After living in Vietnam and a stint in the U.S. Peace Corps, Freya is helping children in New Orleans. “I think empathy is the most critical life skill.”
Name: Freya Hoffman-Terry
Birth place: York, Maine (United States)
Occupation: Chief Operating Officer/Program Manager at A’s & Aces, a non-profit youth development organization in New Orleans providing literacy and academic support, life skills and tennis instruction to children.
Languages: English, Cebuano (dialect spoken in the Visayas region of the Philippines)
Currently reading: “Go Set a Watchman,” by Harper Lee
What is your most memorable international experience?
During college, I studied abroad in Vietnam. I was amazed by the complexity of people’s views towards Americans and the kindness shown towards me on a daily basis.
I learned that the majority of the country was born after the war with the United States and consider America more an economically important ally than a hated enemy.
One experience that stands out was visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels where during the war with the U.S., Viet Cong families hid underground during the day, emerging above ground only at night to farm their food, fight and retreat underground. This glimpse of how war affected their everyday life made a big impression on me.
My experience abroad inspired me to join the U.S. Peace Corps to learn and contribute more towards global reconciliation through cross-cultural exchanges.
How did you become interested in international affairs?
I was raised in a family that enjoyed discussing politics and international affairs.
As a little girl, my grandmother took me to a peace vigil organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It seemed very important, and while I didn’t grasp what had happened in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, I did understand that we were expressing a human connection with people living far away.
I think empathy is the most critical life skill that needs to be developed to help engage a younger generation of global citizens.
What international issue is of greatest interest to you today? Why?
I live in New Orleans and work to offer enrichment opportunities to students in this culturally rich but economically stratified city.
President Obama recently visited to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the floods that nearly destroyed the city.
As one looks closely at who returned to the city and who has benefited most since the flood, it becomes painfully apparent that the power structures in place have maintained two unequal recoveries and that we have a long way to go in realizing our full potential as a global leader in democracy.
I think the way in which we handle the disparity in access to quality, well rounded education, job opportunities and criminal justice in America will determine our meaningful success as a global leader.