Finding Lifetime Connections During a Life-Changing Adventure
Peace Corps Volunteers found a common thread through their sorority and have supported one another throughout their journey.
Peace Corps South Africa Volunteers Jacquita Johnson, Darnesha Tabor and Nikki Parram -- all members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. -- share how they connected during staging and training and have been leaning on each other for support during their Peace Corps experience.
Public service has been a passion of mine throughout my life. As a teenager, I volunteered in my local community of St. Louis, Mo., and when I arrived at the University of Missouri-Columbia, my involvement in service grew further on campus and within the local community.
During my sophomore year, I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Psi Chapter. Delta gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and one summer, I [volunteered] in the Dominican Republic.
No one in my family has ever left the country and I learned so much during my time there. It was there that I realized that serving in a different country allows you to gain skills and a perspective that cannot be gained domestically. I also realized that the black community expanded beyond the borders of the United States.
I had heard of the Peace Corps when I was teenager but serving internationally for two years didn't seem like something that could be a reality for me due to family and financial obligations, and the fact that my family was not fond of the idea. I credit Delta for planting the seed in me, to have courage in the face of uncertainty. I believe that serving in the Peace Corps will contribute greatly to my constructive development and as a child of the Africa Diaspora, I want to serve the black community on the continent of Africa.
My relationship with Jacquita began prior to our arrival in our host country of South Africa. Leaving everything I knew to serve in different country, with a different culture, for two years was a little scary for me and I knew I was going to need support from my peers. Prior to my departure, I joined several Facebook groups of Volunteers and my cohort's Facebook group full of eager soon-to-be trainees, which is where I initially met Jacquita.
As black women from similar regions of the U.S., we shared a connection and after we found out that we were sorority sisters with some of the same interests and passions, our relationship continued to flourish. When we finally met during staging, we just "clicked" and she has become my friend and a huge part of my support system. I'm sure that our friendship will continue to flourish throughout our service.
Darnesha and I connected on
Facebook after realizing that we were both a part of the same departure group.
We slowly began to build a relationship and found out that we are sorority sisters!
That immediately made our connection stronger.
Upon landing in South Africa, we continued to build an organic relationship and confide in each other about a number of things in our service and in life. Things aren't always serious with us though; we participated in a talent show by highlighting the history of our organization and a small sorority performance. Darnesha is truly someone I can lean on and I look forward to our journey together over the next two years.
I met Darnesha and Jacquita a little over a month ago, just about a week after they arrived to their host community. Having been in country for over a year and serving as a black, Christian, slightly older female, I was invited by our Diversity Committee to be part of a panelist group that hosted a session with the new trainees. Two of the Volunteers that were part of the training personnel sent me messages in advance informing me that two of the new trainees in country were members of our wonderful sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.. I made it a point to seek out Darnesha and Jacquita during our brief time there that day.
I have since gone back to their training site for another session with my own committee, Peer Support Alliance. This time, I had a more time to interact. I shared my support for their of pre-serving training “process” and reaffirmed they could reach out to me any time as a sorority sister, Peer Support Member or just as Volunteer that's traveled that path they are now trekking – the struggle is real.
As a member of Delta Sigma Theta, I was able to develop my passion for health through the physical and mental health aspect of our Five-Point Programmatic Thrust. Operating under this pillar, I was able to coordinate an HIV/AIDS program where more than 30 students were tested on site by a local organization, further igniting my passion to address a disease that disproportionately affects African Americans.
The Peace Corps is a great organization to align with Delta. Both of the organizations’ missions are to address the needs of communities and as a Volunteer, I will utilize my network of sisters willing to aid in the development of my host community. Whether that be sorority sisters in the states holding a book drive on the collegiate level or collecting hygiene products on the alumnae level, sorority sisters are always ready to assist. I don't take my membership in Delta Sigma Theta lightly and I'm glad I can utilize it to sustain the work that we've been doing for over a century to contribute to the outstanding legacy of the Peace Corps.