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8

The South Dakotan

Most of my influence to join the Peace Corps came from friends

and USD community members. Specifically, Dr. Kim Grieve

[VP/dean of student services] was a huge influence. She has

been a role model and friend of mine. I remember when I first

found out about Tanzania she had so much insight to provide

for me! Also, Mary Pat Bierle [political science instructor]

probably doesn’t remember it, but my freshman year she said to

me “DJ, you are going to be a leader on this campus” and that

one statement pushed me to do the best in what I was passionate

about. Public service has always been huge for me. That

statement pushed me, not only at the university level

but afterwards.

My first few weeks in Tanzania with my host family I spent a

lot of time studying and trying to grasp the language. I looked at

my two little brothers and said, “Unanifundisha Kiswahili,” or

“You teach me Swahili” after failing several times to remember

a few words. One of my brothers looked at me and said, “Na

unanifundisha kiingariza” or “And you teach me English.” It was

just heartwarming that they would sit by me, for hours, as I tried

to learn this new language. Instead of being frustrated at my

pace, they were ready to learn from me just as much as they had

been teaching me. It was definitely one of my most memorable

moments so far in Tanzania.

The first two months I trained 8 a.m.–5 p.m. six days a week.

This training consisted of four days of language training. I’m

learning Kiswahili slowly, but after two months of training I

feel fairly comfortable. The other two days were technical work

learning about the health care needs of Tanzania and different

projects I could do. During these two months, I lived with my

host family which consisted of my Mama, Baba (father), Bibi

(grandmother), Dada wawili (two sisters), na Kaka watatu (three

brothers). They are incredibly patient and friendly people, and I

look forward to staying in touch with them in the future.

I am still learning how to be on my own in the village and

working with members in my community. After my first three

months at site (in July 2015) I will be able to start writing grants

and creating projects in my community. I am really excited to

start a Zinduka project, which combines sports and education

to teach about HIV/AIDS. The classroom setting in Tanzania

is very formal, and doing something like combining soccer with

education is great for the kids.

I am currently a health volunteer in Tanzania, stationed in

the region of Iringa. My primary work is to focus on HIV/

AIDS, malaria and food and water security. Right now, and for

the next three months, I will be working extensively with my

community to determine the needs and where as a team we can

focus on sustainable development in those areas. Past volunteers

in my village have created water wells or done animal husbandry

projects, such as the last volunteer, who received 17 milk goats

for people in the community with HIV/AIDS.

Tanzania is a beautiful country with the friendliest people.

They are eager to be a part of the Peace Corps program just as

much as volunteers are eager to be a part of the community.

I love that I was invited as a health volunteer. I expected to

be education, as my health background is not as broad as my

English background, but it has been nothing short of fantastic

every step of the way.

After I serve my two years, I am considering extending for a

third year. When done with that I would love to get my Master

of Public Policy or Public Administration (or both) and then do

some government or public service work.

Being far from home is a challenge. My family and friends

have been my biggest supporters for as long as I can remember.

Having to start over and create those ties again is much more

difficult in a new environment. The language is a challenge, but

one I look forward to every day. Cooking for myself after living

on USD’s campus for four years has also been a challenge. Every

challenge is an opportunity that I look forward to. Challenges

help you grow as a person!

“Being a volunteer has solidified

my passion for public service.”

On average, 200 USD students study abroad each year

through the Center for Academic & Global Engagement

(CAGE), including global internships programs, international

AWOL (service learning) and Faculty Led Programs (FLPs).

DJ Smith ’14

TANZANIA

Dennis (DJ) Smith graduated from USD

in 2014 with a bachelor of science in

political science and English. The Mitchell, S.D.,

native has called Tanzania home since February 2015.