Please introduce yourself:
I am Alexandria Smith, 25 year’s old born in Illinois and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. My mother, two brothers and I moved to Atlanta after my mother divorced my father of years of physical and verbal abuse. I live in a predominately urban African-American community. My mother worked as a sales clerk at Walmart and my stepfather as a laborer pay check to pay check. During my early years of college, my mother was unable to drive; taking public transportation to work double shifts to give all she could to provide. Our family stood grounded in our faith in the Word of God. My mother saw something extraordinary in me that I couldn’t see in myself.
In college, my mother sacrificed her savings and retirement funds to fund my schooling while I worked many minimum-wage jobs. I graduated from Georgia Military College, Georgia State University and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. I volunteered at Hosea Feed the Hungry, Hands on Atlanta, Outdoor Nation, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Medshare. Even as college graduate, I doubted my ability, intelligence, vernacular to be qualified doing any international work. I knew my heart was set on working internationally, but the fears of not being accepted, understood, and competent as an African-American woman working abroad to other races put me at dis-ease. I glimpsed over the brochure for the Peace Corps noticing, “Life’s Calling.” I didn’t know where I was going in life, so I applied for the Peace Corps expecting this job to be the beginning to my new life.
What sparked your interest in joining the Peace Corps?
I applied to Peace Corps to understand serving without the incentive of financial strings attached in an undeveloped country. Serving was confidently all I knew well working in the retail and sales industry. I worked from waitressing, retail, and sales serving customers and/or guests in exchange for compensation for my services. In my work settings, I built relationships based on financial obligations and commitments tied for the company benefits. Although, after receiving my compensation, rewards and promotions, the company grew successful, but I grew emptier.
In a developed country, I identified success as financial gain, assets and my promotion of work titles, however, I lingered unsatisfied. A twenty-seven month commitment serving from my free will answered my life calling to understand how life in the Peace Corps would change my perception of success cross-culturally. Peace Corps would give me the opportunity to serve holistically and freely that represents who I am as an African American woman in Ghana. As a volunteer, you are given the range to build your own work partners in your host country without the concentration of educational criteria’s. I wanted to take part in serving with a community from the bottom up together, so we would all equally share the glory and take credit for each of our shared responsibility.
As black American traveler, what advice would you give to others inspired to join the Peace Corps but afraid to take the first step?
You will grow boldly under many trials sharpened to overcome anything in life in the Peace Corps. You will immeasurably discover amazing hidden abilities, skills, and strengths in you. As a Black American, you may likely be the only one standing in your PCV group, or the first Black American face entering your community as I am.
You will represent one of many Black Americans forever in your community and begin small changes the way they understand race in America is not one color. You will never see Black America the same way again after Peace Corps. Peace Corps will give you an overpoweringly confidence and boldness in who you are to radically to stir up change in people.
How do you keep in touch with family back home in America while you are in Ghana?
My family and I regularly communicate every day through writing letters, cellphones, Facebook, and WhatsApp.
Our support system is crucial for praying, sending encouragement and daily reminders that I, an African-American woman am here in Ghana for a purpose to never compare who I am, where I come from to anyone.
Is this your first time living abroad?
No, I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for a semester in college.
How will this experience abroad impact your career goals?
In the beginning, I thought I would change Ghana; however, Ghana has changed me. My Peace Corps service awakened a merciful, forgiving and selfless woman. I give back and love harder to those who even insult and disregard me. I lacked the ability to fully express my frustrations in the local language. I greet even in the most difficult times when it seems least deserving. I could spend two years finding fault in Ghanaians or I could change my perception to develop these times of weaknesses into strengths to better understand Ghanaians.
I am benefiting from the Peace Corps skills and knowledge professionally to understand and consider the value of building relationships, facilitating ideals and not identifying people as assignments. I distinguished new learning skills from the relationships I built from Peace Corps. I found meaning in building a commitment in each of my relationships than merely as an NGO provider. My service in Ghana taught me success is not necessarily assets alone. The greatest reward I discovered in Ghana is the total sum of people I shared my life to. They acknowledge who I am, respond as a friend not by the association of my work position. I found it necessary including each person of the community implement and exchange ideals together for a common goal.
In a professional setting, active ownership provides each person a personal sense of obligation, commitment and responsibility to learn and build from their skills set. I am driven to stimulate a person’s greatest potential from the professional teacher and nurses, and even the illiterate farmers and traders. In my service, I discovered while many teachers and nurses are well educated, there lies an gap between the ways information is understood. I learned to demonstrate in the lens of an assembly man, farmer, and student. It is important to never undervalue a person lack of intellect. A carpenter in my community lacked understanding of malaria using data and numbers; however, using his workmanship of soak-a-way pits helped him understand a solution in his community. Peace Corps has defined the way I understand success such as prioritizing my initiative to include each community member valuable to contribute from every step of the stage.
Each of us has created some form of negative habits that did not happen overnight, in the same manner, it would not take a day for an entire community to change their behaviors. As a leader, celebrating my community small victories marks a positive impact in their self-esteem and motivation. My service in Ghana exposed all of my weaknesses, to create room for my strengths to become enhanced. I concealed my attributes of teaching, facilitating, and inspiring others, but my service revealed a woman, dormant on inside of me that I never believed could be me. I am a confident African-American woman now because of Peace Corps. I am no longer inferior to other races because of my darker skin tone, vernacular and background. I am going to motivate, stir up hope to the black youth in my Atlanta community for the future of my career.
Where can people get in touch with you if they have any questions (Leave your social media info and blog link if you’d like!)
Phone: +233 507-408-672