Indiana State University Newsroom



Graduate student experiences eye-opening 5-week mission in West Africa

August 20, 2014

While she's eager to begin her first year of graduate school this fall, Katherine Warren happily admits her heart's still back at the West African orphanage where she served as a missionary this summer.

Warren, a Bloomington, Ill. native attending Indiana State University, won't soon forget the experience that took her to Yako, Burkina Faso in West Africa - an area of the world she's long desired to visit due to her family's connection.

"My family is very diverse. My parents have adopted eight children from different countries, including my four youngest siblings who are from Ethiopia," she said. "I have always felt some kind of calling to travel overseas and always wanted to go to Africa."

Warren, who is pursuing a master's degree in student affairs and higher education, decided to contact an adoption agency to see about opportunities for mission trips in Ethiopia that connected her with a list of organizations that send people overseas.

The list included Sheltering Wings, a Christian mission organization whose projects include the Les Ailes de Refuge Orphanage, a school and clinic in Yako, Burkina Faso in West Africa. While it wasn't Ethiopia, Warren, who also works as a graduate assistant at the Center for Community Engagement, wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to experience five weeks immersed in a culture unlike her own.

After contacting the organization and making plans, Warren booked her flight around the first of the year and traveled through Sheltering Wings to West Africa on July 8. She stayed in the orphanage and participated in shoe distributions in the villages, grain distribution to widows and was involved in medical clinics for sick children during her excursion.

"I coordinated a mission trip to Jamaica last year so it was a good way to get my feet wet, but that was nothing like I experienced in Africa," she said. "I love children and it touched my heart very deeply that I got to build relationships with the children at the orphanage during my five weeks there. There were about 12 to 14 kids in the orphanage and I got to know something special about each one of them, which made it so hard to leave them."

Warren's typical day in Burkina Faso was "pretty relaxed," beginning with projects that could range from working with the kids to going out into the villages. The children had some downtime in the afternoon, followed by more projects before the volunteers would go out into the villages with the children in the evenings.

"The trip to Africa confirmed my desire to go work overseas and I'm planning on doing something, maybe Peace Corp. or something long-term, overseas after graduation," she said. "And working at the Center for Community Engagement has also helped me because we do so much service learning and community involvement. I think this is definitely the right place for me to be getting my degree."

The poverty Warren saw firsthand was something she won't soon forget and it changed her definition of the word.

"The poverty there is so different than it is in America. There are kids there that have no clothes and mud houses that have fallen down because of a really rainy season," she said. "It's something that's hard to express in words. It's something you simply have to see in person to truly understand."

Having participated in several domestic mission trips, Warren's travels to Africa this summer have her looking into other opportunities, including going to Costa Rica from the Center for Community Engagement, possibly traveling again next summer and working long-term as a missionary overseas when she completed her master's degree in 2016.

No matter where she goes, though, Warren said no trip will be quite like for first experience in Africa.

"I definitely left my heart (in Africa)," she said. "I definitely want to return to the orphanage I went to this summer because of the relationships I built with the kids. It was an eye-opening experience to get that cultural knowledge that we don't necessarily get in America. It's important, I think, to see how other people live and try to make the world a better place."

 

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu

http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-353bkb9/0/M/i-353bkb9-M.jpg-- Katherine Warren, a Bloomington, Ill. native attending Indiana State University, poses with children she worked with at an orphanage during a five-week trip to Yako, Burkina Faso in West Africa this summer.

http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-7rCXxM3/0/S/i-7rCXxM3-S.jpg -- Katherine Warren, a first-yeaer graduate student pursuing a master's degree in student affairs and higher education, spent five weeks at the orphanage and participated in shoe distributions in the villages, grain distribution to widows and was involved in medical clinics for sick children.

Story Highlights

Katherine Warren, a Bloomington, Ill. native attending Indiana State, discusses her 5-week trip to Yako, Burkina Faso in West Africa, where she participated in shoe distributions, grain distributions to widows and at medical clinics for sick children.

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