How did a Salmon make it to Ouagadougou?
Moving somewhere new is a big transition. Moving to Ouagadougou (West Africa) could be an even bigger one. In October, that's what new Krista Colleague Neah Ortman did. As a service volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee, she has been making her new home with a host family in Burkina Faso and starting a new chapter in her service journey.
Filled with passion to serve effectively, Neah has been flooded with with questions. She writes, "I think the biggest challenge I find myself facing right now is navigating my role, defining what being a teacher really means. I have my North American lens/perspective/expectations that is rubbing up against the Burkinabe culture/role of teacher." As Neah navigates her transition to accompany the residents of Ouagadougou, the Krista Foundation community accompanies her—providing support and encouragement on her journey toward leadership, deeper faith, and intercultural competence.
In a recent blog post, Neah expressed her appreciation: "...Perhaps most unique reason why I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be is the Krista Foundation. The KF allowed me to connect with a whole community of people who either have already committed a year or more of service or are, like me, in the process of doing so. They are a source of inspiration, particularly Krista herself. Yesterday I got a few letters/notes from fellow Krista Colleagues, and I could feel their presence with me, here, in my room in Ouagadougou." Krista Colleague mentors have enjoyed creating cards for New Colleagues, remembering how much it makes a difference to get tangible gestures of care during formal service.
Neah describes a particularly special card from Sarah Fry, a 2009 Colleague who helped restore a local watershed in Eastern Washington where native salmon spawn and struggle to survive. "Sarah and I met at the Krista Foundation conference Memorial Day weekend in Spokane. Although our relationship totaled a span of three days, I felt like I had known her for years, seriously. In times of struggle, which she was sure I would find myself in (how did she know?) she told me to remember the salmon—it is in its most trying season that it takes its most beautiful form."
Many of us resonate with this metaphor: during life's most trying times our faith and values are refined in life-shaping ways. Over the past 12 years, our experience with young adults has revealed that while the first several months of service are challenging, the transition after formal service can often be the most trying of all.
Your support allows the Foundation community to be present to Neah and her fellow Colleagues in service, but also long after her service term—helping her understand and employ her learnings and hone skills to strengthen her future contributions to society.
A service year, when nurtured, becomes a life of service leadership.
Neah ends her blog by noting that while she is grateful for the letters from Sarah and other Colleagues, "you are all here with me in spirit." Through your own commitment to service, and through your involvement in the Krista Foundation, each of you plays a role. You accompany Neah in Ouagadougou, Mike doing urban leadership development in South Seattle, and Katherine doing policy advocacy in Washington D.C. as they make service a way of life.
On behalf of the Krista Colleague community, THANK YOU for your partnership this year in transforming service experiences into lives of service leadership.
Wishing you encouragement for the joyful and trying times on your service journey
—The KF staff
Link to Neah's Blog: lifeinouaga