From Mukilteo to Africa, with love

Norene Hogle likes peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but hasn’t had one in awhile. She had her fill of them in Tanzania.

She recently returned from a two-month stay in the central African nation, where she volunteered at an orphanage. Breakfasts and lunches there were those sandwiches.

Hogle will turn 80 this month. A retired teacher, the Mukilteo woman doesn’t just like to travel. She likes to help.

“I was a teacher for 31 years,” said Hogle, a widow with two grown sons.

She taught in her native Ohio and with U.S. Air Force schools. She met her husband, DeWitt Hogle, while teaching in England. They raised their sons in Mountain View, Calif.

When their boys were young, they spent a year in American Samoa. Hogle, who retired in 1991, moved to Snohomish County after her sons settled here. In retirement, she lost neither her wanderlust nor the desire to be a teacher.

So in 2009, she signed on with WorldTeach. Founded by Harvard University students in the 1980s, the nonprofit organization sends volunteer teachers to developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Pacific.

Giving up the comforts of her Harbour Pointe townhouse for a year, Hogle spent 2009 in Namibia. She taught English and natural science to fifth- through seventh-graders at Heroes Private School in a community called Ondangwa.

Namibia, once South West Africa, is a sparsely populated country of vast deserts.

“The seasons there are reversed. It was hot in November — 95 to 100 degrees,” said Hogle, who was 77 when she went to Namibia.

She didn’t know what to expect. To join WorldTeach, she was interviewed in Seattle. For the year, she paid $6,000 to participate. That covered transportation, training and housing. She received a $250 monthly stipend in Namibia, and bought her own food.

Having spent her career teaching kindergarten through fourth grade, older kids — especially energetic boys — were a change and a challenge. Hogle was promised a room, but ended up with an entire apartment to herself. Other teachers were from Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Philippines.

Her greatest hardship was unforeseen. While in Namibia, Hogle fell and broke a kneecap. Even with her leg in a cast, she missed just eight days of school all year.

Hogle wrote a book about her Namibian experiences.

“Are You Feeling a Little Finer, Miss Norene?” tells of large classes where children had no textbooks. “I had to write everything on the chalkboard for them to copy,” she wrote. There was little interaction between students and teachers in the way we see in elementary schools here.

She had piles of copy books to mark and return each day. “I did have a vision that in a dream sometime I might be suffocating in a sea of copy books,” Hogle wrote.

She remembers days of thunder and lightning storms. In Namibia, there were spiders on her walls and ceilings, lizards on her window sills, and a huge garbage dump outside town. She’ll never forget a question she heard almost daily: “Can you borrow me a pen, Miss Norene?”

Writing about Africa wasn’t enough. Hogle wanted to go back. But when she checked in with WorldTeach, she learned the agency had a new age limit on service. Participants must be under 75 when they begin the program.

Undeterred, she found another agency, Texas-based Global Crossroad. It’s a volunteer vacation organization that sends travelers all over the world to help others. Hogle left this summer for two months in Tanzania. The trip cost her $1,500. She stayed in hostel-style housing.

Hogle worked at the Upendo Orphanage in the Tanzanian town of Moshi. She held and fed babies, chased toddlers and taught preschool, and helped out at a nearby school. The orphanage is run by Catholic nuns.

Some of the children had lost parents to AIDS, Hogle said, but many of the home’s 50 or 60 babies and children had just been abandoned.

The town of Moshi is a destination for travelers who come to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Hogle did not climb the mountain. Instead, she brought home indelible memories — of people.

Sharing a picture of one child from the orphanage, she said, “I loved this little boy.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,

Learn more

Norene Hogle’s book “Are You Feeling a Little Finer, Miss Norene?” is about her year teaching in Namibia. It’s available at or

WorldTeach information:

Global Crossroad information:

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