Alumni Interview: Ashley Hansen, Class of 2008
Ashley Hansen ('08) is over 8,000 miles from home, quite literally on the other side of the world. She lives and works in Bamenda, North West Region, Cameroon. Her goal is simple - she want to make a difference in the health of the people of that area.
She has spent time as a librarian, and is now working for the Archdiocesan Health Office helping educate health care workers, organize malaria, hygiene and safe water campaigns and caring for the sick. She is sharing her adventures on her blog:
and was nice enough to answer a few questions via e-mail.
What drove you to Christian Service?
I heard the call to service at an early age. I remember being five or six and falling in love with the study of disease. I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to service. I researched hundreds of programs including the Peace Corps, Maryknoll, JVC, and Lay Mission Helpers. I was working in a Christian high school in Appalachia when I decided on applying to Maryknoll and Lay Mission Helpers. It's one of the oldest Catholic lay mission programs, started at a time when the Catholic Church saw mission as a calling of religious men and women. I was drawn to the organization's history, morals, established support, but mostly, I was drawn to the inclusiveness, the way the program directors have taken a personal interest in all of us.
Do you have any advice to current or former Seraphs about overseas work?
Do it. You don't have to serve long term, but spend a few weeks. Break out of your comfort zones. Experience something completely different. Overseas work is scary. You leave behind your family and are dropped into a new place, a new culture and a new life. Some days, I sit in my house with no power and no water, knowing I have to go to the market, and I think, I could go home. No one would look at me any differently, but that's not true. I would look at me differently. I would live with the decision to give up for the rest of my life.
What I have learned, what I have experienced has changed me for the better.
What would you want your fellow alumni to know about Cameroon?
Cameroon is constantly surprising me. There is so much to do and see: the black sand beaches of Limbe, the dramatic mountains of Njinikom, crater lakes and waterfalls, coffee and cocoa plantations, the mysterious mokele mbembe dinosaur still believe to dwell in the southeast... Cameroon is considered to be the whole of Africa in one country. We have grasslands, deserts, rain forests and mountains. The geography is insane and interesting with volcanic activity (Mt. Cameroon was erupting in 2001 and Lake Nyos "exploded" in the 80s killing entire villages). The people are accepting and happy. Cameroon is beautiful.
What do you miss most about Saint Bonaventure?
Maybe I should tell you what I don't miss... It may be a shorter answer. I miss Mr. McElvogue. He challenged me in ways I didn't think possible. He unlocked a part of me that lay dormant, opened me up to the world of adventure in books, and he believed in me. I miss Mr. Ambler. I miss the way he would poke fun at us (using the sound of a heartbeat to much to Kevin's horror and letting us finish Gattaca the one day Linnea wasn't there just because she wasn't there), but also the way he encouraged us to be everything we could be. I miss Mr. Castruita's art class. I miss how Miss. H made government fun and how Mrs. Basolo used to whip us into shape with "wet noodles". I miss Mrs. Kraus's brimstone and fire rendition in American Literature. I miss World Quest competitions with Mrs. Valle and the insane friendships we built on the team. I miss afternoons spent in the Seraph Room rehearsing plays and learning about our potential. I miss my teachers and friends.
Being at Bonaventure helped shape me into the person I am now. My teachers helped me believe in myself, to trust in my abilities and not be afraid of showing my geek side. The person I was going into high school had dreams, but the person I became in high school made those dreams a reality.