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Feeling at home in Jamaica

PCV Mya Lowe in front of two flags

Mya Lowe, an Agriculture Volunteer serving in Jamaica, can’t stop smiling. She’s having too much fun connecting with her community and supporting local farmers.

Mya works with a farmers' group and supports the Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihood Initiative Project (SALI). The goal of the project is to establish sustainable livelihoods for community members while enhancing their capacity to withstand environmental shocks and stresses. She works on five separate farms and says the experience has been amazing. Mya is on a farm three days a week, planting, weeding, reaping, and clearing land with various tools. She’s learned a lot about farming during her time in service and shares what her experience has been like since arriving in Jamaica in March of 2023.

1) Can you share your motivation for joining the Peace Corps and how your identity influenced your decision to volunteer?

During the first semester of my junior year in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn't until my resident assistant (RA) supervisor asked me what I wanted to do after college, and I genuinely didn't have an answer for her. I was majoring in something I had no interest in. I told her that I would love to travel the world and help people. She asked me if I knew anything about AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, and I had no clue what she was talking about. So, I did my research on both organizations and I fell in love with Peace Corps. It was everything I wanted to do in life. A month later, I started my application process.

I want to think that my identity is a person who is just curious about all there is to know about this world, specifically the nature side of things. Life experiences are what make a person. I believe the more open and inviting you are to life's differences and changes, the more you will grow as a person. That's what influenced my decision to become a Volunteer.

PCV mya Lowe in a garden
Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteer Mya Lowe works with a farmers' group and supports the Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihood Initiative Project (SALI).

2) In what ways has your experience as a Black Peace Corps Volunteer been unique, and how have you navigated cultural differences and perceptions during your service? If so, what are some examples?

Being a Black Volunteer in Jamaica is unique because I blend in with the people here. A lot of people don't know I'm a foreigner until I open my mouth and speak. I grew up in a predominantly Black environment, so Jamaica feels like a second home to me.

3) What strategies have you found effective in building meaningful connections and trust with the local community, considering cultural nuances and, if applicable, any language barriers?

The No. 1 strategy that I've found effective in building meaningful connections in my community is being my happy, silly self. I always have a big smile on my face. Even if someone isn't smiling when I see them, I'll still smile and speak to them and that may cause them to smile also. When I use my Patois language skills to talk to local community members, they often smile or chuckle. Doing these small things not only helps me build connections but also helps me build a level of trust.

4) How do you envision leveraging your Peace Corps experience and insights as a Black Volunteer upon returning to your home community?

When I return home, my goal is to use everything that I've learned here and give back to my community. Hopefully, sometime in the future, I dream of opening an organic juice bar. All the fruits and veggies will be from the farm I'll build. This farm will also be open to anyone curious about farming and any support they may need if they want to take on farming themselves. It'll just be a place where you can relax, have an inexpensive juice from the farm, and receive support in anything you may want or need.