There and back: SDSU alum sets out to Africa, again

Hannah Baker

Heather Mangan travelled to Niger, Africa in July 2010 hoping for two years to make a difference as a member of the Peace Corps.

As proof that things do not always go as planned, Mangan was forced out of Africa after only six months when Al-Qaeda killed two French volunteers in Niger.

“It was so hard to leave when I felt like I was just starting to get into the swing of things,” she said.

Before leaving the United States for Niger, Mangan sold her car, phone, and almost anything else of value because these would be unnecessary while in


So when the unexpected happened, it left her in a cloud of doubt.

“I knew where my life was going to be for two years and it was taken away from me in only a few days time,” she said. “That was really scary … I came home in February and I was in a haze for two months just thinking ‘What am I going to do now?’”

She’s now getting a chance to finish what she started. After moving back to her hometown of Pierre to work as a reporter for the Capital Journal, Mangan said she could not shake off her experience and all she felt she had yet to accomplish. She needed to go back.

“I had my heart yanked out of me once, so people ask me why I would want to go back, but I have things I still want and need to do,” Mangan said. “I had my heart broken once and I would never want another experience taken from me again, but I can’t let that stop me.”

This time, Mangan will locate to Lesotho, a country Mangan said is about the size of Rhode Island.

Mangan will teach the English language to people as her main duty and educate young girls on the dangers of HIV and AIDS.

She will fly out to Lesotho on Oct. 14 to begin learning the native language before she can start her mission. She was able to speak French – a language she could partially speak – on her previous trip. However, this time she said she and around 32 other volunteers are beginning from scratch.

Besides learning a new language, she will have no running water, electricity or Internet access.

On the rare occasions when she has Internet access, Mangan said she will tap into her background as a journalist and spend this time blogging as a way to keep her friends and family back home up-to-date on her experiences until her set return in December 2013.

“For me it’s a big thing to record something while it’s happening. I’m not sure if the posts will be anything but memories for myself or if it’ll ever turn into something published, but I’ll enjoy looking back on it when this is all said and done.”

Although heading to a foreign land is nerve-wracking, especially considering her first experience, Mangan said she is in the perfect stage of her life to do another Peace Corps mission.

“One of hardest things about going back is I’ll be turning 27 years old right before I go and when I come back I’ll be close to 30 and you think of your timeline – the ‘Where do I want to be when I’m 30’ – and it’s scary,” she said. “I don’t want to look at 30 years down the road that I wish I would have done. I know this is what I want so I’m going after it.”

To stay current with Heather Mangan on her mission in Lesotho, read her blog at