Name: Charsha Olumba
U-M Affiliation: Alumni, Student

Where do you work?

I am the founder of a girls youth organization a student at the U-M School of Social Work.

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

2007-2008

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Togo, West Africa

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

Girls empowerment by working with community leaders, school administration, and girls to stress the importance of education and equality for women.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

Tanti Crej- a dear friend and social activist living with HIV/AIDS. Her courage to be a living testimony in the fight against "le SIDA" was truly inspiring.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

Seeing the flicking lanterns of dozens of villagers from miles around trek through a perilous thunderstorm to attend their nightly rosary devotion at the Catholic church across from my compound. I only had to walk across the road, many of them walked miles. A beautiful and extraordinary example of faith.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

Working with young women has always been my passion. Peace Corps took this into consideration when placing me in the Girls Empowerment and Education program. It allowed me to expand my breadth of experience and knowledge in that area. I apply what I learned years ago across the world to the inner-city girls i work with today.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

U-M taught me important social concepts, theories, frameworks, and critical thinking skills. Peace Corp gave me the latitude to apply these to reality.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Travel light. Leave all baggage behind.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

I learned the value of simplicity. My quality of life was superb and I didn't have running water, electricity, a cell phone, or high speed internet. My essential possessions-strength, love, perseverance, hope, and discernment-I already had.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

I spent 80% of my time spent in Peace Corps in a new, unfamiliar, and challenging situation. From this I learned, if you are comfortable, complacent, and unchallenged in your environment, growth stagnates.

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