six-foot-tall grass to get to a mobile clinic, and bouts of malaria, it is clear from talking to these two extraordinary women, that there is nowhere else they’d rather be.

What were your thoughts about South Sudan before you arrived and how‬ have they changed or stayed the same?‬‬

‪TK: I knew basic facts like it is the newest country in the world but I didn’t know much more about the historical background of this‬ newly founded nation. I was just excited to be heading to Africa, and‬ I figured I would learn while I am here. And I’ve done just that. My‬ eyes have really been opened to the struggles that these people have‬ endured through decades of war, and how they are working to overcome‬ their past to create hope for the future.‬‬‬

What prepared‬ you for this job?‬ Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to‬ take the direction you did?‬‬

AZ: I went to Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois and I graduated with a Bachelors in Social Work in the fall of 2013. I have been drawn to international social work since high school when I decided that social work was the field I want to go into. I attended Lewis University primarily for the international service opportunities they offered. The primary extracurricular activities I participated in during my college career were social justice or social service oriented.

After participating in my first overseas mission trip to Bolivia in 2010, I was hooked. Traveling, serving and learning about new cultures brought peace and joy to my life. I continued with my mission work throughout my four years, going to the Philippines twice and participating in multiple domestic service projects.

As graduation approached and the time to answer the question of what are you going to be when you grow up came closer I was faced with a decision. Do I go to grad school or do I serve for a year. It was a huge decision to make and one of the deciding factors was some advice a friend gave me. He said to do whatever I would regret most not doing in 5 years. If you will look back on it and wish you had done it, then you have to do it. And that is what I did. I knew in my heart that coming to Africa was what I was meant to. No matter where I travelled I was always drawn here.‪ ‬‬‬

‪TK: I went to Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school in Kansas City,‬‬ Missouri, where I got my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I think my whole schooling has helped prepare me for this‬ mission work. My clinical rotations in nursing school definitely‬ prepared me for the skills that I have been using at the clinic. I‬‬ also have volunteered in Africa previously, so the transition to South‬ Sudan was made much easier by my other experiences in Africa.‬‬ I’m very passionate about public health and health education. I also‬ am extremely interested in maternal and child health (MCH).

1 Next Page » 2 3

Published: 19 June 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

We have‬ been working to start a MCH unit at our clinic, so it has been great‬ to help with the building blocks of this program.‬‬ When I’m finished with my year in South Sudan, I’m planning on volunteering at another site in Africa, the place is‬‬ still to be determined. I want to get more experience, and then‬‬ hopefully I will go back to school to get my Masters in Public Health‬ and possibly Tropical Medicine or Maternal and Child Health. I see‬ myself doing global health at least for the next few years of my life and then we will see where that leads me!‬‬‬

What is a day in the life like?‬‬

TK: Each day in South Sudan is jam-packed with activities and‬‬ responsibilities. I work as a staff nurse at the Don Bosco Health‬‬ Center every morning until the afternoon. We see a variety of cases‬ and average around 40 patients each day. I’m in charge of taking‬ vital signs, giving injections, dressing wounds, and dispensing‬ medications. In the afternoons I teach English Composition to classes‬ 7, 8, and the Salesian aspirants. After school I coach the girls‬ football team. Every evening we have rosary with the kids followed by‬ evening prayer, dinner, and finally bedtime. I wake up the next day‬ and repeat it all.‬‬

AZ: A typical day for me starts with morning mass at 6:45. Many of the students attend this mass as well. After mass I take attendance for the Daughters of Mary which is a Catholic group for young women dedicated to living more like Mary and growing in our faith as Christians. After that we have a quick breakfast and morning assembly. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go with a VSDB sister to a village school that we are in charge of running and organizing.

We conduct assembly there, teach various subjects, get uniforms and other necessary things in order to get the new school on its feet. Those afternoons I teach art and religion at our base school. Tuesday and Thursday I start my day in the secondary school then teach the 5 aspirants we have English and Group Dynamics. The rest of the afternoon after lunch is spent in either art or religion and just being present in the school to assist with conflicts or difficulties that arise. Most afternoons I help a few students practice reading with small books we have here.

How are you able to handle all of your responsibilities while keeping‬ a healthy work/life balance?‬‬‬

‪‬TK: I have really stressed “self-care” since I got to South Sudan. We‬‬ are staying in a very remote village with minimal chances to get out‬ and do things to separate mission life and our personal lives.‬‬ However, I always try to take time each day to do things that I need‬ to do to reflect and process this experience. Usually this comes in‬ the form of running in the early mornings. It is such a peaceful time‬ to be by myself and forget about everything else.‬‬‬

AZ: After a long day, it’s usually a huge glass of water, marking, class prep, oratory or some self-care Jillian Michaels with Theresa. Our days are super packed and even when we are not in class the kids are always around so our days have a routine but are always different.

How have you adjusted to simple living?‬‬‬

‪‬TK: It actually has been really nice and refreshing to embrace the simple‬ living aspect. Time and material possessions are not the basis of‬ life. It is the relationships that you have with one another that are‬ important. It has been completely different from my life in the‬ States, but definitely a good kind of different.‬‬‬ ‬‬‬

Do you ever feel unsafe?‬‬‬

TK: ‬‬I have never felt unsafe even with the recent political instability.‬‬ Maridi is such a peaceful place and the tribe that lives in this area‬ are extremely peaceful people. It also has helped that I’ve been here‬ for a while now, and people in the community know who I am and my role‬ here.‬‬‬

‪Do you find that women are treated differently than men at your site?‬‬‬ ‬‬‬ TK: Definitely. It is extremely evident in the way people talk and act‬‬ towards women that they are not viewed as equals to men. The boys in‬ school don’t understand why the girls need to have a football team.‬ They say that the girls need to go home right after school to cook and‬ clean. Even as a teacher, I feel like the kids don’t fully respect me‬ or listen to me as they do towards a male teacher.‬‬‬‪

1 Next Page » 2 3

Published: 19 June 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your area?‬‬‬

‪‬TK: These people have so many obstacles that they have faced in the past‬ and are still trying to overcome. They have lived through decades of‬ war. Many of the kids have lost one or even both parents and this‬ county, specifically the village where I am working, has the highest‬ rate of HIV in the entire country. These people are trying to‬ overcome all these obstacles to have a hopeful future, but their past‬ struggles are still extremely evident in everyday life.‬‬‬‪ ‬‬‬

What is the most rewarding part about living there?‬‬‬

‪‬TK: The relationships that grow deeper each and every day. The kids that‬ I work with are the most incredible group of kids that I have met. I don’t think I’ve loved a group of kids as fully and deeply as these‬ little mischievous, crazy kids. They make this experience completely‬ worth it.‬‬ My best memories are every moment I am with the kids. There is‬‬ nothing better than holding a baby in my arms as I pray the rosary as‬ the sun sets, or when a little girl grabs my hand and we skip down the‬ dirt road singing songs. Its the little moments each day that warm my‬ heart and remind me of the reason I’m even here in the first place--to‬ love these kids.‬‬ ‪ ‬‬‬‬

Can you tell me about one child who has impacted you?‬‬‬

‪TK: There is one 10-year old boy named Santo who has epilepsy and also has‬ special needs. But this little boy constantly teaches me how to love‬ unconditionally. Every day I hear him screaming my name across the‬ compound and then he takes off and greets me with the biggest hug. He‬ asks how I am, then he goes through all the members of the community‬ asking how they are and where they are. This happens at least 3 times‬ each day. Even days when I don’t have patience to go through this‬ same conversation over and over, he never stops loving me or going out‬ of his way to give me a giant hug. It has been a huge lesson in‬ loving each person as they are, and I have the best example of how to‬ imitate this unconditional love through the life of Santo.‬‬‬ ‪ ‬‪ ‬‬‬‬ ‪‬Have you ever had a “this is my home” feeling? ‬‬

‪‬‬TK: I have that feeling almost every day. Honestly, I have felt at home‬ since I first stepped out of the car and arrived in Maridi 10 months‬ ago. I was greeted by the sweetest, brown-eyed 'kiddos' and I‬ immediately fell in love. I knew that I was home. I get that feeling‬ when the little kids call me their mother, when I wipe tears away from‬ a child’s face at the clinic, when I snag babies to hold and‬ love...It’s little moments each day that really make me feel like this‬ is my home.‬‬‬

What are your hopes for the people you’ve interacted with?‬‬

‪TK: I hope that they can see past the past and strive for the future.‬‬ They are some of the brightest kids I’ve met, and they have so much‬ potential. I hope they don’t get stuck in the cycle of life here- get‬ married after 8th grade and have kids right away. While that isn’t‬ bad, they just have so much more to offer this country. These are the‬ kids that will really make this country progress in the future.‬‬‬

What lessons will you take with you?‬‬‬

TK: This mission experience has made me learn so much about myself and‬ made me grow in ways I don’t think I’ll fully understand until I get‬ back home. I’ve learned so much about living in the present and‬ loving people in the moment even when it’s difficult. The people here‬ have shown me how to see the world in a different way, with a‬ different focus.‬‬ ‪ ‬‬AZ: Coming here was the best decision I have ever made. Not only have I grown immensely in my faith but I have grown immensely as a person. The lessons I have learned and the ways I have changed for the better will stay with me forever. ‬‬

Return to Page 1 »

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick