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Parting Paws

Sabrina Fortney

and //MAKING PEACE What do two young women from Nunica, Mich., and Uniontown, Ohio, have in common? Besides being Adrian College graduates, both Lynda Mick ’07 and Sabrina Fortney ’11 took a giant leap and joined the Peace Corps. Both served in West African nations, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean – Ghana and Senegal. WHY DID YOU JOIN THE PEACE CORPS? LYNDA: After earning my psychology degree from Adrian College, I went on to earn a M.A. in art therapy counseling from Marylhurst University (Oregon). I always wanted to help others in some way. I knew it would be harder to make the commitment as I grew older and became more career focused; I decided to step away and take a chance. SABRINA: I wanted to help save the world of course! But what made me go beyond thinking about it was a story that Dr. Melissa Stewart told us in her feminism class. She spoke to us about this incredible young woman she knew who traveled to Africa to help keep young girls in school. After that story, I remember thinking I need to do something – I want to make a difference.

WHAT WERE SOME UNEXPECTED CHALLENGES THERE? LYNDA: For me, the most difficult thing was being by myself for very long periods of time. There were very few distractions, and initially the simplicity was maddening. No TV, very little internet, no one who gets your jokes. I washed all my laundry by hand, took bucket baths and ate whatever I could find and from care packages from home. SABRINA: The biggest challenge was trying to change their perception of Americans. They took everything from TV and assumed we were all like Miley Cyrus, for example, wealthy and overindulgent. I found the local African dialect, Wolof, difficult to grasp and it took a good year. No one spoke English ever. And there was no electricity or running water.

WHERE WERE YOU PLACED? HOW LONG WERE YOU THERE? LYNDA: I was in Ghana from February 2013 – April 2015. Ghana is located on the western side of Africa, just a few degrees north of the Equator on the Gulf of Guinea. SABRINA: In the very small village of Keur Lahine Lobe, Senegal, with a population of about 400. I served in the Peace Corps from September 2012 through November 2014.

WHAT WERE SOME UNEXPECTED JOYS? LYNDA: When I was thinking it was too difficult or frustrating, something would happen to completely affirm my being there. It was as simple as walking out to the middle of town while in an awful mood and having a little kid run up and hug my leg for no reason. Or my vegetable lady ‘dashing’ (free gifting) me something extra at the market because she knows I’m needy. I never expected to feel so

safe and so cared for. The Ghanaians are genuinely the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met. Sabrina: Life in Senegal was beautiful in its simplicity. Prior to Senegal, my perception of a good friendship was based off of deep existential conversations that lasted for hours. In my village, it was simpler, a smile or laughter could bind a friendship. They are the happiest people in the world; they live impoverished lives but in no way are they fearful or sad. DID YOU WORK ON A SPECIFIC PROJECT OR PROJECTS? WHAT WERE THEY, AND WHAT DID YOU DO? LYNDA: The PC volunteers ran a shelter where patients of Operation Smile were staying. I created an activity making ‘courage sashes’ for those going into surgery to help them to be brave and to connect the patients with one another. I also organized the donation of six long boards and protective gear as part of a malaria education curriculum to help school-aged children understand why and how to protect themselves from malaria. While there, I wrote a grant to use PEPFAR funding to buy materials to create an apiary. The apiary now serves as an income generation project that covers the costs of medication and travel for the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) support group I started at the local hospital. SABRINA: I worked with local farmers with tree propagation, tree grafting and sustainable agriculture. In the off-season, I worked with an organization called Grassroots Soccer, a program that I helped bring to Senegal. It is an HIV education and prevention program. I taught and coordinated the first country-wide training that involved 30 Peace Corps volunteers and their host country national counterparts.

I was also a founder of a girls’ empowerment camp that focused on promoting positive self-identity, health, and leadership. TAKE-AWAYS FROM THE EXPERIENCE? LYNDA: The most enduring message from my experience is that life is what you make of it. It was very obvious in a small rural village what could be achieved with even the tiniest amount of effort. That same feedback may not be so immediately apparent in our daily lives, but it's simple to remember.  SABRINA: Probably the biggest thing is learning to take the time to appreciate the small moments in life. In the U.S., it is so fast paced; we all have schedules and plans but not much time to sit and reflect. I often wear a special pair of earrings as a reminder to slow down. WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? LYNDA: I'm currently working as an adjudications officer with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. I review applications and complete interviews with people seeking citizenship.  SABRINA: I am a life and employability instructor for Goodwill Industries. I work with disadvantaged youth on career exploration, self-awareness, strength building, job seeking, communication and life skills. CLOSING THOUGHTS? LYNDA: Peace Corps was an invaluable opportunity I wouldn't have had without first completing my education at Adrian College. The small classes and campus allowed for me to feel a part of a community for the first time. SABRINA: I would love to end with a huge thing called “jammrekk” – which means “peace only.”

Lynda Mick

adrian.edu

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Contact Fall 2016