Frederick High School grad hopes to help in Tanzania

Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Jennifer Andrews (right), greets a friend from church, Alix Work, during a picnic on Saturday. Andrews will leave spend 27 months in Africa with the Peace Corps.

Three days before Jennifer Andrews embarked on her 27-month Peace Corps commitment in Tanzania, anxiety and sadness at saying goodbye to family and friends loomed just below the surface.

‘‘There’s going to be times when I’m going to be homesick and lonely,” she said. ‘‘I’ll get through it.”

Before she departed on Monday, the 2002 Frederick High School graduate was excited to take off and make her mark teaching secondary school math in the eastern African country.

Andrews, a new graduate of Holy Family University in Philadelphia, said she decided to join the Peace Corps after college to gain real world experience and to help others. She also wanted to take time off after graduation before she applied to medical school.

The 22-year-old said she wanted to accomplish many things while in Tanzania — learn the country’s culture and language, help others and learn about herself. Not a picky person, Andrews said she is willing to adjust her lifestyle while in Africa, even if it means computer access once a month and little electricity or running water.

‘‘If I have to learn how to carry water from a well, I want to learn how to carry it on my head,” she said.

Andrews attended an information session on the Peace Corps during her senior year of college and interviewed in March. After an intense medical evaluation she was accepted to the African program last month.

The first leg of her two-year journey is three months of training with other Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar Es Salaam. During training, Andrews will learn the basics of the country’s language and culture while living with a host family. She will also have an internship in a local school to prepare her for teaching; she will be paid a monthly stipend to take care of living expenses.

Her desire to volunteer in Africa comes from her interest in educating others about HIV⁄AIDS, she said. In addition to her teaching job, Andrews hopes to have a secondary after-school project educating local children about the disease.

Andrews recently volunteered during a two-week mission trip to India with her church where she worked on HIV⁄AIDS prevention and education. The experience in India, she said, was a small taste of what is to come.

Her lack of worry, she said, is a result of her strong Christian faith and trust in God. Strong faith is something Andrews shares with her mother, Debbie Wareham.

Wareham said she wasn’t worried about her daughter being so far away and noted that she was proud of her.

‘‘I think she would be perfect for it and she has the heart for it,” she said. ‘‘She likes to help people.”

Like her daughter, Wareham did her own volunteer work on a mission trip to the West Indies when she was younger. The oldest of four children, Andrews is disciplined, her mother said, and called her Peace Corps journey ‘‘admirable.”

The Peace Corps program in Tanzania started three years ago; more than 1,800 people have volunteered to teach science and math in secondary schools there since its start.