Sorry – meant to post this a few weeks ago!
Peace Corps’ Second Goal is for host country citizens to have a better understanding of Americans and American culture. The idea is a cultural exchange through shared work – that living, working, and learning together will facilitate an organic cultural exchange over the 2 year service. The easiest way to share American culture is through holidays and celebrations. And what a better holiday to share American culture than with the American Independence Day: the 4th of July!
My host family has been home to 2 Peace Corps volunteers before me, and they are always eager to host Peace Corps volunteers from other parts of The Gambia. They were very excited when I told them I wanted to host a small Independence Day celebration in our village, and we started planning. We wanted to mix some American and Gambian food and have a celebration that everyone could enjoy.
I invited one of my best Peace Corps friends and closest site mate for a weekend of cooking, painting, and cultural sharing. We painted a mural at the Health Center about the nutritional practices to keep your children on the “Road to Health.” Each month at the Reproductive and Child Health Clinics, children under 5 are weighed and their weight is plotted on their blue cards. This mural is to increase awareness of the importance of having a healthy height for weight and the foods and practices necessary to stay on the Road to Health.
Then, on the side of my hut, we did a small mural with the Peace Corps logo, the Gambian flag, and the American flag. Using the American flag, I explained American independence from Great Britain to my host family and to those who came for the Independence Day celebration. I explained that the United States began as 13 colonies, hence the 13 stripes, that has since grown into the 50 very different and diverse states of America, hence the 50 stars. We also explained the significance of the dove in the Peace Corps logo, a symbol of peace.
Then a few teachers from the school, a few of the workers from the clinic, my Peace Corps friend Sara, and my host family sat around laughing and playing cards and talking about American history. We had grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread for dinner and played “BS” and spoons until it became late. Even though rainy season has begun, the rains held off for our celebration. Happy (belated) 4th of July!