Half-A-World-Away: My Dream of Living and Working in Africa has Arrived!

At Nebraska Appleseed, we pride ourselves in our robust internship and clerkship program. When our former interns and clerks check in with us to let us know what they are doing, we like to share their amazing stories. Our latest comes from Katie Hile, who interned with Nebraska Appleseed in 2006-2007.

Loving every moment of the journey—from my first internship at Nebraska Appleseed to teaching children in the Congo—I have many people to whom I express my gratitude.

After receiving my bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2006, I interned for the Immigrant Integration and Civic Participation Program at Nebraska Appleseed. During this time, I came to learn more about the plight of the migrant, day-to-day struggles of immigrants and established a growing awareness of the many state and national laws that affect our lives every day.

Nebraska Appleseed gave me the opportunity to take action on all the values that I believe in: I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others; to serve the marginalized populations throughout our world. I also knew that for the realization of my dream, I had to leave Nebraska. It was difficult to leave home and all that I knew, but at the same time once the decision was made, I never looked back.

From 2008-2010, I attended The John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. My specializations included Global Health and Human Security, and Africa. The curriculum allowed me to spend a great deal of my research on health and development issues, as well as refugees and internally displaced persons. My professors offered their expertise in research and field work. My final thesis reviewed the negative impacts refugees have in developing countries—where more than half of the world’s 10.5 million refugees reside. I emphasized that continued involvement at the local level, by governments and individuals, allows refugees the potential to contribute to the growth of their host countries. My internships during graduate school included the Darfur Victims Project, where lawyers were representing victims of the Darfur genocide at the International Criminal Court, and a development internship at HealthRight International. Although I sometimes feel that life in New Jersey was more of a culture shock than life in the Congo, pursuing my graduate degree on the east coast brought many opportunities.

After graduation, I took a position with an Italian volunteer organization—VOICA—and was assigned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After fundraising in Lincoln and two months of training in Rome, I arrived to the DRC in October and have committed to one year of service. I live in Aru, a village located in the northeastern Ituri Province, near the borders of Uganda and Sudan. My responsibilities are broad and include: teaching English, Art, and Music at the local schools, working at the VOICA Cyber Café and Bakery, and helping at the Center for Malnourished Children. We are currently in the final construction stage of Aru’s first public library, a project supported solely by VOICA volunteers.

My days in the Congo are unpredictable; my experiences unique; and the people I encounter continue to teach and inspire me every day. Nebraska Appleseed, along with volunteer activities in the community, encouraged me to continue learning and serving others; a passion that will always have its origins in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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