My name is Christi Jele, better known as Jelly to all of my friends, which each of you will shortly be. I was born and raised Colorado but I currently am living in the self proclaimed ‘Greatest City in America’ – Baltimore, Maryland. I am a student at John Hopkins University and am pursuing my second degree and masters degree in nursing and community health. When I’m not studying about various diseases, I volunteer for two local community centers; the first, the Julie Community Center works with many of the local elementary schools doing after school programs and the second, Bienestar Baltimore, where I am in charge of tuberculosis testing program for the Latino population of Baltimore. I also am trained as a doula (a birth companion), which means I get to assist and educate local women throughout their pregnancies and birth. And when I’m not doing all of that, I really enjoy playing tennis, hiking, sewing/knitting, gardening, traveling to far off places, building things out of old recycled things and trying new hair styles as often as possible.
I received my first degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado-Boulder. While at CU I had the opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in Wollongong, Australia in 2003. I had such an amazing experience living with four of the most amazing Aussie girls, volunteering for various organizations in Wollongong, traveling around the Outback and learning about Aboriginal culture that I decided I had to find another way to travel more. But I didn’t just want to travel; I desired to live with the people, to learn their culture and customs, to eat their food, to give back to the community. So I decided to apply to the Peace Corps. I was given the opportunity to serve as a Maternal and Child Health Volunteer in southern Morocco during 2005-2007. In my small village of Ait Ridi I was able to assist my community in writing a Peace Corps Partnership grant for the building of a women’s center, assisted in workshops aimed at educating local associations on sustainable development and AIDS/HIV education, presented health lessons, organized Traditional Birth Attendant training for seven rural midwives funded by USAID and developed and implemented Medical Waste Incinerator programs for four rural hospitals. I also got to teach an English class for girls and coached a tennis camp for elementary and middle schoolers. Through out my two years in Ait Ridi, I had the opportunity to witness first hand the generosity and compassion Moroccans have. I was accepted into their community and cared for like a daughter. I was able to learn Tamazight, a local Berber language, which helped me communicate with the men and women of the area, many of whom had never before met an American. I’m hoping to teach each of you a bit of Tamazight. But more importantly, my time in Morocco taught me patience and never to judge, empowered me and gave me self confidence, humbled me and allowed me to grow as an individual.
Post Peace Corps, I worked as a Health Clinic Assistant in Colorado, where I got to work with teens on a daily basis and was able to provide health education to each of them. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Haiti in December of 2008, where I and a group of nursing students assisted at a rural clinic. I am EMT-Basic certified and will shortly be certified as a Wilderness First Responder. This will be my first year leading a trip for WTBD but I’m so excited, and you should know that my first goal is to be present in each moment; Morocco is a crazy, hectic country and yet at times it can be so calm and still, but regardless, my goal is to realize how wonderful the moments are. My second goal is to connect with each of you; I really want to know you as a person, know where you have come from and where you want to go. I will be there to listen to you and work with you through whatever comes our way during our travels.
Now the real reason you are reading this letter – my advice for you! My advice is pack only what is recommended in your welcome packet. If you forget something, or run out of something, we can probably find it in Morocco or we’ll figure out a way to make what you need out of what we have. Don’t go out and buy expensive travelling clothes, go to a thrift store (stuff at thrift stores will probably be more in fashion in Morocco anyways). But make sure your shoes have been broken in, blisters are no fun. Baby shampoo is multipurpose; shampoo (and you don’t need conditioner), body wash, and I bet you could even brush your teeth with it (but there is toothpaste in Morocco), don’t bring a lot of cosmetic stuff, instead get ready to get dirty and then experience the magic of the Moroccan Hammam, it’s a whole new bathing experience!!! Morocco can get cold but it can also get really hot, make sure you bring clothes that can be layered and still be culturally sensitive. And if possible bring things that can double as something else, for example, a fleece jacket or sweatshirt can double as a pillow. Outside of packing recommendations, I would recommend reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Not only is it one of my favourite books, it will give you a small glimpse of Morocco and what it means to travel. Do some independent study of Morocco, but it’s imperative that you come to Morocco with an open mind as most things aren’t what they seem at first glance.
I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know each of you. I’m available to answer any questions you have as you prep for the trip, during the trip and after. See you in New York!!!!
Salaam wa alaikum, Azul! My name is Christi Jele, better known as Jelly to all of my friends, which each of you will shortly be. I was born and raised Colorado but I currently am living in the self proclaimed ‘Greatest City in America’ – Baltimore, Maryland. I am a student at John Hopkins University […]