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Heather Houser & Ellie Hahn, ′09

When we met last fall, we had no idea where a friendship formed at Rhodes could take us. At first just acquaintances, we discovered one day over lunch that we had a major common interest—spending the summer doing service work in Africa. We immediately said, “Let’s go together,” and began exploring how we would make it happen. Nine months later, we were sitting together on a plane to Zambia. Though we spent most of the summer in different parts of the country, our similar experiences and time spent traveling together forged a friendship that proved invaluable to us once we returned to Rhodes. We have been able to lean on each other as we work through and process our summer experience.

I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Botswana and Namibia. Africa has always been home to me. When Ellie mentioned that she wanted to do a summer of service there, I started contacting friends for us to stay with. Things just took off from there. I lived in the Mkushi farming bloc, 30 minutes from a paved road; transportation into town and access to medical care are major issues for the community there. Most of my summer was spent playing with the children living on the farm. I met a medical officer at a nearby clinic who shared my passion for HIV/AIDS education. He introduced me to a teacher with similar interests, and we began working together to increase awareness in the surrounding schools. Last summer I got to experience the kind of opportunity I have always dreamed about—I plan to go back the first chance I get.
While at Rhodes I’ve developed a passion for working with children through my service work at Memphis Family Shelter. Spending the summer teaching second, third and fourth graders at Tache Orphanage in Zambia allowed me to continue to develop my interests in working with children and education.  The greatest thing about Tache Orphanage was the opportunity to learn from the founder, Elizabeth. Elizabeth studied abroad but felt called to return to Zambia and respond to a need in her home country.  The orphanage was an incredible reflection of a few women coming together and creating change within their own community.  Elizabeth was the embodiment of what I’ve always pictured a community leader to be.  I hope to continue to learn from and apply my summer experiences to service and academic work during the rest of my time at Rhodes and beyond. And I want to be like Elizabeth when I grow up!

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