Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Peace Corps sending Hannah Harrison to Zambia

SNRAS alumnus Hannah Harrison's life is about to change, big time.

Harrison, who earned her bachelor of science degree in natural resources management in 2010 and a master's in environmental ethnography in May, has been accepted into the Peace Corps. Her assignment is Zambia and she will depart for Africa in February.

Growing up in Homer, two things influenced Harrison's education and career choices. Being active in FFA spurred her love for natural resources and a Peace Corps poster she saw when she was 15 sparked that interest.

Hannah Harrison
As she prepared for college, she was accepted at many institutions but the University of Alaska Fairbanks "had the biggest bang for the buck," she said. "It had everything I wanted plus I knew I wanted to live and work in Alaska."

She recalls her years with SNRAS fondly. "It's a community. The people I worked with at UAF supported me," she said. "They let me work with things that mattered to me. I learned about things in Alaska's context. It was a priceless experience. Now I can try out all the different ideas I learned. I am without words to describe how valuable that is to me. It is integrated into everything I wanted in my life."

At the age of 26, Harrison believes it's perfect timing for her to join the Peace Corps. "I'm glad I waited," she said. "I'll get the most out of the experience and I think I'm more patient, flexible and helpful now."

She hopes to work with women's groups, HIV and AIDS education and at a leadership camp for girls. Likely she will help women start small tilapia businesses. "I hope to teach sustainable practices in growing fish," she said.

"I'll be fortunate if I get to see any progress. Mainly I'll become part of the community and learn to speak the language. They say that the Peace Corps is a large war won by many small battles."

She is looking forward to the rural lifestyle in Zambia but admits it's a little scary. "It's hard to give up money and everything you know and love," she said. "It's hardest to leave family."

In addition to getting lots of shots, Harrison had to write a will. "It's weird to think that your life is a finite thing," she said. "It's an unusual experience but it's made me value time with family to an extra degree."

At a point when she was doubting whether the Peace Corps was a good choice for her she polled her parents and their friends, asking them if they wish they had ever made the scarier choice in life and they always said yes.

While getting fingerprinted in Homer as a Peace Corps requirement, the police officer wouldn't let her pay and thanked her for her service. A light bulb went off at that moment, with Harrison realizing service is what this whole experience is about.

"I'm happy with the decision. It's not for everyone but it's for more than the ones who do say yes."

For fun, Harrison enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing and traveling. Follow her adventures at her blog.
Map of Zambia

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