When Esther Ferreira (‘19) left CBU, she was on her way to the South Pacific as a Peace Corps volunteer to the island nation of Tonga. Esther is serving as an English literacy facilitator for two years, living and working with the local population. Tonga comprises more than 150 islands and is located near Fiji and Samoa.
During the first three months of her service, Esther lived with a host family in Tonga to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills, she will be sworn into service and assigned to a specific community where she will work in cooperation with partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of the people in Tonga.
Esther had never heard of Tonga before getting her assignment. “As soon as I found out I was going there, I Googled the country. I was astonished with how beautiful it is,” she said. “Tonga also is known as the ‘Friendly Islands,’ because of the friendly and welcoming nature of Tongans,” Esther explained. “I am so excited about moving there, knowing that I will be welcomed with open arms and friendly faces.”
The Peace Corps is not Esther’s first time working in a foreign country. During the summer between her junior and senior year at CBU, she served at the Harpswell Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she mentored female university students. “That experience changed my life and opened my eyes to working with people from different cultures in their homeland. I was able to connect on a deeper level with these women because of our similar experiences with school and everyday life, while embracing our differences in culture and upbringings. I was inspired by their strength and commitment to pursuing higher education even when it seemed impossible at times. I have a strong desire to submerge myself in different cultures, to learn about people, where they come from, and the obstacles they have overcome. This experience solidified my decision to join the Peace Corps and work in foreign countries.”
Esther says her experience at CBU led her to serving others. “CBU instills in their students a great desire to serve others,” she explained. “The motto ‘Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve’ is greatly encouraged and embraced by faculty and students alike.” Esther took full advantage of CBU’s various opportunities for service, such as volunteering in September of Service, the St. Jude marathon, and her experience with the Harpswell Foundation in Cambodia. “After graduating from CBU, I feel equipped with the knowledge and skills to go out into the world to serve others passionately and faithfully,” she said.
Esther also discovered a different view of the world and herself at CBU. “My experience being a member of the University softball team allowed me to become a selfless team player and taught me how to lead by example. Being a part of Alpha Xi Delta allowed me to meet women who encouraged me to follow my dreams and realize my potential. So many other amazing people at CBU helped me grow in my passion to serve and in my faith. I learned how to face adversity with grace and how to overcome any obstacle that comes my way,” she said.
Esther has high hopes for her time in the Peace Corps. “I hope to bring all the skills I learn and build in the classroom in Tonga into my future classroom in the U.S. I hope that I can be an ambassador of change for the educational systems in both Tonga and the U.S. I hope to be a bridge for communication between the U.S. and foreign countries.”
When she completes her assignment with the Peace Corps, Esther plans to attend graduate school and pursue a doctoral degree in Psychology or Anthropology. “The amazing educational experience that I received at CBU motivates me to become a professor and help shape the minds of future generations.”