About Me

I am a 22 year old college graduate, born and raised in Iowa.  I majored in Political Science and Spanish, with a minor in Environmental Studies.  While in college I studied abroad in Mexico, which heightened my global awareness and ultimately prepared me to serve with Peace Corps.  I am serving as a Resource Specialist in the Education sector in South Africa.  This title is an indirect way to Peace Corps saying they have no idea what I will do.

I spent the first two years of my service working in a very rural, very isolated village in the North West province, on the border of the Kalahari Desert.  I spent a few terms attempting to co-teach English to Grades 5 and 6, until I realized that I really, really do not like being a teacher.  It’s a great job for some people (like my sister), but NOT for me.  So I began to focus on a new passion of mine: food security through small-scale gardening.  I taught garden lessons to the kids at my school, especially the Grade R (kindergarten) and facilitated a Garden Club with Grades 4, 5, and 6.  I also worked with volunteers from the community who tended the school’s garden, and training people in the village on setting up sustainable home gardens.  Through two years of work, my counterpart and I helped to expand the school’s garden into a truly income-generating project which also supplied food to our needy learners, and saw the creation of at least 10 home permagardens.  We brought permaculture to the Kalahari Desert, and helped very needy people find better ways of growing their own food.  Food security at its best.

I chose to extend as a PCV in South Africa for a third year, and in late May, I packed my bags and moved across the country.  From the Kalahari Desert, I landed in one of lushest parts of the country, the lowveld area of Limpopo, which happens to be the heart of mango, banana, avocado, and citrus production.  I am surrounded by trees, mountains, fruit, and Shangaan speaking people.  I am spending my third year working with the Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust/Xitsavi Youth Project in a village near Tzaneen.  I will be working to teach literacy through SOUNS to the preschool children, starting a garden club with the afterschool care programme, working to implement permaculture at the Mswazi Dam farm, helping HIV positive mothers start income generating gardens at the centre, working with the Fit for Life Fit for Work programme, and training people in the community about starting home permagardens that are extremely water efficient.

This blog is a way for me to share my Peace Corps experience, and archive my life as a PC volunteer.  The next two three years will be an adventure, and I invite you to follow along.  If you would like to contact me, my email is jenpcv (at) gmail (dot) com.

-Jen

8 thoughts on “About Me

    • A few things prompted me to join Peace Corps. As I was applying, I was interning in DC, actually around the block from PC. Motivation! Ultimately I decided to join because of a mix of learning about development for 4 years and wanting to “do” something, a sense of adventure, some gentle nudging from God, a love of language and different cultures. and apparently an unknown desire to kill many spiders and eat every single part of various goats.

  1. Hello Jen,

    Greetings from Asheville, North Carolina. I’m the tall (think freakishly tall!) guy you chatted with at the airport in Doha Quatar several weeks ago, before we headed off in very different directions. Nepal was a true ‘life experience’. Never saw such hard-working, yet poor, people. They really won everybody over. Presumably, it is all about geography in their case. Wow, the Himalayas had me on my heels the whole way. I made it to 18,000, which is an altitude I will probably never exceed. The stuff I had always read about ‘the wall’ that mountaineers hit at high elevations was dead on. I didn’t actually think I was going to die up there, but knew it was a real possibility.

    But enough of that. PCV’s like yourself stick your necks out each and every day facing the utmost realities. Honestly, it’s very impressive. I enjoyed reading your blog; I had gathered that you were a woman of faith which is refreshing. I’ve been around Europeans most of the last several months and that trendy secularism, bordering on cynicism, wears thin after a while. Good for you for being stand up about it.

    Will be interested to see how it plays out for you and what career you pursue upon completon of your service.

    All the best,

    Bill Walker http://www.skyalker-pct.com

  2. I just started to read your blog from the bottom up as I am also joining the Peace Corps and going to SA in Janurary. I have already bought the radio you did and plan on using your info to enhance my own experience. I just wanted to say thank you. -Andy

    • Congrats! Have you found the SA29 facebook group? There’s some fellow members of your cohort, plus some current volunteers, and it’s a great place for advice! If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at jenpcv (at) gmail (dot) com.

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