A Peace Corps Journey in Niger

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  • Published on June 20, 2023
  • In Podcasts

Gina Arias will take you on her very personal, life-altering journey to Niger in West Africa. Get inspired to take risks, travel and make lifelong friendships – stay tuned for more from excursions with Gina Arias.

Play the full series back to back or check out our episode guide below.

1. Volunteering

Walk down the memory lane with Excursions host Gina Arias as she ponders wanderlust that brought her to West Africa. Arias visited Niger as a health and nutrition education volunteer from the Peace Corps and spent two years working in the field.

Prior to the trip Arias knew absolutely nothing about the country. “Obsessed as I was with maps, I only knew that it was north of Nigeria,” she remembers. Yet, she took the leap of faith and boarded the plane for the adventure. The year was 1994 and Gina Arias was about to get a whole education on Niger: on location and in person.

2. First Day

In the second episode of Detour’s excursions, host Gina Arias discusses Nigerian gender roles and learning Hausa while volunteering with the Peace Corps.

“I was a mixture of excitement and anxiety,” Gina Arias says as she remembers her first day in the village of Koleram in Niger, West Africa where she served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

She started practicing the local Hausa language and struck friendships with local children who would converse with her eagerly. Arias noticed, however, that even the youngest girls in the village were constantly busy with household chores and had very little time to play.

As she continued to observe the village life, she saw a pattern in the lifestyles of local women. Arias explores this observation further as she introduces listeners to Biba – a woman she affectionately called her “Nigerien Mom” and Nana, the bright and life-loving wife of the chief nurse at the village clinic.

3. The Calling

The final episode of a series on her life-altering journey in Niger is bittersweet for host Gina Arias. Decades later she wants to revisit the cherished village of Koleram but political turmoil makes it impossible for her to return.

In the two years Gina Arias spent as a health worker in Niger she saw glimpses of real life that remain hidden from tourists. As a Peace Corps volunteer she took part in the attempts to eradicate Guinea worm disease – a tropical disease caused by consumption of contaminated water. She also witnessed a coup that fomented political upheavals in Niger. Current turmoil, based on religious extremism, prevents Arias from returning.

“The time I spent in Niger is second only to my experience of becoming a mother,” Arias sums up the journey as she urges young people to volunteer and see places they’d never considered visiting. “I will forever cherish it.”

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