Wednesday, July 26, 2006
OU alumna completes Peace Corps serviceBy Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Angela Jones, CAS ’02, has felt the desire to give back to the community from a young age — something instilled in her by her mom, who was involved in many volunteer activities in the ‘60s. At age 13, Jones started volunteering for Detroit Summer, a youth movement to rebuild and redefine Detroit. After college, she decided to volunteer on a global level. She joined the Peace Corps and lived in Peru for two years serving as a youth development volunteer. She returned home in June and is already looking for her next volunteer opportunity.
After graduating with a degree in communications, Jones began working for Citywide Poets, performing her work and coaching youth in developing poetry.
“I starved a little but I loved what I was doing,” said Jones.
Heavily active as a student at OU, the need to be more involved resurfaced and Jones began to explore the Peace Corps. After three months of training and learning some Spanish, Jones started her service in Trujillo, Peru, a coastal city she compares to Detroit. Her host family — a mom, dad and three kids, were welcoming and helped her adjust to being away from home.
“The mom stayed home during the day. She loved to talk and that’s what I needed as a new-comer,” said Jones. “She filled me in on community gossip, normal activities and really gave me a sense of the community.”
With modern conveniences and a major city close by, Jones said living in Trujillo was an easy adjustment. However during her second year, Jones lives in Huaraz, a mountain community with no running water or heat, and it was more difficult to get used to.
Her host family in the mountains was more reserved and took more time to warm up to her — but she said she built a strong relationship with each member. The mother had passed away and the oldest sister did the housework and cared for her four younger siblings while her father worked on the farm.
“The oldest sister really became my best friend,” said Jones. “She taught me how to knit and cook on a woodstove.”
Jones’ main duties in Peru were to work with the youth and help them become more involved in the community. She used role playing games, poetry and skits to promote activism. She also spent time teaching English to adults and children.
In addition to experiencing many cultures in Peru, Jones also had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador to attend the America Social Forum, a regional version of the World Social Forum. She also spent time in Brazil for the annual Carnival celebration.
While in Peru, Jones saw another need — the need for support of African-American volunteers serving in the Peace Corps. So she took action developing the Association of Black Volunteers.
“I developed the Association of Black Volunteers for African-American volunteers from the United States who feel they need a lot of support being a minority in their own country as well as in their host country,” said Jones.
The association members went on trips to African-Peruvian cities, talked to mayors and learned about the black culture in Peru.
“We used it as an opportunity to heal and educate ourselves,” said Jones. The organization will continue under the direction of new volunteer leaders.
After two years of being away from home, Jones said it was bittersweet when her service ended, but she keeps in touch with the volunteer friends she met and her host families. Jones said she was happy to get back to some of the things she never thought she would miss.
“I really missed chocolate shakes and going to the movies with my sister,” said Jones.
While in Peru, Jones spent time writing poetry and creative non-fiction, which has helped her get to the next phase of her life. This fall, she will begin studying creative non-fiction at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She has already started applying for nonprofit jobs in New York.
Jones’ goal is to work at the grassroots level — hopefully in Detroit.
“This is my home and this is where I want to build a life for myself,” said Jones.