GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Latest Cape Ann News

April 29, 2007

Rockport woman enjoys eye-opening experience in Africa

ROCKPORT — Like many people her age, 23-year-old Sara Smith is finding herself and trying to make sense of the world. But she’s doing that in a West African village, about 4,000 miles from the comfort of her Rockport family.

“We’re very proud of her,” Sara’s mother, Julie Smith, said. “She talked about doing this for quite a while.”

Sara Smith joined the Peace Corps and set out for Senegal in March to be a preventative health educator, training community health workers on how to run preventative health lessons on issues such as nutrition, malaria, HIV prevention and family planning.

“The goal is to create an effective health education program within the village that can continue to operate after I leave,” she said in an e-mail.

Smith has been training for several weeks, improving her French and Wolof — a West African language widely spoken in Senegal. After training, she will live in Koumpentoum, a village of 8,000 people, until her service ends in May 2009.

Her stay in Senegal has taken some adjusting.

“The most shocking aspect of living here for me is the food,” Smith said. “I’m not used to seeing my chicken run around in front of my bedroom hours before I eat it for dinner. But I think it’s good. Americans are very detached from their food and don’t really think about where it comes from, and I think that’s sort of sad.”

Smith said Senegal has been more laid back than life in the United States.

“One is more intimately connected with life here,” Smith said. “Drivers slow down to talk with bike riders next to them, families eat from the same bowl, neighbors stop by all day and stay for hours.”

Being away from her family and friends is a big challenge for Smith. And her boyfriend is even farther away — he is a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. But she is taking it all in stride, focusing on the greater good rather than the short-term homesickness.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest Cape Ann News

Pictures of the Week
Your news, your way
Comments Tracker
AP Video Network
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest