The Falk family always thought that someday they’d like to go overseas to do volunteer work, but they didn’t always think it would be quite so soon.
“We’ve always kind of had this idea in our mind that someday we would probably go and do something international,” Joy Falk said. “But maybe it would be when our kids were done high school.”
However, that all changed when the Falks heard from a family friend that there was a need for volunteers in the city of Niamey in the African country of Niger.
Upon looking at the information about what kinds of volunteers were needed, the Falks found a position for both Joy, who is a kindergarten teacher, and Stacey, who works with construction. The Falks ended up getting into contact with an organization called Teach Beyond, and before you know it, the Falks had committed to a two-year stay volunteering in Niger.
“The people that know us well, they haven’t been surprised,” Joy said. “They have been very supportive, and we’ve had a lot of comments about what a great fit it is for our family.”
The Falks and their two daughters, Brianna, 12, and Rebekah, 9 will be working for and attending the Sahel Academy in Niger’s capital, a city of roughly 1.3 million people. Joy will be teaching kindergarten while Stacey will serve as a construction supervisor, and their daughters will be attending the academy as students.
“When we first told [our daughters] they got really excited about it,” Joy said.
“There is a lot of apprehension for all of us, leaving your friends and all that is familiar behind… but we’re all excited and we’re looking forward to the adventure it will be for us as a family, and how it will broaden our perspectives and strengthen us.”
There will be a lot of things for the family to get used to, not the least of which will be the weather. With temperatures ranging into the high 40s in a congested city like Niamey, health concerns are a very real risk.
“It is a very busy city, and it’s a culture where relationships are very important,” Joy said. “It’s about the people, and we have to accept the cultural differences and not see one as right, or wrong, or bad, but that they are different and that they have their own strengths.”
There is also a significant language barrier to overcome, as the predominant language in Niger is French. Joy says this is one area where their daughters have a leg up, thanks to their learning French in school.
The family has also made contact with several members of the staff of the Sahel Academy, one of whom will be taking the family under their wing while they get situated and get adjusted to the language.
School begins at the academy August 8, and the family would obviously like to be there for the first day of school, which means leaving in mid July.
However, since their positions are voluntary, this leaving date is also contingent on the Falks raising the necessary funds.
The family plans on having a garage sale or possibly a bake sale, but in the meantime donations can be made either though their website or by contacting the family directly.
“We want to make a difference in the lives of others,” Joy said.
“We want to have a different experience, and to even have a life filled with gratitude, to help us realize what we have here and how blessed we are.”
For more information or how to donate, visit the Falks’ website at falks.ca.