Lara…saying Goodbye to the people of Togo

11059544_10153087941426819_8050518159896619474_n (1) 11264832_10153087942491819_6646066485578259373_n 11796296_10153087941576819_4119355877046143294_n Tonight is my last night in the small village of Sagbiebou in Northern Togo. Two years ago I moved here, the first time moving anywhere alone, with a little French and no idea what would happen next. For the first few months I felt helpless and alone; I didn’t understand the language, washing my clothes by hand never seemed to get them clean, and babies were terrified of me, having never seen a white person before. Each day the struggles in retrospect were small but I’ll never forget writing daily goals of “learning how to buy food” or “finding where and how to pump my own water.” It was terrifying but exciting, and my parents advice became my mantra, “take it a day at a time.”
After a while the bucket showers and eating this thing called fufu became the norm, strangers that I once fumbled in the basics of French, Anufo, and Gam-Gam with became good friends, and my day-to-day goals soon turned to exciting projects like creating an English Club, constructing a school and latrine, and teaching a group of girl apprentices the importance of and how to become financially independent. I never did quite get the hang of teaching 130 students at once (a lofty goal) but I gave it a try every day. I stood along as one of my most admirable students received a scholarship to last through university and work partners traveled to other regions to participate in Peace Corps trainings and camps. Alongside my community I planted trees, painted murals, made small strides in improving gender equality in Sagbiebou, and played, arguably, too much soccer.
I saw the incredible work ethic of these villagers, who wake up at dawn to bike or walk miles either to the farm or to school, only to be followed by more intense work upon their return (pumping and carrying water to their homes, cooking over a coals in 110 degree weather, selling goods in the market). And then, after all of that, had the energy and motivation to work on projects with me.
I created a home and a family here, one I’m incredibly sad to say goodbye to. But I’m happy to have these friendships and experiences going forward and to always, somewhere in the back of my mind be that yovo called Madame Fati.
Thank you to all of my family and friends who were so supportive of me moving to Togo for two years – and moreover, sending me their love and support throughout the 26 months.


10443418_10204488104307667_7418074501003854548_n10527792_10204488104627675_4286278798010333054_nSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREStogoStudents in Togo, West Africa, Jan. 20141-1780697_10151989352621819_956186435_n10929030_10152683023786819_6462024234922514247_n10915172_10152683023441819_73601443719528939_n10410529_10152775751716819_5507478461923675986_n1504978_10152775749571819_1957553055112953117_n1908407_10152775749776819_6732428362413289983_n1-14476_10151611011141819_1137617227_nindex11112751_10153031855241819_4835761213046798938_o11700837_10153066740381819_1472202397866085411_n

Lara Johann-Reichart LIFE in TOGO Update

809px-Flag_of_Togo.svg     Lara is close to completing her second year in Togo. Late last November, she began a project to add three classrooms to an overcrowded school building in the village of Mango.  She met her goal!  With equal contributions from the village people, from friends back in the States, from people on WordPress and from an African organization, the money was raised and the goal came to fruition!  Here are some photos of the new CLASSROOMS!  Thank YOU to all who contributed to this great project. It is beautiful that so many hands from so many different parts of the world came together to make this happen!

T  H  A  N  K     Y  O  U

We built a school! Thank you to everyone for your support – Sagbiebou is so excited to have 3 new classrooms & an improved school for our students! This month we are going to be doing student-centered teaching training with the teachers to help them transition from classes of over 100 to only 50. My village would like to tell you a big and hearty, FALA FALA! Or in English, Thank you so much!









New Classrooms in Togo


If anyone wants to send books or school supplies, please do so!  They need chalk, chalkboards, pencils, pens, paper, erasers, paints and books!  You can send them to:   PCV Lara Johann-Reichart or Matthew, Mentor Teacher.  US Peace Corps. — Corps de la Paix,   B.P. 89. , MANGO,  TOGO

Lara in Togo…this summer of 2014

Lara and her little friends in Togo...2014

Lara and her little friends in Togo…2014

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This past week I had an awesome opportunity to participate in Camp Unite. Each year the camp invites 100 girls & boys from across Togo to participate in a week filled with sessions ranging from HIV Prevention, Leadership, & Self Confidence …- plus a bunch of fun activities for them to just be kids. 2 girl students, 2 boy apprentices, & my counterpart joined me for the camp. It was so exciting to see them return from the camp so confident and energized to share what they learned with our community. Can’t wait to see what this next year brings

invitation to fly!

“Come to the edge,” he said.

They said, “We are afraid.”

“Come to the edge,” he said.

They came. He pushed them, and they flew.

– Guillaume Apollinaire

My youngest daughter, Lara, is leaving for Togo, West Africa, in 1 more day.  Lara did not seem to need much push——she has been dreaming of this for a long time!  I am more afraid than she is!  I am her mother and she is going off into the world. She made it out of the yard… through elementary school, high school, and graduated from Marquette University, a week ago.  Now the world is there…waiting for her gifts and talents. I pray that she will be well received by those she meets and that she, in turn, will continue with her open and receptive attitude to what others offer.

She has a sense of humor and I think that will carry her far. She loved singing, Hakuna Matata from the Lion King:

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase

Hakuna Matata!   Ain’t no passing craze

It means no worries …For the rest of your day

It’s our problem-free philosophy…Hakuna Matata!

It is always important to be able to laugh at ourselves and accept our humanity and the humanity of others…to remain flexible in what we set out to be and do.

Each time, she went a bit further away from home…each experience stretched her from her roots. I pray that the people in the universe treat her kindly.  Sometimes the world is not so kind and gentle, and when she meets those times, I hope she remembers that she is always loved, and that those who love her are only a thought away. I hope she meets many loving hearts along her journey and that each experience brings her greater joy and belief in the human spirit and how much we all need one another to create a beautiful world on Mother Earth.

To say, I will miss her, in an understatement!  I know her Dad and sisters, Annie and Sara, will miss her greatly! Her Aunt Kathy will miss spoiling her and their lively conversations  and Uncle Ron will miss his scintillating political questions and thoughts on the universe that he shared with her. So she will be getting tons of mail!  But I know she must go and follow her dream. For isn’t this what we prepare our children for as mothers and fathers? We help to grow them as persons, providing food and shelter, educating them to be all that they can be,  and most importantly, bathing them in love and the importance of our connection to one another.

I left Wisconsin September 14, 1974…four months after I graduated from Marquette. I was amazed that Lara chose to go to the same university and pleased at the same time!  I ended up in Kenya, East Africa in August of 1975 for two and a half years, teaching in a rural Harambee school. Now Lara is going off to Togo, West Africa to work as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two and a half years. So amazing! Just simply amazing! How blessed we are…to be so honored to experience people of another culture! How enriching our lives are because of our experiences!

My Mom cried so much that day at the airport. I thought she thought I was dying! I had never witnessed such tears! I was young and full of adventure and out to find myself in this huge world! Now that I am 63 and I find myself in the same position as my Mom–Mom was 59 when I left…NOW I finally understand her tears! and I am feeling the separation. But I know it is right that she has to take off for the world and live her dream~!  I know it…but I am allowed my tears…yes?

I believe there is a God—a God of Love–and in that God we are called to love ourselves well, to  BE that love for one another and accept that love from the other.  I know that Lara has a strong connection to the God of Love.  I am entrusting her care to LOVE.

When Lara was in 1st grade, she wrote: “Snowmen may melt, but never your heart!”  And I know there are not many snowmen in Togo, West Africa…but there are many loving hearts waiting for her lovely heart…and we all will be with her on her journey, sending her love each day!