Tesa Gunby joins Peace Corps to help the destitute in Malawi
She has put her love for family, friends, and the comforts of home on the back burner to go and work with the poor in Malawi, Africa.
As this newspaper is being read today (Thursday), Tesa, who signed up for a 27-month hitch with the Peace Corps, is flying from New York to South Africa to Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa about the size of Pennsylvania.
One of the world's least developed countries, Malawi is ranked 165th out of 177 countries on the United Nations' Human Development Index. Only 11 countries in the world are poorer.
Joining 120 other Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi, Tesa will serve as a secondary teacher training volunteer, helping to improve the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of high school teachers in the country. She will also do some work in the area of HIV/AIDS awareness.
Approximately 900,000 of the nation's population of 13 million are presently living with AIDS. In fact, 84,000 people die from the disease each year.
The life expectancy for the entire population is just 41.7 years.
In spite of these staggering statistics, Tesa described her chance to serve the poor of Malawi as a "dream come true."
During the first three months of her stay, she will live with a host family in order to become fully immersed in the country's language and culture. Although English is the official language of Malawi, Chichewa is the national language.
After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist those in her community, Tesa will begin serving her host community, living at the same level as the local people.
It will take all of the resources at Tesa's disposal to combat the disease, hunger, lack of education, and environmental degradation she will experience in Malawi. Fortunately, she is more than equal to the task, both mentally and spiritually.
A 1991 graduate of LCHS, the Lincoln County native earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Spelman College in Atlanta; a Master of Science in global affairs from Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey; and a master's degree in international law at the Belgium campus of England's University of Kent.
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she taught in the history and political science department at Paine College.
As far as her spiritual resources are concerned, Tesa is a devout Christian. Although she cannot proselytize those she serves, her actions will bear witness to God's love for the people of Malawi.
Commenting on her reasons for joining the Peace Corps, Tesa said, "Malawi is a developing country where the majority of the people lack the basic necessities. I want to strengthen the feeble hands.
"By giving of myself as a teacher, I can enable people to become selfreliant," she continued. "I see the Peace Corps as a means of bringing hope to those who are destitute.
"It is my heart's desire to help the poor of the world. In times past, I would watch television programs showing young children who had not eaten in days while their parents looked on in agony. I have also read articles pertaining to those living with HIV/AIDS and the various medical crises they face.
"Through watching, I saw the hopelessness in their eyes, and through reading, I sensed their pain and shame. In the past, I had nothing to offer them but my tears. Now
the tears have watered the seeds of a dream and the dream has become reality. I, in some small way, hope to make a difference."
Those wishing to write notes of encouragement to Tesa may find her at the following address: Tesa Gunby PCV, Peace Corps/Malawi, Box 208, Lilongwe, Malawi.
The new Peace Corps volunteer is the daughter of Jerry and Mattie Gunby of Lincolnton.
The Peace Corps is currently celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 138 countries where the volunteers have served.