Far From Home: When I Joined Peace Corps Africa


Peace Corps Africa

My blog host (WordPress) has a list called “Daily Prompts“.

These are ideas to inspire blog post topics. I wasn’t looking for the prompt, it found me while I was looking for something else. The topic? “Far From Home; Where have you gone that is far from home”. Man, that took me back in time~! I thought of all the amazing places I have been, and recalled the years prior to these explorations, when I had been so hungry for travel. In one of those hungry phases, I spontaneously filled out an application to join the Peace Corps. It wasn’t a life plan of mine. I just wanted to see more of the world. Well, about 8 months later, I got a call from the recruiter. There would be an assignment opening up in Niger, West Africa. Would I like to go? Well, I gulped, thought about it for a few days, said “YES“, and then hopped on a plane approximately 2 months after that.

Landing in Niger was like getting hit with a blow dryer while standing in an oven. Hot and dry. The landscape is Sub-Sahanan Desert. Think of photos of Ethiopia, and you have the general idea. I stayed there for 2 years. Some of the work I did involved health and nutrition lessons in an all girl’s school. We also had hopes of training these young ladies how to hand-craft all kinds of things as micro-business entrepreneurs. I found the people of Niger to be lighthearted and hospitable. It was a thoroughly amazing experience. I also got to travel to Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Egypt while I was on that continent.

The photo on the top right is my Peace Corps ID…. circa 1998-1990. The photo on the right is from when my Mom came to visit me. She was amazing~! She dove right in, ate the weird food, rode a camel, carried babies strapped on her back, applied make-up to the village girls while holding up a mirror so they could see themselves. We had our feet henna’d. The pattern on Mom’s feet was called zigga-zagga. Wonder how they came up with that name? C’est bizarre….we spoke both Zarma and French in my town (Dosso).

I have been home for 30 years (Imagine that~!), and Peace Corps Niger has left a big mark on my life and my heart. I ended up starting my own hand-crafted micro-business, Hayden Brook Studios. My husband and I make colorful glass jewelry as our primary source of income. You can see the amazing colors of the West African clothing all over our design lines. But beyond that, I still have a heart for helping these far off nations. If I can’t GO, I can still participate~! Brook and I host a website for our ministry called “The Gift List“. It informs and raises funds for amazing projects in these far away places. Just last month Brook and I bought cook stoves for 2 families in Peru~! How awesome to be able to help out like this~! Makes us feel good. And, because we know the person who builds the stoves, we know that ALL of our money is going toward stoves, and not helping some random CEO to get fat off of donations~!

NOW…. Your turn: where have YOU gone….. OR what donations catch your heart? Or, tell me how cute I was when I was 20 pounds lighter and 30 years younger~!


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