As a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, Grand Valley graduate Sarah Hollemans was part of a team that supported 250 young athletes during the Special Olympics games in Tangier in late May.
It was the first time Moroccan Peace Corps volunteers participated in the Special Olympics and Hollemans said the day was emotional for her, as it reminded her of family in Grand Rapids, including older brother Mark, who is 26 and has cerebral palsy.
"There were times when I teared up," Hollemans said. "One young boy really reminded me of my brother. I'm glad Peace Corps volunteers are joining the effort to promote the Special Olympics in communities in Morocco because people with disabilities are an underserved population."
Hollemans, who earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2008, is nearing the end of her two-year appointment with the Peace Corps. She has served as a youth development volunteer, teaching English classes and organizing activities.
"During the cold winter I organized a women's knitting club for local women and girls to come together and learn a useful skill, spend social time outside of their houses, and to just have a good time," she said.
She has written a grant that would allow Moroccans to build the youth center's first playground. The Time to Play project will provide children with a safe place to play, rather than in the dirt lots and streets, Hollemans said. Details about the fundraising project are available on the Peace Corps website, www.peacecorps.gov.
She will return to the U.S. in late November and said her plans might take her to graduate school or to a career as a federal investigator. Wherever she lands, Hollemans credits her parents for her adventurous spirit of goodwill.
"My parents raised all of us to give of ourselves and to help those less fortunate then we are. Thanks to their leadership and encouragement I am who I am and where I am today," she said.