Participants in Tostan’s Africa Volunteer Program bring unique educational experiences and expertise to their work at Tostan, supporting community-led development across Africa in a number of different capacities. Volunteering is more than just a professional experience─it is a chance to broaden horizons and develop understanding through cultural exchange.
Jennifer Keuler, the Adopt a Village Program Coordinator from September 2009 through September 2010, shares a bit of her experience.
After graduation, I realized that it was really the perfect time to travel and I looked into Tostan. I realized that Tostan’s mission—human rights based, non-formal education—was a great match for my interests and experience. Tostan provided very specific and applied work with quite a bit of responsibility. I saw an opportunity for professional growth and self-directed work as well as an incredible chance to be in the country I love. With a purpose.
The richness of Senegalese culture fascinates me. When I first came, I was impressed at how Senegal, surrounded by many countries in unrest, managed to be so safe and peaceful. I was very interested in how the Muslim brotherhoods interact with other religious groups and the [government] and how they influence society. I am so grateful that Tostan has allowed me to give back in a positive way to the nation that has been so formative in my life.
Volunteering, for me, means giving my time, skills, and love to make the world a happier place. It means making a sacrifice for the betterment of others. Field experience, and the learned skills that result—awareness of the many factors that impede or encourage development, the ability to identify problems and successfully resolve them, the ability to see opportunities for improvement or expansion of programs, working with donors and local partners and so many others—are irreplaceable. For me, the experience was an important step in deciding exactly what kind of development work I’d like to pursue.
Thanks to my experience in Senegal, most specifically my time with villagers in rural areas, I plan on pursuing a career focused on international education. My parents raised me with a very strong work ethic, instilling in me a great reverence for academics and teaching me that education is the surest path to success, happiness, stability, and social responsibility. I recognize that most children are not as lucky, and I am grateful to have been so blessed. I consider it my duty and my choice to make the same educational opportunities available to every child.
[I have gained, from my experience,] an even deeper love of Senegal─if that’s possible─a great respect for and pride in the many colleagues I had the pleasure of working with, and a desire to spread Tostan’s values of human rights through my future work in other countries.
Photos by Jennifer Keuler.