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Federal Way teen headed to Zambia to help educate tribes

Nicole Hofmann, 17, will leave for a summer-long mission trip to Zambia, in southern Africa, on June 19. While there she will travel from tribe to tribe via motorbike, helping the Zambians learn better English while assisting them with local projects. - Jacinda Howard/ The Mirror
Nicole Hofmann, 17, will leave for a summer-long mission trip to Zambia, in southern Africa, on June 19. While there she will travel from tribe to tribe via motorbike, helping the Zambians learn better English while assisting them with local projects.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/ The Mirror

Summer 2008 will be legendary for a Federal Way teen who will venture to Africa.

Nicole Hofmann, 17, celebrated the last day of her junior year at Decatur High School on June 13. A summer full of opportunity and adventure awaits her. Hofmann will leave Federal Way for a mission trip to Zambia, Southern Africa, on June 19.

“I heard about it and couldn’t be one of those apathetic people that just went on with their lives,” Hofmann said.

While Hofmann’s classmates look forward to warm weather and lazy afternoons, she is eager to begin educating children and traveling from tribe to tribe.

For the next two months, Hofmann will give up the luxuries of life, such as espresso and her bed, to live meagerly. She will be part of a 12-person team united through Florida-based Teen Missions International. Ten of the team members are teenagers.

“I’ve always had a heart for people,” Hofmann said. “This trip has never been about me.”

Hofmann will teach the tribes’ children to speak better English and will educate them in other areas, she said.

Teens are taught construction skills, evangelism, teamwork and discipline before they go on their overseas mission trip, according to the Teen Missions International Web site, http://teenmissions.org. While in Zambia, Hofmann may work on projects with the tribes, or help construct or renovate schools and churches, according to the site.

Until this past January, when Hofmann decided she would expand her horizons and visit Africa, she did not know anything about the country where she will spend her summer vacation. The past few months have given her time to learn about it.

The majority of Zambia’s population lives in poverty. The primary language is English. Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, is located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The country will be experiencing its winter season when Hofmann arrives. Also, monkeys are native to Zambia.

“I’m not supposed to go near the monkeys,” Hofmann said. “They don’t like women.”

Because Zambia primarily has unpaved roads, the mission group will ride motorbikes. Hofmann has never driven a motorcycle. She will attend a sort of boot camp before her trip to learn the basics about educating youth and riding the off-road vehicles.

“I’ve wanted to ride one since the third grade,” she said.

She and her teammates will carry their belongings with them and were encouraged to pack items they will not mind leaving behind for the children. She plans to leave her bedding at the least. Though Hofmann is a Christian, she did not choose to go on the trip solely to spread her religion, she said.

“My main goal is to help people, not preach at them,” Hofmann said.

Many of her peers are happy she is going to another county, but some do not feel such a trip would be beneficial to them, she said. Most adults that hear about Hofmann’s upcoming adventures are amazed at her unselfishness. Her parents are not surprised by her sense of adventure.

As young adults, both her mother and father traveled overseas as part of mission groups, Hofmann said. They both left the day they graduated high school. Her mother journeyed with Teen Missions to Papua New Guinea, on the island of New Guinea in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, and her dad journeyed to Mexico, Hofmann said.

Though her parents are divorced, Hofmann’s parents instilled in her an appreciation for culture and diversity, she said. Her dad eats all sorts of ethnic foods and she refers to both parents as hippie-like.

“It’s made me realize Federal Way is not the center of the universe,” Hofmann said.

Hofmann hopes her adventures will inspire other young people to explore the world, help others — and live and learn before their youth escapes them.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com

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