LearnServe Fellow 2010, LearnServe Zambia 2010
The old woman had birthed eleven children, and counted more than ten grandchildren. Then, they all died of HIV and AIDS. This woman’s whole family died right in front of her eyes. How was it even possible for this woman to continue living? She had no one.
Her home, if you could even call it that, could barely fit her and a twin-sized bed. The structure was made out of bricks and cement and was about as tall as me, 5 feet and six inches. Inside it was quite dark. She had no electricity. She had no door. Only pictures of her children who had all passed away.
I am a confident person. I am lucky enough to be one of those people who knows exactly who they are. So I came to LearnServe ready with passion. But through the LearnServe Fellows Program and travel to Zambia, I was given something even more valuable: Purpose. Simply put, LearnServe taught me that it’s so important for each person to try and make a difference in the world, because each bit of good matters, regardless of how small.
I had been to Africa before – my parents are from The Gambia in West Africa and my aunt works for the African Development Bank – but I hadn’t seen this Africa. This was the first time I actually felt like a foreigner. While at the N’Gombe compound in Lusaka, I saw a lot more children than adults. Children were taking care of children. I smiled at every child I saw; when I looked into their eyes, I wanted to know their story, what they want in life, and where they’d like to go.
Sandy Spring Friends School exposed me to so many types of people, and allowed me to accept them for who they are and what they can accomplish. But in Zambia I kept on thinking “Why?” “Why not me or someone else?” How could I stay relaxed, complacent when this was happening around me?
Through LearnServe I formed a chapter of STAND – a genocide prevention awareness and advocacy group – and raised funds for World Bicycle Relief, an African organization that provides bicycles to rural health workers. Since then, I have continued to seek opportunities to apply the tangible skills I developed through LearnServe. Two summers ago I served as an intern at LearnServe partner Ashoka. I supported Ashoka’s Full Economic Citizenship initiative – an effort to link business entities and social entrepreneurs in order to bring marginalized populations greater access to housing, financing, and education. As a rising college sophomore, I was in the thick of it!
No longer do we live in a world where individuals can operate solely within their immediate communities. More and more we face global problems, like climate change or an economic crisis with worldwide ramifications. Our generation will soon be the ones responsible for finding solutions.
I know the problems are big. I saw that with my own eyes in Zambia. But I’m no longer afraid to push myself. You never know what you are capable of until you try.
Tammy Bah graduated from the LearnServe Zambia and LearnServe Fellows Program in 2010. Tammy is a graduate of Sandy Spring Friends School, and is currently a student at American University.
LearnServe 10×10 interviews an profiles compiled by Melanie Barlow (Fellows 2010) and Julia Peck (Fellows 2010). Based in part on a talk given by Tammy Bah at Sandy Spring Friends School in 2010.
Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with us on November 6th.