PRINCETON — Daily rains, long bikes rides and learning about diseases not common to her homeland are part of life now for Joy Storm of Princeton, a Peace Corps volunteer.
A 2002 Princeton High School graduate, Storm is now living in the African country of Kenya, more than 8,000 miles from her hometown. Arriving in Kenya in June, Storm spent 10 weeks in intense language, technical and cross-culture training before being sworn into the Peace Corps as a volunteer during a ceremony at the American Embassy. Following the ceremony, Storm and 47 other Peace Corps volunteers were sent to their respective sites, which for Storm, was the community of Kemelewa.
In a recent e-mail to the Bureau County Republican, Storm described Kemelewa as a very small community in the middle of nowhere. She lives in a good-sized apartment, even though there were some initial issues like broken windows and locks. The apartment is across from the community’s primary health care facility and part of staff housing.
Storm, who has a bachelor’s degree in science of nursing from the University of Iowa, is working on her master’s degree in public health through George Washington University. Upon completing her Peace Corps practicum, Storm will then make a final presentation at George Washington University to finish her master’s degree requirements.
Along with wanting to get her master’s degree, Storm said she joined the Peace Corps because she wanted to see health care in another country.
“This program combined both of them and was perfect,” Storm said. “I have always wanted to do international work, and the Peace Corps has always been a very highly respected international volunteer organization.”
For her first three months on site, Storm worked on a Community Needs Assessment through formal and informal interviews, focus groups and meetings with community leaders. After that work is completed, Storm will make a written presentation to community leaders and work with them to prioritize community’s health needs and develop a plan to meet those needs. Her job is to facilitate and be a link between the community and the available resources, such as donors, education and equipment resources, Storm said.
“All the work will come from the community because if the community is involved, the change will be more sustainable,” Storm said. “Once I leave, I want the community to be better than when I came and can function better by themselves.”
As part of her work, Storm has also helped at the local medical clinic, registering patients, weighing babies and mothers, and taking blood pressures.
In time, once areas of need are detailed, Storm said she may contact her hometown community about possibly helping to meet some of those needs, like providing sports balls and equipment, even uniforms.
To help family and friends follow her life in Kenya, Storm has also established a blog at http://joyks83.blogspot.com.
In an early blog, Storm said one thing she would have to get used to is the 30-minute bike rides, uphill, back to her apartment.
“Over the last two weeks, I have seen myself improve, but I am still out of breath once I arrive at the top,” Storm said. “I have also gotten caught in the rain three times so far because it rains almost everyday. Good thing I brought rain boots from home; they have come in handy.”
Everyday life in Kenya has gotten better since she got Internet, electricity and her doors and windows fixed, Storm said. Some plumbing work, painting and ceiling work still needs to get completed, but it’s coming along. She plays volleyball with neighborhood girls, using a small ball and Storm’s clothesline as the net. She catches rainwater to do her laundry.
The Kemelewa leaders seem excited to have her there, Storm said. Through her house-to-house interviews, she has been able to see the needs of the community which has opened her eyes to the difference in lifestyles between the United States and Kenya.
“Like in the U.S., there are homes in poverty and other better-off families in the same village,” Storm said. “However I think this is more dramatic in Kenya. Also I have seen the disease that we only talk about in the United States, such as elphantitis, jiggers and severe malnutrition.”
Living in Kenya and seeing the health needs there has been humbling to say the least, Storm said.
“However I am excited to try to better the lives in the village and community I will be serving,” she said.
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