Kwepunha Volunteer Journal #1 — Zach Cameron

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Kwepunha Retreats newest volunteer, Zach Cameron has agreed to share his experience living in Liberia via a travel log he will be keeping while staying with us over the next few months. This is a first person perspective of a travelers first time experience visiting Liberia.

After only one week in Robertsport, Liberia, I already feel more safe and comfortable than I do back home in downtown San Diego.  Everyone is so kind and welcoming, it is hard to believe this community had gone through a brutal civil war just over 10 years ago.  These people have been through horrifying times that most of us can only imagine or see on TV, yet their uplifting spirits and energetic personalities have made me feel right at home.  Everyone is stoked that we are here and grateful for the work we are doing throughout the community.  I have already made several Liberian friends that treat me like family and are more than willing to show me around and share their perfect waves with me.

I was fortunate enough to arrive during the best swell of the year and was stunned by the beauty and power of the ocean, not to mention surfing perfect waves with only one or two buddies out.  One of my most memorable days was speaking with the oldest man in Robertsport, Momo Dassen, and learning the local language of the Vai Tribe.  He taught us about the history of the village and how Americans used this language during WWII to confuse the opposing Germans.  Momo Dassen gave me a Vai name and named me after himself, which I thought was a huge honor.  I am also excited to be helping the locals work on their resumes and cover letters to get international internships or attend college, which is a huge step for Liberian youth.   I already feel like a part of this community and I love walking down the street and having kids and adults shout my name or say "white man hello."

It is difficult to describe this place with word or pictures, it is a place that is so different from home, one truly needs to come experience it for themselves to fully understand how remarkable it is.  I believe everyone should leave their comfort zone and travel somewhere off the beaten track to experience a new culture and learn how people live around the world.  Sure, it is challenging and overwhelming at times, but dealing with these situations and overcoming them, in my opinion, is the best way to broaden one's horizons and grow as an individual.

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