April 21-27 is National Volunteer Week
Grant, a new Asante Africa Foundation volunteer who resides in Montana, reflects on what motivates him to devote his time as a volunteer.
Africa…simply typing the word raises the hair on my neck. To hear those three simple syllables or see that majestic outline of the continent itself evokes emotions in me not quite like anything I have known before.
When I first entered the international travel scene back in 2007, I headed straight for the snowy Himalaya. I had long admired the mountain cultures and people of the Himalaya, not to mention the big rugged mountains themselves. On that first trip I learned a lot and of course ultimately caught the travel bug. I thought I had found my home away from home, India, with its good food, vibrancy, spirituality, and chaos; I was hooked. Over the years, India kept my feet restless and I was fortunate enough to make multiple trips back there. Africa never even crossed my mind.
Eventually though, I made it to the African continent. As a volunteer for Women in Progress in Ghana, I got what I thought was a full dose of “Africa” over the course of a summer. Although I had an extraordinary experience, Africa really hadn’t piqued my interest. However, as my interest grew in international development, naturally the next step was to join the Peace Corps. That’s when Africa began to steal my heart. My two years in Namibia was full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, but cumulatively the two years volunteering there did more to shape who I am today than any other years in my life.
I had fallen in love with Namibia. But had I fallen in love with Africa? At the end of my service I set out across the continent to find out. From night sprints in my underwear escaping marauding elephants in Zambia, to unknowingly hitchhiking with sugar smugglers across Lake Malawi, to diverting around rebel groups in Rwanda, Africa tested my nerve, my patience and at times, my sanity. But through it all, it was confirmed; I am in love with Africa. And what is it about Africa that has stolen my heart? That’s a whole other post.
Upon returning to my home in Montana, it didn’t take long for me to realize that something was missing. I was faced with the harsh reality that I was separated by an entire continent and ocean from that in which I had fallen in love with. Luckily though, Asante Africa Foundation came to the rescue. Volunteering with Asante Africa has been fulfilling in so many ways and most importantly, has kept me connected to the African continent in a way that is positively impacting those in need. I admire the work that Asante Africa is doing towards the betterment of the continent and am thrilled to be a part of it. Volunteering has played a huge role in my life and has made tremendous contributions to my personal development. It truly has been a win-win.
Whatever the future has in store for me, I fully intend to keep Africa in the picture. I don’t know when I will be able to make the trip back there, but I look forward to that moment when the door opens on the airplane and I am reunited with those intoxicating smells, sights, and sounds. Forgive the triteness, but I dream of Africa.