BEACON FALLS — For one Woodland Regional High School graduate, helping other people is more than a job — it’s a way of life.
Shannon Rafferty, 20, is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Oromia, Ethiopia.
Rafferty returned to Woodland on May 21 to share her experiences in the Peace Corps with members of Woodland Worldwide, a school-based nonprofit organization.
Rafferty, a 2012 graduate of Woodland, said she chose to join the Peace Corps for because she wanted to help people and live abroad to experience how other people live.
“One, I always wanted to help people. In high school I volunteered at the library, I did the Rotary Club, and I really felt self-fulfilled by doing that. So I really wanted to give back in a way that I had never before. The Peace Corps gave me an opportunity to do that,” Rafferty said.
Rafferty said she chose the Peace Corps’s mission of promoting peace and friendship also attracted her.
The Washington, D.C.-based volunteer organization assists governments, schools, and nonprofit organizations in over 140 countries around the world.
Each volunteer works for 28 months with the organization, Rafferty said. This includes three months of training and two years of work in a country. Rafferty has been with the Peace Corps for 11 months.
Rafferty teaches English to 11th grade students at a preparatory school in Oromia. She said Ethiopia invited the Peace Corps to send volunteers to the country in order to help the country on the international market.
“English is a language that is really being stressed in the country right now. Their economy is growing very quickly and they want to keep this momentum going,” Rafferty said.
Despite the economic growth in the country, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world with 60 percent of the population living in extreme poverty.
The economic hardships are evident in Rafferty’s classroom as well. Her classroom does not have any electricity and, despite teaching 11th grade, her students range in age from 16 to 24 years old.
Rafferty said the age range is due in part to some students dropping out in order to get a job and make money to support their family.
Rafferty also told the group about the challenges she faces as a teacher, including large class sizes, limited resources, inaccurate textbooks, and rampant cheating. Rafferty said the cheating is due to the Ethiopian culture of sharing resources and food.
Rafferty said she faces each challenge with persistence and does her best to overcome them all in order to help.
Rafferty said, by joining the Peace Corps, she was living Ethiopia’s national slogan of
“Life is Calling.”
“Life is calling and I answered,” Rafferty said.