Keri Lambert, a junior from Amherst College, served as a OneVillage Partners in-village intern during the summer of 2011. She lived in the village of Foindu, staying with Agriculture Agent Ngombu Amara and his family. She worked on rice swamp development, household management trainings, and training the librarian in OVP’s recently-constructed library.
The following is an excerpt from her reflections on her time in the villages:
The time that I spent in Sierra Leone this past summer was enlightening often, challenging frequently, loved almost always, and will undoubtedly be remembered forever. My daily routine was exhausting. It was demanding and repetitive. It tested my patience, my resourcefulness, my calf muscles.
And I loved it. At times, I was happier in Africa than I can remember being in the past several years. Maybe it was the excessive amounts of Vitamin D creeping into all my pores, or the endorphins flooding my system from all the running, biking, and walking my life there demanded. But at the end of each day, I found myself inexplicably happy, sitting in the darkness on a hard wooden bench, listening to my crazy host grandmother jabber away in Mende, or speaking with Mary or Abdu in basic English.
I vividly remember one moment this summer after a day of working in Pujehun’s community swamp. Agriculture Officer Sao Morrison brought over a massive bowl of rice with okra soup and fish. He said that we must wait to eat, because he was sending someone back to the village to fetch us spoons. When I insisted that I would eat with my hands like everybody else, Sao was ecstatic: “Now you are Mende, Mamie Ngombu!” (my Mende name) I will not forget what it felt like to squat hungrily around a huge bowl of “chop” with Sao and a couple other men after working for hours clearing swampland. The black/white, man/women, old/young, African/American barriers crumbled with each bite. It was by far the most satisfying meal of my summer.
I made it back to America a far more patient, resourceful, and grateful person than I was before leaving. Through immersion and engagement, I learned how “the other half of the world” lives, all the while building strong and affectionate relationships with the people whom I am supposedly so different from. No ingredient, no flavor is as satisfying as working to improve the lives—in partnership, sharing pineapples, smiles, and tears alike—with those you care about most.
–Keri Lambert, Amherst ’13