Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tonganoxie grad to study in Tanzania

Youth to take Swahili classes at KU to prepare for study abroad in January 2009

July 23, 2008

Krista Jobst

Krista Jobst

On June 5, 1981 the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published the first account of a strange and new disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). According to the United Nations 2007 AIDS epidemic update, 33.2 million people across the globe are currently living with HIV/AIDS. More than 25 million have died of AIDS since the 1981 discovery.

So what does this mean?

The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS has been on the rise since 1981.

In 26 years, 25 million more people have contracted the disease and are living with it today. If they are not included in the 33.2 million who are living with HIV/AIDS, this is only because they have been re-categorized with the 25 million AIDS casualties.

In 1985 an organization called Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW) was founded in London, England. This non-governmental organization came about for one purpose, to fight HIV/AIDS where it was the most devastating: the heart of Africa. To do so, SPW began training and mobilizing young students from all across the world. Today, SPW has programs in many countries including Uganda, India, Sierra Leon, and Tanzania.

One of Tonganoxie High's graduating seniors, Krista Jobst, has decided to take a year off to be a part of this international youth development organization. Jobst will be traveling to Tanzania in January 2009 for an eight-month peer education program, targeting school-aged Tanzanians.

During the eight-month period Jobst will be educating youths about HIV/AIDS, because the main problem that affects Tanzania is either that Tanzanians don't know if they have HIV/AIDS or they just don't care if they have HIV/AIDS.

Jobst, unlike most THS 2008 graduates, will not be attending college in the fall semester. However, she will be working to obtain the funds that she needs to raise for her trip. Jobst has also made plans to attend a class for Swahili - the main language spoken in Tanzania - that is taught at KU.

She will be spending the following eight months living in a rural Tanzania community, working in partnership with a Tanzanian counterpart volunteer. Jobst said she liked SPW because "most organizations are not willing to put that kind of responsibility on the back of an 18-year-old, and I want responsibility."

The innovation of training young international volunteers like Jobst alongside local volunteers, and then placing them in communities to teach other young people has led to endorsement of SPW programs by the World Bank, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the governments of numerous countries.

For international volunteers, the attractions of the program are significant: learning new skills, many of which are attractive to prospective employers; using non-traditional education techniques such as drama, music and sports to make a difference in the lives of people in poorer countries; and, of course, making lifelong friends with people from a different culture.

The largest factor that intrigued Jobst was that she wanted to see how the rest of the world lives day to day.

"No one else in the world lives like we do in America. In third world countries there are no fast food restaurants, grocery stores or cars," Jobst said. "I just can't imagine what it's like to not have cell phones or TVs. It is definitely going to be a culture shock."

When Jobst goes to Tanzania she will be living in a completely different world than to the one she is accustomed. Jobst will have little contact with her friends and family. She only will be able to write letters because there is no electricity in the area she will be staying. Jobst will be to able use a computer once a month when she travels to a larger city, but she knows that helping others is more important than Facebook. She will have to make sacrifices, but she wants to help others who are in dire need.

"Young people in Tanzania are facing terrible threats to their health and environment that are so difficult to imagine from here in America," Jobst said. "In some of the communities I will be working in, 30 percent of the girls are living with HIV/AIDS. No families there have running water and very few have even a pit latrine."

The greatest challenge Jobst faces is to raise $6,500 to cover the costs of implementing projects in her community. As SPW is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations are tax-deductible and Jobst said they would be much appreciated. A little goes a long way - $20 provides books for a whole class.

Jobst will have a fundraiser Saturday, Sept. 13 at The Granada Theatre in Lawrence. She is playing host to an event called Collective Consciousness, with doors opening at 9 p.m. It will include DJ music by Kansas City radio station DJ C-Vaughn beginning at 10 p.m. DJ Ryan Epsey also will perform at the event, which will conclude at 2 a.m. Sept. 14.

Tickets will be available in advance within the next two weeks and at the door on Sept. 13 for $10 at www.thegranada.com, the Granada ticket window, 1020 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence, as well as from Jobst.

All proceeds go to Jobst's $6,500 donation to Students Partnership Worldwide.

By making a donation to Jobst's work, contributors can be sure that the money will directly benefit young Tanzanians, and Jobst said she would be happy to send a report to donators on her return. Anyone interested in supporting Jobst may contact her at (913) 908-0662.

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