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Krista Lestina: working in Tanzania and Jamaica

Krista Lestina grew up on a farm in Southern California, she graduated with a BA degree in history in 2003 from the California State Polytechnic University of Pomona and subsequently joined the US Peace Corps.

I was drawn to the Peace Corps because I wanted to do something different that would be meaningful to me and to others. I think there is a restlessness in me, an urge to travel and learn. I grew up as a 4-Her, which is an active non-profit youth group that emphasizes community service and individual development in various skills and disciplines such as cooking, sewing and landscaping. While in school I worked at a restaurant and then later as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic.

Community life at the missions

I have volunteered for two Peace Corps missions, one in Tanzania and the other in Jamaica. In 2003, i had just graduated and turned 21 when I left for my first mission in Tanzania in the southern highlands of the Iringa region. I worked in community based natural resource development. With my community we built a medical clinic, planted 8,000 trees, increased pig production, provided HIV/AIDS education and worked on various other projects. My village, Mtula, was very poor, and wealth could be determined by the number of bicycles that a family owned. The bicycle was so valuable that it cost four times the value of a full year’s tuition for secondary school. Bicycles were mostly used by the men while the women in the village had to brave a 15 km (9 mile) walk to the nearest town for a visit to the hospital when they were sick or pregnant.

The villagers grew beans and corn for food and carried their water from a spring which was far down in the valley. There was rarely enough cash to send a child to secondary school, especially the girls who were regarded as not having the same earning potential as boys. The wealthier people did not live in the village; they lived in towns or cities. No one in my village had a car. On occasion, when one of the Mtula folk was ill, the wealthier relatives in the towns would have to pay around US$8 to ferry them via taxi to the hospital in town.

After this mission, I came home and worked for a special events park for 9 months where I helped organize the Koroneburg Old World Renaissance Festival in Corona, California, I wanted to go to graduate school, but was not able to meet the applications deadlines so looking at the Peace Corps website I found they were looking for a poultry specialist in Jamaica and I jumped at the opportunity to work there.

My role was to monitor and evaluate the progress of small business broiler chicken rearing units built by FAO for ten beneficiaries in two different districts in Jamaica. While the group demographic consisted mostly of women, I was there to give assistance to the recipients of the project, monitor their progress and help them become successful business owners. During my time I was able to double the original efficiency of broiler production and suggest methods for further expansion. I primarily worked alone outside an office.

One of the most successful women in the project was Mitchell Sampson who built a second coop with two tiers. She constantly had about 600 to 800 chickens at a time. Although there was a lack of constant water supply Mitchell had strategically placed her coop at the bottom of the valley next to a river and used her 4x4 truck to ferry feed and product to and from the coop.

I visited each woman to talk and document their progress. During these visits, I would record the number of birds and we would talk about their progress and what could be done to help mediate a problem or solve it all together. My day would often start at 8am in the morning and finish at 1 or 3 pm.

Best moments

Quite often it rained so I would carry an umbrella and walk in the rain with my notebook and camera to take pictures. I enjoyed talking to the ladies and getting to know them. I would spend two hours talking to a woman before moving on to the next one. Maybe the best was when I talked to one for a while and we ate jack fruit that we had pulled from the tree and cut up. It was rather sticky.

A new perspective on Life

It has made me re-evaluate where I might like to take my career. I am more interested in a community service career. I find it very satisfying, and I am hoping for a position in international agriculture.

Krista Lestina joined the US peacecorps as a Volunteer in 2003

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