Nicole and her sister, Melissa with the staff and children of Christ Orphanage - Hohoe, Ghana
  • Nicole and her sister, Melissa with the staff and children of Christ Orphanage - Hohoe, Ghana

I grew up in warm, sunny Los Angeles, California and now attend school in rainy Portland, Oregon. I am a third year student at Lewis & Clark College where I am majoring in Anthropology/ Sociology and minoring in Ethnic Studies. I am the president of Lewis & Clark's Hillel, the Jewish club on campus and am a mentor for incoming freshmen.

During the summer of 2008, I finally fulfilled my dream of traveling to Africa to volunteer. I traveled to Ghana, West Africa with no expectations and left with a new outlook on life and a second family and community. While in Ghana, I taught at an orphanage and made life long connections with the local people. This was the most rewarding experience of my life and after spending eight weeks in Ghana, I was not ready to leave. I called my mother and told her I wasn’t coming home.

My mother told me that I needed to come home and finish school and then I could do what I wanted with my life. I continued to stay in touch with my new friends and family in Ghana and hosted a fundraiser a few months after returning home in order to raise funds for the orphanage. I shared my experiences and photos with my friends and family back home and shared my love of Ghana and the Ghanaian people with them.

I returned to school and worked hard to ensure that I would be able to return to Ghana. And, of course, I scheduled my next trip to Ghana. I flew out of LAX a week after school ended in mid May and spent over three months in Ghana. I was welcomed with open hearts and outstretched arms and couldn’t have been happier.

I departed Ghana at the end of August and traveled to Nairobi, Kenya where my sister and I traveled around for a week and a half before I started my Lewis & Clark East Africa study abroad program. I met my professor and 22 other students from my school at the beginning of September and we immediately jumped into classes. We studied Swahili, Biology, History of East Africa and completed an Independent Study project. These three months in Kenya and Tanzania included three weeks of safari, a week of snorkeling, volunteering in an orphanage, and traveling all over both of these countries.

Our program ended at the beginning of December. Unlike most of the other students who returned home or flew to Europe to do some traveling, I traveled back to Ghana. My arrival was eagerly anticipated and I was so happy to be back. The three weeks flew by and at the end of December, after celebrating Christmas in Ghana with the children at the orphanage, I returned home to Los Angeles.

That first summer when I traveled to Ghana ultimately changed my life. That trip made me look at everything in a new light and taught me how much I have that I take for granted. It made me realize the simple things in life and I came to appreciate the African way of life where things are not so rushed like they always are in America. I realized how happy I was in Africa and how much I had to offer to others and how much they had to offer to me. I learned that I could make a difference and help others and came to realize how much my time, energy, and love was appreciated and used to create change. I found my calling and I know that I will end up in Ghana after I graduate from college in May 2011. I would love to work for a non-profit organization or a NGO when I move to Ghana but I have yet to find the right one. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them!

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Hi Nusrat,

Thank you for reading about my experiences. I would greatly encourage you to do volunteer work...it doesn't have to be something big. Its amazing how the smallest actions can brighten a person's day or change their outlook on something.

I hope to hear more from you,

Nicole

Dear Nicole,

Been thinking about it since last year but don't really know how to go about it. Keep in touch and tell me if u see an opportunity for me.

Lots of love

Nusrat

Wow. This is an amazing story Nicole! Your journey is certainly one that is less traveled.

I wish you all the best in your endeavors in Ghana and I know that you will thrive there! Finding a place where your soul vibes and your spirit feels at its best is such an amazing experience.

Keep in touch and let us know how the journey is going!

Much Peace and Love,

Sharese

Hi Sharese,

Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means a lot to me!

I wish you the best in your endeavors as well and I hope that you are having an enjoyable time in India. I look forward to hearing about your trip!

Nicole

Nicole, I'm so impressed with women who realize early-on what they want in life and make the decision to go for it. So many of us spend our early years floundering around, uncertain. With your strong sense of who you are, and your desire to be of service, you're already on the path to your goals, and all it takes to get there is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm eager to read updates on your progress in what already is, and promises to be in the future, an amazing life.

Happy Trails, Cara

Hi Cara,

Thank you for your kind words. I feel lucky and blessed that I figured out what I want to do in life at such a young age. It was all luck though. When I traveled to Ghana that first time to volunteer, I had no clue how much it would effect and change my life forever. I will be sure to keep you updated on my work. I look forward to reading your journals and learning more about you.

Thank you again,

Nicole

Nicole, you are a wonderful creature and a gift to the helpless! Keep up your focus and the good work you are divinely assigned to. I am sure that your happiness will be wonderfully multiplied and infinite joy and peace will follow you and your family. Please when next you are in Kenya, ask of Mr. Sam Kabue, cell no:254 7336 18511. If you meet him (he is blind), you will do 'harambe' in addition to 'Safari'. Regards, Celine

Hi -

Your piece was quite interesting and I long for the day when I can return. I wish you all the best in your efforts and I look forward to following your work!

Sincerely

SunFish

Look for the message in the mess!