A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Stephanie Martin
Photo Provided by Sandra Carpenter
Over spring break, many students geared up for relaxing weekend getaways and vacations, but for one Hillsborough Community College student, the time off from school brought plenty of travel, but little time for rest.
During her break, Sandra Carpenter, 25, an agriculture major at the Brandon campus, headed to New Orleans, La. where she joined other local college students to assist in the continued efforts of rebuilding and restoring the area.
After going on a mission trip to Mexico in high school, Carpenter felt a calling to go into the missionary field. Since her trip to Mexico, she has been on several other trips sharing her faith and helping others.
After graduating in May, Carpenter embarked on an extended trip to Africa, where she will be living for two years. However, this won’t be her first time traveling to Africa.
In 2008, Carpenter received the opportunity to volunteer two weeks of her summer vacation to travel with a group from her Brandon church to the African country of Namibia, which borders the South Atlantic Ocean. There, they were able to help serve in the schools and to assist in a hospital.
“It was an incredibly humbling experience,” said Carpenter. “There was no hot water in this hospital, so we heated up water in a coffee pot and took it in a bucket to the women’s ward and washed the hands and feet of some of the patients,”
During her visit, Carpenter also visited an Orphanage. “There were many children there, whose parents had died from illnesses or were killed in genocide or just unable to care for them,” said Carpenter.
The administrator of the orphanage told her that the average man there has up to 17 children, and he may know only one of them. “That just broke my heart, but it explains how easily AIDS has spread over there,” said Carpenter.
Since her trip to Namibia last year, Carpenter has felt a strong calling to go back to Africa. She will soon graduate with her associate’s degree and has contacted the International Mission Board, through the advice of friends and mentors, to begin the process of possibly going into the mission field, full-time. After the several month application process, Carpenter ended up finding a position through the IMB’s International Service Corps program, to serve in Africa for a two-year commitment. She has accepted the position and will leave for a two-month orientation held in Richmond, Va. in July. At that time she will have the option to visit home for a week before traveling to the country of Uganda to begin her two-year term.
While in Uganda, she will be staying with a missionary family and will teach their three home-schooled children. When she is not working with the family, Carpenter will be helping to teach sexual abstinence, through the “True Love Waits” program in local Uganda schools.
Sandra has always wanted to help people,” said Amanda Rigby, a fellow church member, and longtime friend. “She’s been through some tough stuff in her life and I think that makes her well-rounded and real… she always stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t apologize for it. I admire that in her.”
When Carpenter broke the news to her family, her father was a little shocked, but her mother wasn’t very surprised. She has been aware of her daughter’s feelings and has known about her calling for a while now.
Because it will be so costly to make phone calls between the United States and Uganda, Carpenter is planning several ways to stay in contact with her family while she is away, including setting her mom up on Facebook and using Skype, a software that allows you to make phone calls via the internet.
Carpenter has been able to contact the family that she will be staying with through the internet and has already gotten a glimpse of what lies ahead of her. She was told by the family that they have some plumbing, but the water has to be filtered because it’s not drinkable. They told Carpenter that they’re lucky if they have electricity for 18 hours a day; however, she is just happy to have a toilet.
To prepare for her extended stay in Africa, Carpenter has had to get ready not only mentally, but physically as well. She has already been given inoculations for yellow fever, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. She also plans to start treatment for malaria before leaving for Uganda.
“At night you have to sleep with a safari net surrounding your bed to prevent being chewed up by mosquitoes,” said Carpenter. “I’m going to need a lifetime supply of bug screen and bug spray.”
Additionally, Carpenter will have to start exercising to prepare herself for traveling the required several miles per day, as the main forms of transportation in Uganda are bicycling and walking.
Carpenter has already done some shopping for the clothes she’ll be taking with her, keeping the local’s customs in mind as she chooses her clothing. Because there is a heavy Muslim influence in Uganda, it is customary that women and girls wear long skirts and refrain from wearing revealing clothing.
As an agriculture major, Carpenter also hopes to put her knowledge of farming to good use. She says the climate is fairly stable in Uganda but that there are only two seasons, wet and dry, of which both can be extreme, making it very difficult on the land. If she gets the opportunity, Carpenter says she would like to work with some of the locals and maybe help grow some crops.
Croplands won’t be the only thing that she’ll focus on developing. Carpenter will also be learning the local language, Lugbara, in an effort to communicate with the people. The language will be challenging for her because she’ll be teaching the home-schooled children in English but will need to speak the native language when visiting schools or going through town. “They look for people to be genuinely interested in their way of life which is why we have to learn their language,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter and others who are in the ISC program have both housing and transportation provided, but they are responsible for their own food and personal expenses. They will be given a base salary with an adjustable cost of living enhancement, which changes depending on the location of the individual, according to the IMB.
Carpenter is not sure if she feels called to make a career out of being a missionary, but says, either way, she will finish school to obtain her bachelor’s degree once she returns back to the U.S.