As soon as I showed up at Harvard, I joined PBH and volunteered for the next three years at the Cambridge Community Center. I didn’t want to be stuck in the ivory tower without relating to the real world out there. During my junior year I volunteered in a program that gave away books to students at a poor Roxbury public school. Alison Liebhavsky Des Forges and Karen Weiskoff Worth worked with me on this project, and they had just returned from a summer teaching Rwandan refugees in northwestern Tanganyika for the PBH program, Project Tanganyika. They encouraged me to apply and I was accepted and took a year off after my junior year in order to spend 14 months with Randy Kehler teaching Rwandan refugees in the same area. This was about as opposite as you could get from the Harvard campus experience and it set the course for the rest of my life.
I promised my dad that I would return to finish my last year at Harvard and it was the most difficult year of my life. Since I had been exposed to the realities of the rest of the world, the immaturity of the Harvard undergraduate students was hard to take. But I survived the course work and graduated.
This was about as opposite as you could get from the Harvard campus experience and it set the course for the rest of my life.
Since that time I have been much involved with East and Central Africa. I have been married twice, both times to Kenyans, and have lived in the region for ten years. Since 1998, I have been the founding coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams that brings healing, reconciliation, non-violence training, and other peace activities to this region. I have helped develop a program called “Healing and Rebuilding Our Community,” which brings both sides of the deadly conflict together for three days in order to re-establish normal human relationships. I have just written a book on these experience and thoughts, A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region (see www.davidzarembka.com).
For me, my PBH experiences were much more important than any of the studies I did or other experiences I had at Harvard.