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Kunta K.

“Ever since my early interactions with the Peace Corps, I have wanted to be a part of this program. I am glad my dream of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer is now realized and I can give back what was given to me.”

Kunta K headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

My interest in the Peace Corps dates back decades to my childhood in The Gambia. When I was 12 years old, my family hosted a Peace Corps Volunteer named Cris, who was instrumental to my educational success. Cris shepherded me and encouraged my parents to support my studies instead of pulling me out of classes to help on our subsistence farm. His intervention and constant appeal paved the path for me to become who I am today.

Fast forward many years. I was undergoing teacher training at The Gambia College when I crossed paths with another Peace Corps Volunteer named Stephanie. Her work ethic and dedication to improve teachers’ teaching skills was exceptional. In part due to her encouragement, I eventually moved to California and became a U.S. citizen in 2019. Ever since my early interactions with the Peace Corps, I have wanted to be a part of this program. I am glad my dream of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer is now realized and I can give back what was given to me. What a great opportunity!

2. What projects are you working on?

As a Primary Literacy Teacher Trainer, I co-teach and facilitate classes and an after-school reading room program with my counterpart, Getrude. I mostly teach reading classes, but also assist in other subject areas. In addition to my regular teaching schedule, I am also working on two planned projects. This first is with Bassa Girls, a first divisional women’s soccer league under the auspices of the Liberia Football Association (LFA). Alongside two other coaches, I’m working to improve the players’ soccer skills, interpersonal communication, self confidence, and self esteem. Ultimately, we hope to have a soccer camp where we will incorporate reproductive health, life skill training, and malaria prevention.

My next major project is the refurbishment of the reading room at a demonstration elementary school. I’m working with students and teachers to refurbish the space, add 3-5 desktop computers and a printer so that we can use the space for digital literacy training and to teach research techniques. Our goal is to provide resources for the use of students and teachers to enhance literacy and job skills.

Kunta K coaches Bassa Girls, a Liberian soccer team.
Kunta coaches Bassa Girls, a Liberian soccer team.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

Visiting the soccer field and playing with the youth in my community made me popular among the young and old. This has been a game changer for me, as I immerse myself in the community. I am not just passing by the field and looking at what is happening. I have made it a point to play soccer and, when I sit in the stands and watch the game, I talk to people on the field and on the sidelines.

Another strategy I have used is what I call “porch literacy.” When I moved into my house, I brought exercise books, pens, and pencils for the 11 kids living in my immediate neighborhood. I often sit on the porch with these children, and we do activities with these materials. This has helped me get to know the kids by name, improve my language skills, and connect with the kids’ parents and the larger community.

Finally, as an avid Arsenal Football Club fan, I enjoy watching soccer in a local video club. It has been a phenomenal way to meet fellow soccer fans and make new connections in my community.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

I have had a lot of highlights during my time in Liberia. I’ve enjoyed practicing with the Bassa Girls Football Club, attending social and cultural activities in the community, and coordinating mini marathons every week with my students. The mini marathons are a fun way to encourage students to stay fit and healthy and bond with each other outside the classroom environment. Above all, my top highlight has been seeing a significant improvement in my students’ reading and comprehension skills.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

I love waking up every morning to the melodious greetings from my neighbors’ kids. They say, “Morning-o Uncle KK!” and that touches my heart. It makes me feel like I am a part of this community, that I am appreciated and seen.

Kunta with his Liberian counterpart, Gertrude.
Kunta with his Liberian counterpart, Gertrude.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

My community has taught me a lot in my time here. I have learned how to properly greet people and I am constantly learning how to relate to people and their culture. It has been enjoyable making sense of things I see and hear. Every day is a new opportunity to understand a little more. I’ve also learned time and again that having a positive attitude can help me feel like I belong and that I am safe and secure. Community members are always looking out for me. I can freely work and collaborate with many people around town to reach goals and make plans.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

In my free time, I love gardening, jogging, playing scrabble, watching soccer, and cooking other African dishes. My favorite dish is domoda or peanut soup.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

In my remaining time, I hope to facilitate the steady progress of my students’ reading and comprehension skills. I am on a mission to help one student a time learn to read and comprehend. I also aim to see Bassa Girls Football Club become a vibrant, self-sufficient club that can generate revenue through sales of handmade products. This will help the players compete in more advantageous sporting environments.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

My ultimate goal is to become a foreign service officer or work in international development, so I will explore different avenues to reach that goal when I complete my service. I also plan to share my experiences and educate Americans and others about the things we take for granted. This will include sharing stories on the challenges and tribulations that some students in Liberia go through in their educational pursuits.