Ep #026: Ven & Kelly Anderson, Tanzania 2014-2017
Ven and Kelly Anderson served as Education volunteers in a Tanzanian village situated at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. This alone would provide for amazing Peace Corps stories, but their story is made more interesting by the fact that they served as a married couple in their 40’s.
On this Episode:
- Serving in the Peace Corps as a married couple in their 40’s
- Living and working in Tanzania, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro
- First serving in Thailand as a volunteer and then serving again in Tanzania 20 years later
Photos from Ven & Kelly Anderson’s Story
Ven & Kelly Anderson’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
We served our first two years as Education volunteers in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. Ven taught math and I taught English at Boloti Secondary School which is a private Lutheran boarding school. Ven initiated a Permagarden Club and a number of study tours as well as a student service-learning project. I helped with the study tours, led an English Club, started a library, developed the Boloti Healthcare Club, used a grant to put all 400 boarding students in bed nets, painted three murals along with a couple of enthusiastic artists, and coached the scholarship-winning LEAD Team. Together, we attempted to bring a comprehensive teacher development program to the school.
We extended our service for a third year where we lived in Dar es Salaam and worked from the Peace Corps office as Volunteer Leaders. Ven worked with the training team to bring teaching best practices to the host country national Language and Culture Facilitators (LCFs) in order to improve their teaching skills. The LCFs, in turn, bring those skills back to the secondary schools where they are employed and model the skills that we want our volunteers to use with their communities. I directed previously underutilized social media platforms to highlight all the great work that our 200+ PCTZ Volunteers were doing, furthered my previous role as a warden by assisting the Safety & Security Team, developed an 11-week Resiliency Program to be used with the incoming Trainees during EST, and acted as the Volunteer Leader for the 2017 Education class.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Kelly: Working with my LEAD Team to bring them to a USAWA sponsored national conference to develop leadership skills.
Ven: Living in a rural, agricultural community and returning to a simpler existence, where I would purchase eggs, milk and vegetables from my neighbors.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
Kelly: The reliance of corporal punishment within the school system. It was incredibly difficult to witness the often brutal and hypocritical beating of children.
Ven: Likewise. What Kelly meant with the hypocritical beating of children is that some teachers thought it acceptable to go teach their class late or to skip their class if they had an acceptable reason. Yet, they punish students when the students don’t do their jobs or had lower scores on their exams. Teachers themselves lack professional training to do their jobs well.
What do you miss about the Peace Corps?
Kelly: The people. I really enjoyed working with the staff, especially the HCNs who always have warm, welcoming smiles. Moreover, my students. I am so glad that we live in era of PC where there is a better chance of staying in contact with them. Here’s an example of an email I got last week from Beatrice, a member of the LEAD team: “Hi sir. l hope your fine. lt’s me Beatrice. I miss you a lot now that your in USA. How is my lovely madam Ven doing? Can you please greet her for me. In 2018 January l am going to be in form 4. l am very happy. l am near to graduate. Do you know that l am General Secretary now. Thanks very much to you. You make me to be strong and a hero too. If it was not you l don’t know where l was going to be my lovely teacher. Thanks very much. You give me confidence to lead my fellow students”
Ven: I also miss working with my students and the Peace Corps staff, their curiosity about me, my opinions and what the United States is like.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
Kelly: Well, that is a tough one. I think the answer is going to continue to unfold over time. One thought that comes to mind is something that I probably already knew, but it really became more of a central theme working with my community, students, staff and other Volunteers; everyone’s struggle is real, unique and valid. I’m hoping to keep that at the forefront of my mind moving forward. Tanzanians really value greetings. This kind of drove me crazy at first since it can be repetitive and time-consuming. After a while, I came to appreciate it. My conclusion was that they are making sure everyone is acknowledged, seen and appreciated. Every child, every elder, every farmer and everyone. It’s a warming sentiment. Everyone is valid.
Ven: It’s really difficult to try “not” to affect change when something is against your moral beliefs, as is the case of corporal punishment. We could not interfere in the caning of students, so I/we had to learn how to deal with a situation that we couldn’t control, that was against our beliefs and also that was proven ineffective in child development.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
Kelly: “Mungu ni Mungu” God is God. Tanzania is half Muslim and half Christian. The key is that they really get along. Usually, if religion is brought up in conversation, people respond with Mungu ni Mungu. It’s all good.
I also really like the word “pole” which is used as an empathetic sorry or “bummer”. Back here in the states, I keep using it reflexively and no one knows what I am talking about.
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