Poway High graduate travels Africa
By Emily Sorensen
A well-written article turned into the adventure of a lifetime for a former Poway resident.
Ambria Hammel, who graduated from Poway High School in 1999, and moved to Phoenix, Ariz., 11 years ago, won a trip to Niger and Burkina Faso in Africa from Catholic Relief Services for an article she co-wrote with her editor at the Catholic Sun, where she is a staff writer.
Hammel’s winning article was about a group of Franciscan sisters, who run a school on a Native American reservation in Arizona, providing a safe place of children exposed to drugs, abuse, poverty and gang violence.
Traveling first to Niger, then to Burkina Faso, Hammel spent five days in each country, touring the relief projects that Catholic Relief Services works on in Africa. Hammel and her fellow travelers often drove between one and three hours away from their hotel to view the work being done in more rural parts of the country, especially the emergency agriculture recovery, which aims to help the people of Niger and Burkina Faso to overcome food shortages and drought through new farming techniques, such as digging crescent circles in the fields to better irrigate the soil.
“The people were so happy to see us,” said Hammel. Other projects in Burkina Faso include a number of schools, everything from arranging to provide meals to school, to digging wells and providing machinery to process food at the schools.
Hammel said that she wasn’t fazed by the heat, which ranged between 100 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks to a decade of living in Arizona. “It felt the same to me [as Phoenix], only more humid,” said Hammel. It wasn’t just the heat that made her feel at home, but the kindness and generosity of the people as well. “When you travel, you discover just how much we all have in common,” said Hammel. “It all felt like home to me.”
Though the trip was short, Hammel feels that it has changed her life. “I would love to go back, to work there, but I’d have to bring my family, “ said Hammel, “which probably won’t happen.” Though she may not be packing up and moving to Burkina Faso to dedicate her life to improving the lives of others hands-on, Hammel said she wouldn’t forget what she learned on the trip. “I could help domestically, and I should,” said Hammel.
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