Thank you Marie for this great article!!!
AN IU Degree Close to Home
Sandi Giver graduated from Indiana University Kokomo in May 2008 with a Bachelor of General Studies degree. Currently, she is a Peace Corps volunteer in Northern Uganda. Here is her story:
A. I chose IU Kokomo based on affordability, standard of education, and flexibility. My first university was a private Christian school, and I knew with the debt I would incur I would be limiting myself on volunteering overseas. I looked into IU Kokomo more and found tuition much more feasible, a reputable university, and a great flexibility in classes. i was able to take 15 credits and be involved with student activities while working full time as well.
Q.What are you doing now? How long will you be there?
A. Currently, I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Northern Uganda. I’m in the Community Health and Economic Development program with the job title “Youth Development Volunteer”. My group of 43 volunteers left the states in early August. We attended 10 weeks of training while living with Ugandan families, and have been at our individual sites since mid-October. I am partnered with Friends of Orphans, a local Non Government Organization (NGO), which works with former child soldiers, child mothers, abductees, and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). I will be here for at least 27 months, or till November 2011, with the option of extending.
A. Volunteering overseas has been a God-given personal aspiration since I was 11. The path to where I am now, with its obstacles and challenges, was much different than I originally expected. After graduating from IU Kokomo in May 2008, I spent a couple months in Alaska where I grew up, and waited to hear back from some international organizations to which I had applied.
In February 2009, I spent four months on a Word Made Flesh (WMF) Servant Team in Calcutta, India. I saw how a woman’s life could be transformed as WMF employed them at Sari Bari making handbags and quilts out of old Saris. Seeing the blatant poverty and sickness made my heart break for others and challenged my world view. I received my Peace Corps invitation the day I stepped back onto American soil, and six weeks later I was on another flight, beginning the journey to Uganda with Peace Corps.
Q. Describe a typical day for you in Uganda.
A. Residing in a former Internally Displaced Persons camp without electricity or running water, living in a thatch-roofed hut with a latrine and bathing area outside, and working in an area that is feeling relative peace after 21 years of insurgency, makes a typical day in Uganda not-so-common to the average American. My morning routine has gone from a hot shower and blow-drying my hair to a cold bucket bath and off I go. Instead of a short drive to work listening to Kings of Leon, I walk 30 minutes on small grassy trails between huts, waving to children as they call out “Munu, Munu!” which means foreigner. I start my work day with plenty of “Ichoo Maber” or “Good Morning” to the students and staff at Friends of Orphans.
About 30 of our students are “child mothers” and formerly abducted girls who have children from when they were sex slaves for soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army. Because of the lack of childcare here, mothers keep their young children with them during class time. I have been a strong advocate for quality childcare, and this spring we are hoping to begin working with an organization from the UK that will be filming the construction of an Early Childhood Education center for the children.
Q. What do you hope to gain personally and professionally from this experience?
A. I want an experience that rocks my world. I hope that this experience will open my eyes to a world currently unknown and that my heart will break for people even more. International work, especially through Peace Corps, is an amazing opportunity not only to see another culture, but to live amongst them while bettering communities, and to learn about our world through personal experiences. Sharing my heart through an online journal (https://latenighttraveler.wordpress.com/) and speaking with visitors who come here will hopefully challenge others to be positively involved with their communities and take action to better the lives of those around them.
Q. How will you apply that when you return to the United States?
A. I will share with whoever is interested about the experiences here. I want to challenge others to take the step of changing the worlds of individuals wherever they are. With the experience gained in India and Uganda, I hope to continue in international work, either based in the states with field visits or serving again full-time overseas.
Q. Was there any part of your higher education experience at IU Kokomo that has helped you in your current endeavor?
A. Of course my experience at IU Kokomo has helped tremendously! The Peace Corps interviewers in Chicago, as well as my first conversation with site placement people here in Uganda, were impressed with my résumé. Most individuals straight out of college don’t have experience in their field of work. Because of the flexibility of classes, I was able to be a workaholic and gain experience working with the mentally handicapped, facilitating a camp for all ages, and working with at-risk youth. I was able to apply the book knowledge of classes to real-life situations the same day.
Being a senator for the Student Government Association, a member of Student Union Board, and a competitor in Speech and Debate helped shape leadership skills and showed the Peace Corps that I am a hard worker in a variety of areas. Conversations with IU Kokomo staff such as Jaime Hamilton, Barb Rink, Sarah Sarber, and Greg Steele, helped get me through the difficulties, as well as the joys, of school. I’m a firm believer that every experience we have, even those we thought were pointless or didn’t understand, help strengthen us for our future endeavors in brilliant ways.
At the end of the day, my ultimate life aspiration is to help give those who live in desolation hope for the future—to give the rejected and forgotten a reliable friend who is nonjudgmental, believes in who they are, and walks beside them through the difficulties of accomplishing their goals. The journey of Uganda as a youth development volunteer is an amazing opportunity to live for something bigger than myself, while fulfilling the goals of Peace Corps. My education at IU Kokomo has helped facilitate this.