April 5, 2004 - LaPorte County Herald-Argus: Colleen Tennery learned to speak Jahankee while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: April 5, 2004 - LaPorte County Herald-Argus: Colleen Tennery learned to speak Jahankee while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal

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Colleen Tennery learned to speak Jahankee while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal

Colleen Tennery learned to speak Jahankee while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal

Colleen Tennery learned to speak Jahankee while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal

It changed her life
Indiana native's Peace Corps stint in Africa made her see things in a new way


By COLLEEN MAIR ó Staff Writer

Valparaiso University graduate Colleen Tennery is one of only 24,000 people in the world who can speak Jahankee.

The 26-year-old learned the African language while she served 2½ years in the Peace Corps, living in a small village in Senegal, West Africa, where she was assigned a host family.

There, she slept in a hut, used a bucket and a cup to bathe and ate rice in leaf or peanut sauce for every meal.

The Avon, Ind., native and 2001 Valparaiso University graduate returned home from the village in December.

With plans to attend law school this fall, Tennery wants to continue her humanitarian work by lobbying for a national health-care plan and legislation to make food aid more effective.

In a recent visit to Michigan City, she talked about her experiences.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?

A: Just having graduated with a political-science degree, I felt it was my responsibility, my duty and my obligation to join. It was the least I can do, and Iím more civic-minded because of it.

Q: What was it like living in the village?

A: Hot! Itís the third hottest inhabited place on earth, averaging between 98 and 99 degrees every day. You basically couldnít be out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The rainy season lasted three months, but the other nine months it was dry as a bone.

Q: What was your hut like?

A: It was made of sand, clay, concrete and water. My bed was a slab of concrete with a sponge on it with mosquito netting around it that was attached to the ceiling.

Q: What were your duties in the village?

A: I helped my family in the fields where they farmed cotton, corn, grain and peanuts, and I also worked in the (vegetable) garden that I helped to start. It was back-breaking work; I canít imagine that being my life.

Q: As a Peace Corps volunteer, what were some of your responsibilities?

A: I taught school, teaching the children French and about health and hygiene. As a health-care worker, I also taught the villagers about the dangers of malaria and how to administer vaccinations, and spoke with them about the AIDS epidemic.

Q: What did you miss the most while you were gone?

A: Friendships and relationships. It was really hard to relate to people who had to make such unfathomable choices.

Q: Was serving in the Peace Corps what you expected?

A: I wasnít able to make as big of an impact as I thought. Without the skills, language, experience or institutional support, youíre not able to get things done. I lived on a $150 stipend each month, which covered all of my living expenses, food and programs in the village.

In the end, it was an opportunity for a cultural exchange. I was able to get a greater sense of our humanity, at the same time realizing how hard it is in a different reality where survival is all that matters. It made me more conscious of my spending. I always think now in terms of what I can buy in Senegal.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Peace Corps, visit www.peacecorps.gov.




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Story Source: LaPorte County Herald-Argus

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal

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