KINGFIELD – Silas Goldfrank of Kingfield is spending today, his 24th birthday, abroad. He’s not, however, sightseeing through Rome or visiting museums in Paris. Goldfrank has journeyed to West Africa, to the small nation of Togo, as a member of a Peace Corps initiative.

“I’ll be working in small business development,” Goldfrank said in an interview before he left. “It might be in micro-enterprises or banking.”

He is in the midst of an 11-week training program in Togo with other Peace Corps volunteers that includes HIV-AIDS education and learning about the country and its people. Goldfrank said the HIV epidemic in Togo is not as severe as in other African nations, but it is still very much a reality. Fewer than 10 percent of the population is infected, he said.

Goldfrank will also be working with local government organizations and youth.

“I’m really looking forward to putting my education to good use,” he said. “I hope to help local people learn to market their goods and projects and to save money.”

Goldfrank is a recent graduate of the University of Southern Maine with a degree in business administration. As much as he enjoys the subject of his educational background, he enjoys traveling even more. He has set foot on six continents and visited 25 countries since the age of 16. His first trip abroad was a three-week student exchange to France in high school. Most of his travels have been conducted at ground level, so to speak, with a pack on his back and an instinctive reliance on the locals.

“I’ve learned to adapt to different cultures, to appreciate what different countries have to offer,” Goldfrank said. “I believe it’s made me more independent, self-confident and trusting of myself, as well as of locals the world over. Traveling has honed my intuitive skills and made me be more quickly aware of what’s going on around me.”

For the next couple of years, he will be posted in the city of Tchamba, which has approximately 25,000 inhabitants. The population is 90 percent Muslim, which he finds interesting, he said, because it will be a learning experience for him. He’s planning to take Arabic lessons so he can increase his language skills while working there.

“Tchamba is much bigger than I was really hoping for,” Goldfrank admitted in a recent e-mail from there, “but with time I think I’ll love it. It’s relatively flat in town, but the surrounding area is gorgeous. It’s a little hilly and there are fields with massive balboa trees, palm and fruit trees.”

He spent the large part of a week recently in meetings with the town’s chief, mayor and regional director, or prefe, local police and others he will be working with. He will return to Tchamba at the end of August to begin his two-year Peace Corps posting there.

Goldfrank has also managed to explore the outer area around Tchamba, as he and friends biked 60 kilometers or about 37 miles in one day.

“We biked to Benin,” the neighboring country to the east, he wrote. “The only way we knew we were in Benin was because we hit a paved road. Most roads here are dirt, and there was no border crossing. It was beautiful.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the people and cultures of Togo and having new experiences,” Goldfrank wrote. “It’s the second country in the world where the Peace Corps went back in 1962. It’s going to be great, being able to use my education to help a community. I know I will learn a lot, too.”

Just as he has learned from his past travels, Goldfrank is ready to embrace a new culture and its people. He said that in his experience, the regions or the world are all unique, although there are commonalities the world over, a fact that helps him settle in wherever he goes.


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