Friendships, helping others makes Peace Corps a good experience

Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2012, 8:40 am
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By Claudia Loucks, cjloucks@qconline.com
CAMBRIDGE -- A Peace Corps worker has created healthy friendships and lifestyles from Cambridge to Cameroon, Africa.

Kate Horberg recently took a break from her duties in Africa to visit her parents, Kurt and Deb Horberg, in Cambridge, before heading back to Cameroon to begin her second year of Peace Corps service.

The Peace Corps is a 27-month volunteer commitment that Miss Horberg applied for in the summer between her junior and senior years at Augustana College in Rock Island.

''I really love traveling and wasn't ready for grad school, so I decided to look into the program, she said.

A good friend of hers also had joined the Peace Corps earlier, and was posted to Zambia, to further interest Miss Horberg to apply, she said.

After a year-long application process that included essays, interviews and medical reviews, she was accepted.

But that didn't mean she was immediately on her way.

The Peace Corps requires a bachelor's degree, together with some volunteer and foreign language experience, so she began taking French classes and volunteering with a local refugee group, where she taught English as a Second Language through a Rock Island church.

Miss Horberg also underwent intensive language, culture, teaching and subject-matter training by spending three months living with a host family in Cameroon.

She was first posted to Nguti, a village in the jungle region of Cameroon, and recently was reassigned to Bapi, which she said is an "even smaller village in the highland forest region of the country."

She serves as a community health volunteer, focusing on maternal public health, including teaching women how to prevent illnesses for their families, and emphasizing the importance of health among pregnant women and children.

"I teach topics including HIV prevention, malaria prevention, water borne illness prevention, infectious and noninfectious disease, family planning, first aide, sexual reproduction and nutrition,'' Miss Horberg said.

She also has worked with adult men's groups, an HIV support group and school children, focusing on life skills and future planning.

''On a typical day in the village I get up, go to a market to buy food for the day before heading for the health center to plan future projects with the nurse, teach a course to my men's health educator's group or the women on vaccination day, then spend some time in the afternoon with friends in the village."

Visiting Cameroon friends -- ''stopping by to say hello and have a chat is valued,'' she said."Greeting is a big part of Cameroonian culture,'' Miss Horberg said.

"Then I host an HIV support group in the evening, followed by reading inside by kerosene lamp or sitting on the porch chatting with neighbors as the sun goes down,'' she said.

Many memorable experiences have been working with "Auntie P," the nurse at the health center in Nguti, she said.

"I stood by her side, holding a kerosene lamp in the middle of the night as she delivered a baby to a very brave woman," Miss Horberg said. "For several months, Auntie P and I would do private home visits to HIV patients, many of whom later joined our HIV support group.''

"Personally, I have grown a great deal having experienced life in the underdeveloped world," she said. "I have made many Cameroonian friends, met health-care workers as well as fellow Peace Corps volunteers, all of whom I admire and have learned a great deal from."

Miss Horberg doesn't know what will come next for her after finishing her second year of Peace Corps service.

''I have a year to decide to extend my service for a third year, or look into work opportunities concerning immigration/ESL education, my preference, or head back to school,'' she said. ''Who knows?"

Until then, she hopes Cameroonians are benefiting and living healthier lives from the knowledge she has to offer them.

Kate Horberg
Birth date: July 29, 1988.
Hometown: Cambridge.
Family: Kurt and Deb Horberg, Cambridge.
Education: Cambridge High School; earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology with minors in sociology and religion from Augustana College in 2011.
Hobbies and activities: "Traveling, reading and journaling."


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