It Literally Takes a Village

georgann-and-kids.jpgBy Rachael Rifkin
Memoirist

It took Long Beach resident Georgann Gall more than 30 years to get to Africa. She first applied for the Peace Corps at the age of 17, but there were a couple of stops she had to make before she was ready to go.
“I sent for Peace Corps information when I was right out of high school. I wanted to go to Africa. Who knows why we have an affinity for a certain place or a certain group of people? For me it’s always been Africa–the culture, the music, the art, everything. I just love it. But then life happened,” said Gall.
Gall married at 19 and then had a son. She went into banking and was a bank manager at American Savings on Ocean Boulevard for nearly 30 years. Then she divorced.
“I just never thought it was possible. It took my friend asking ‘If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?’ before I realized I could go. And that was it. I sold my house, quit my job and went to Africa,” said Gall. “Sometimes it’s a fear factor that prevents the idea from coming forward. But then someone else asks us a question that makes us confront it. I’ll never forget that person or that moment because it was life changing.”
Gall lived in the village of Ha Molapo in the small Southern African country of Lesotho. She worked with Ha Molapo orphans to start a garden so that the children could learn how to grow vegetables.
“There are so many kids living by themselves. A 12-year-old will be the head of a household with a 10-year-old sibling and a five-year-old sibling. This is how they live–this is how I lived when I was there–in a little mud hut with a thatched roof and no running water. But I had money so I could buy gas, propane and candles. They have to beg in the village for food, soap, candles and matches,” said Gall.
While she was in Africa, she befriended a boy named Sethunya. He was 12 when he started working at the garden. His English was so good she eventually made him a supervisor. The next day he came in with an attendance chart.
“I was impressed with him. He was very motivated. I started taking care of him and it was about a year before my service ended that I started the adoption proceedings,” said Gall.
Gall took Sethunya back with her to Long Beach in 2006 so he could get a good education. Last week he graduated from Polytechnic High School.
“He is 17 and graduating with honors. He is also graduating with 330 hours of volunteering time and the school only requires 40 hours,” said Gall.
Since being back, Gall has established Village Hope, a non-profit organization that assists the orphans of Ha Molapo, providing them with food, soap and clothing. In addition, she hopes to build a home for the children of Ha Molapo and provide them with computer training. She just recently left her banking job again to concentrate on fundraising for Village Hope full time.
“Once I have raised enough money, I plan to go back to Africa and stay there for the rest of my life. I love it there. Sethunya also plans to go back. He wants to go to the University of South Africa and get a teaching degree. Eventually he wants to work at the Embassy. I’m so excited,” said Gall.
For more information on Village Hope, go to www.villagehopeproject.org or contact Gall at glgall1@yahoo.com.

Reminiscing with Rachael

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