As a child of immigrants, the family didn’t have much money growing up. Whenever there was any money accumulated, it would be used up to bring us to Indonesia to see our many many relatives. This was not a bad thing, and I am glad we did go back. My relatives became friends and family because of these voyages.
Ever since I was a child I was instilled with wanderlust by my parents. You know the sad thing? Growing up, I thought I would NEVER go to Europe. I thought that Europe was only for rich people. During high school, I knew I wanted to travel but money wasn’t exactly a resource so I scoured the internet to figure out how I could go places and I stumbled upon Putney Student Travel.
They had this one-month immersion program in France that would involve incredible things from the Alps to eat French cheese and everything else that was French. I was really inspired to learn French at the time because I had some Quebecois friends, but also because I learned to love French culture Freshman year which was an accident in and of itself. I could not possibly imagine a better summer. To go to France let alone Europe, would be the beginning of a Disney sequence.
*Cue When You Wish Upon a Star*
Then There was Hope!
They offered some financial aid via their non-profit called the Putney Open Door Fund. I wrote them a personal statement and forgot about it. I thought nothing would never happen.
Some time later I got a phone call. The lady on the other line said she had some good and bad news. She was from Putney Student Travel and wanted to tell me that I had been given a scholarship! They really saw that I wanted to learn French and wanted to make it happen. The catch was I wouldn’t be going to France. Instead, they were sending me to Senegal.
The program was a month-long community service project in a random African village. I responded in shock and wasn’t completely sure how to react. I know I stared at maps all the time, but go to Senegal? What the heck do they even have there? My Mom without any fear in her eyes said, “Go.” My former French teacher echoed the sentiment and said, “Just go.”
The village of Mbissel. A village without electricity, hot showers, and tons of mosquitoes (with malaria). This is enough to scare any spoiled person from a Western country. But there is beauty in it all. Please do take the time to zoom in and out of the map embedded because it’ll give you just an idea of how remote the place is.
On this trip, our mission was to bless the village and love it out loud. We loved on the village by helping it build a wall (brick by brick), painting murals in their school, and teaching English. It wasn’t easy, but we spent a lot of time learning to see how the other half lives.
I’d do some more writing and explaining but I think it’s best for you to just check out the vlog to see what we did. I will definitely post some more stories from my time there, but let’s get our feet wet with a video (recorded by a very weird 16 year-old Fiel.)
Without a doubt, my trip to Senegal has been one of the most impactful and important events in my life. This is all thanks to the generosity of those at the Putney Open Door Fund. A group of people that believe that we, the youth are a future generation with potential. They know that sending us across the world will change the world.