June 3, 2003 - Daily Bruin: Esther Hong taught biology at Gambia College

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Gambia: Peace Corps The Gambia : The Peace Corps in the Gambia: June 3, 2003 - Daily Bruin: Esther Hong taught biology at Gambia College

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:26 pm: Edit Post

Esther Hong taught biology at Gambia College

Esther Hong taught biology at Gambia College

Bruin Peace Corps volunteers take skills across globe to help others

By Adam Foxman



When Esther Hong graduated from UCLA in 2001 with a degree in microbiology and molecular genetics, she wanted find out how her dedication would hold up in a severely disadvantaged position.

"When you volunteer you can go home to your nice apartment at the end of the day, and I wanted to do more than that," Hong said.

Hong left for Gambia in West Africa knowing little more than where it was on a map. Once there, she taught biology and other sciences at Gambia College and planned gender empowerment programs for girls.

In Gambia's male-dominated society, Hong planned and taught programs educating girls in the sciences, how to protect themselves from sexual harassment, and about safe sex.

Hong described the Gambian women's amazement at the new information about condoms and AIDS.

"They were amazed. They believe that if you have sex standing up you won't get pregnant," Hong said.

The women Hong instructed in her empowerment classes went on to challenge cultural constraints by passing their knowledge on to younger girls.

"They got to share leadership positions, which would have been unthinkable for most women there," she said.

Hong was wary about the two-year commitment when she started, but now she can hardly believe she is back from the program. She said the two years go quickly because it takes a year to build trust and relationships, and then, in the second year it is possible to really get things done.

She feels that being in the Peace Corps made her a better person: wiser, more worldly and gave her a different perspective.

"Learning about the average person, your neighbor, is really priceless," she said.

"It makes you realize what is really important, that (people everywhere) are the same as me."

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Story Source: Daily Bruin

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Gambia; Gender Empowerment Programs



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