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Kajol G.

“Peace Corps service gives you two full years of time for yourself – to rediscover your hobbies, refresh your mindfulness, and refocus on your present moments. It has given me the time and space for unmatched personal growth.”

Headshot of Kajol G

1. What got you interested in Peace Corps?

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt of having a career at the intersection of finance and social impact. During my undergraduate education I majored in finance and during my three years in management consulting, I felt I gave adequate attention to the business side of my goals. Joining the Peace Corps and committing to two years of service in the Community Economic Development sector is my way dedicating myself to the social impact side of my aspirations.

While there are many programs that would allow me to gain social impact experience, I was particularly attracted to the Peace Corps for its emphasis on cultural integration and creating mutually beneficial relationships. I am here in Peace Corps to not only serve my organization, but to also learn and gain perspectives that will shape my personal and professional lives.

2. What projects are you working on with your community?

My primary assignment is working with a women’s empowerment social enterprise that was founded with the purpose of giving rural women in Namibia the opportunity to generate a self-sustaining income for themselves and their families. I help optimize their income-generating activities to ensure they maintain financial sustainability. Our end goal is to earn annual profits, and to reinvest 100 percent of those profits in the team.

As a secondary project, I started a women’s fitness club at my site. We run or walk together daily in the evenings to promote healthy living and team bonding.

Volunteer Kajol G. teaching business skills in Namibia
Volunteer Kajol G. teaches business skills with Kauna.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

My keys to integration have been the following:

  • Focus on human similarities while embracing cultural differences.
  • Be open and say yes to more things, but also know when to say no and how to draw respectful boundaries.
  • Ask questions and show genuine interest in other people’s stories. Share your story and let people genuinely know your most authentic self.
  • Bake cookies; most people like cookies.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

My favorite part about Peace Corps service is the time it gives you away from all the distractions and superficialities of life back at home in the States. During service, none of my energy is consumed with comparing myself to others or bothering with weekend plans and constant outings. Peace Corps service gives you two full years of time for yourself—to rediscover your hobbies, refresh your mindfulness, and refocus on your present moments. It has given me the time and space for unmatched personal growth, which has been the biggest highlight.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

Ubuntu means “I am because you are.” It is an ancient Bantu word that encompasses a mindset of my Namibian community, where kindness, care, and love for your neighbor come as second nature. Coming from the Northeast in the States, I feel I was programmed to live an individualistic and self-interested life. I loved coming to Namibia and embracing the collectivist culture. I know I will take these values home with me and live a life in the States that incorporates perspectives from multiple cultures.

6. What are some of the most important things you've learned from your community?

From my community, I learn something daily. Some of my most meaningful lessons are:

  • I’ve learned how to start a fire from scratch and how to change a flat tire.
  • I’ve learned to redefine the value I place on body image and unlearn that fat is an undesirable part of our bodies.
  • I’ve learned the power of saying hello and recognizing someone’s presence in a room.
Namibian Sunset
Sunset from Kajol's home in Namibia.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

When I am not working on a project, I am usually cooking, embroidering, writing, or appreciating the beautiful Namibian sunsets.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

During my last year in Namibia, my only priority is spending time with my "Namily" (Namibian family). I know I will miss this time together all too much, when I go back home to the States, so I am soaking it all in while I can.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

When my Peace Corps service is complete and I’m settled back at home in the States, I’m curious to see which behavioral changes stick and which revert. One change that I will actively try to maintain, is cooking and eating homemade meals as frequently as possible. In the States, it is easy to rely on fast food or quick supermarket meals. We do not have that luxury during Peace Corps service, and it has been the greatest blessing to see the health benefits of reducing my processed food intake. In the States, I hope to eat out significantly less than I previously did and cook almost as much as I do here in Namibia currently.