Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

Schild comes out of Africa

June 1, 2006

Leaving something after two years of service is difficult, especially when that service includes raising enough money to build a well for a small African village.

Baldwin City native Beth Schild returned home in May after spending two years in Diambo, Senegal, as a member of the Peace Corps.

"I feel good about the way things ended in the village, but I am very much glad to be back in the states," Schild said. "Overall it was exactly what I wanted out of my Peace Corps experience. It feels nice to have that accomplishment. To be back home with friends and family is obviously a wonderful feeling."

Schild is glad to be back home, but leaving her village was tough on her.

"Saying goodbye is always hard and transitions are never easy," Schild said. "I was definitely looking forward to some air conditioning and seeing friends and family that I had given up for the last two years."

A job well done

When Schild returned home last summer for two weeks, she began her fundraising campaign for building a well in her village. Her goal was to have the well built before she left, so the villagers were would have fresh water.

With the help of many people, including her mother, Linda Morgan Schild, the well was completed shortly before she left Africa.

"The well was finished about a week before I left," Schild said. "I got to see it in its completion. I am pretty confident and I feel really good about the way it turned out. They are going to have a great water source for a long time."

The well was a memorial for Schild's grandfather, O. Scott Morgan. She was glad to see the well finished, because she knew her goal was a tough deadline for the workers.

"The driller I worked with was wonderful and he knew I was up against a deadline," Schild said. "He said he was going to do everything he could to get it done. It was a little stressful for a while but they got it finished just in time."

Schild was concerned about the use of the well at first, but believes it will be used very soon.

"In the beginning, I didn't see too many of the villagers using the well and I was confused right away," Schild said. "So I went over and pulled some water out myself. I realized it was still pretty dirty, because it was just drilled.

"My theory is they will start using it during the rainy season, which starts in June," Schild said. "Right now the river water is really clear and clean. During rainy season, it will get muddy again. By then the well water should have settled and should be cleaner and clear."

Despite no longer being in the village, Schild still has a contact for finding out about the well and the people.

"I have been replaced," Schild said. "There is another volunteer who has been in the village for two weeks. We are going to stay in contact and she is going to tell me how much they are using it and things like that."

Second time around

Schild's first year in Diambo was a learning experience for her as she adjusted to a much different lifestyle and culture. When she returned home last summer, Schild understood what she was giving up in Senegal.

"It was great to go back, because being home reminded me of all the things I had sacrificed," Schild said. "I went back realizing why I was there and what I needed to do."

When she returned to Diambo in July, she was a couple months into her final year in the Peace Corps. She was excited about her second year, because she was well adjusted and enjoyed her life.

"Every Peace Corps volunteer will tell you that their second year is 10 times better than their first year," Schild said. "This is true, because you have made your relationships with people in the village, you have your niche, they understand you, you understand them and your language skills are 10 times better than when you got there."

During her final year in Senegal, Schild toured a few places and tried to absorb it all before she left. One place she enjoyed was southern Senegal, because she saw a waterfall and the land is greener.

But the southern part of the country is also poorer, because it relies on the rain for farming. The rainy season has not hit Senegal yet, making the area less attractive.

Schild also visited some islands off the coast of Senegal with other Peace Corps volunteers. Her final trip was to Italy before flying home to the United States. She spent nearly 10 days in Italy, which she enjoyed.

"I was getting out just in time," Schild said. "It was kind of nice to experience it one more time and know what I was leaving. To get out and end up in Rome, where it was freezing, was an interesting experience. I have a new appreciation for everything."

Adjusting to home life

Once she was back home, Schild found herself having to remember she wasn't just visiting, but she was permanently back.

"When I first got home, I kept thinking I was on vacation," Schild said. "It took me a while to realize this is my life now. It's hard to understand why I am so fortunate, while other people that I love aren't quite as lucky."

She was also rejuvenated shortly after being home, because leaving Senegal was tough on her.

"Everyone else there is a Peace Corps volunteer, so you are a dime a dozen," Schild said. "When you come home, you realize all of the gratitude people have for you and the things you are trying to accomplish. It kind of puts that new spirit in you."

The American lifestyle has taken Schild some time to readjust to. She finds herself walking more instead of driving a car, but has loved having air conditioning again.

The hardest part of being back for Schild has been contacting her village, which was emotional when she left.

"I did call my village for the first time the other day and that was really hard," Schild said. "You want to see them and you tell them how much you miss them, but I don't know if they can ever understand how they impacted my life.

"I tried to explain that to them when I left and I think I showed them when I left," Schild said. "I was bawling and they were bawling. It was a big hoopla in the village."

Now Schild must try and become part of the culture she once lived. The first step she said is finding employment.

"It's weird not having a job," Schild said. "Being unemployed is a little difficult, because everyone usually asks what are you going to do now. I don't know what I am going to do now."

Schild said her future is unknown, but she wants to continue doing work like she did in the Peace Corps. But she also knows that may mean living away from her family and friends.

"I would like to stay in Kansas, but the humanitarian aid work I want to do mostly resides on the east coast," Schild said. "I am trying to decided where my priorities lie, but it's a difficult decision."

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