Francis Marchitelli Summer 2012

I learned a lot about myself

I went to The Gambia with the mindset that I was going to give to people in need and feel good about the "good work" I had done for others. When I looked back on the experience, I realized that I had received way more than I had given. These projects were very meaningful and contributed to the community, yet the special part was not the projects themselves but the time I was able to spend with the people of The Gambia, working side by side with them. All those times watching and playing soccer, going to the market, and simply talking to Gambians were the times I had the most memorable experiences. I came to see that the people of this country had so much less than I did as an American, yet were so much more friendly and happy.

Being able to connect and view two different cultures as one family was such an amazing feeling. I can honestly say that I have family in The Gambia now, and I still keep in contact with some of them to this day. This experience not only showed me how fortunate I am as an American to have all the things that I have, but also showed me that I can still be missing some of the most important traits in life, like friendliness and gratitude.

It's hard to fully convey the impact this experience has had on my life. It was not easy to be in a developing country, but I learned a lot about myself. I am really grateful for the people who made my experience in The Gambia possible, especially Mrs. Beverly Berndt. It was a three week long experience I will never forget, having seen the impact I made and feeling the impact made on me.

Francis Marchitelli

Marcel Caron Summer 2012

I would receive so much more from the people

I was tremendously impacted by my experience in the Gambia in the Summer of 2012. The reason has less to do with doing service work for a developing country, as it does with performing this work alongside and for Gambians. I had formed new relationships with these people of a completely different culture, which opened up my awareness and empathy for others that I've never had the chance to experience in America.

Our work centered on the capital area of Banjul, a region on the coast of The Gambia in Western Africa. The projects we worked on included "set-settle,” which is a monthly street-sweep across the entire village that hosted us, planning and leading several character education lectures in different primary and secondary schools, and filling potholes at a new settlement further inland, to name only a few.

Each project we were involved in was really defined by the people I worked with, rather than the things we did. Musicians stood on trucks that drove on the streets during set-settle, providing music for the hundreds of mothers, kids, and fellow service workers that were sweeping. There were animated school-kids who taught us their own simple icebreaker after our character education lecture: chasing the village's legendary monster "KanKouran" (a man in a bark costume!) around the settlement. Later, we received a strip of bark a few kids had managed to grab from the pieces of the monster's robe. Each of these memories define my experience working in The Gambia.

I traveled to The Gambia expecting to give it’s people my time and energy in the service projects I did, but never did I imagine that I would receive so much more from the people I worked with. I'm so very grateful for this experience, and I will surely return to The Gambia in the near future!

Marcel Caron and Aiwa Hunter

Kyle Nedlik Summer 2013

I learned a lot about myself

A large part of my trip to The Gambia was spent visiting elementary schools to teach character education, and raise awareness of the scholarship programs available for the students. We worked in local clinics to help sick patients, participated in large scale Set Setal highway cleanups, conducted award ceremonies for the Gambian Service for Peace and Side by Side Organization members, and held an inter-religious Christian/Muslim dialogue event, among other things.

The trip was great, in that we all had so much fun together while helping out the surrounding communities. Perhaps the greatest thing about the trip was the Gambian people. They were all extremely welcoming, and it was great to see the way in which the trip brought both cultures together, to the point where upon departure it felt as though I had known my new Gambian friends for a lifetime. The little kids were so sweet, too; they would follow us around for miles, smiling the whole way. I am grateful that I could be a part of such an incredible experience.

Kyle Nedlik