With her recent acceptance into the Peace Corps, one Saugus High alum is preparing for a 5,000-mile trip to Tonga, where she hopes to continue striving to make her dreams come true.
Santa Clarita Valley native Esther Ferreira will depart for Tonga on Aug. 19 to begin training as an education volunteer so she can serve as an English literacy facilitator to children overseas.
“When I first heard I was going to Tonga, I googled it immediately because I was like: ‘I have no idea where this is,’” Ferreira said Wednesday. “Turns out, it’s an island nation located near Fiji and Samoa, and it’s known as the ‘Friendly Islands’ because of their friendly and welcoming nature.”
Ferreira added, “I was so excited to be going somewhere where people would greet me with open arms and welcome me in such a friendly fashion.”
During the first three months of her service, Ferreira said she will live with a host family and become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture thanks to her Peace Corps training and individual adventures that she plans to take when she’s not educating the locals.
“The first three (months) are intensive training, so during that time, we’ll take language classes … work on creating lesson plans and have a lot of safety training related to water safety because it’s an island,” the former Centurion said.
After acquiring the skills necessary for the job, Ferreira will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Tonga, where she will live and work for two years with the local people.
Peace Corps officials said Ferreira will work on sustainable, community-based development projects in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations. The goal of the projects is to improve the lives of the Tongan people and help Ferreira develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home.
“I actually want to be a professor,” Ferreira said, mentioning how the opportunity will provide her with first-hand teaching and classroom experience. “When I come back, I’m going to apply for graduate school and, hopefully, I’ll get my doctorate degree. Then work my way into becoming a professor.”
And while she’s looking forward to working with children, Ferreira said she will certainly miss her family and friends.
“I just moved back to Santa Clarita after graduation, so I’ve been here for a few months — it’s actually the longest I’ve been home in a while,” Ferreira said, “but it’s something that I’ve wanted for so long so it’s motivating me to follow my dreams.”
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Ferreira worked at the Harpswell Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she mentored female university students.
“It was a bit of a culture shock, but I think it will help me a lot with my transition this time around,” Ferreira said. “That experience really launched me into this journey … of wanting to visit other countries, learn the language, live like the people and help them in any way I can.”