About Beth


Video Translation: Greetings, my name is Sister Thato Molisa, or in English, Sister Beth Spencer. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. I live in Lesotho to work with MCCC, a support group that works to help orphans and vulnerable children in five village in the district of Botha Bothe. We live here (Lesotho is in southern Africa), but I am originally from New Hampshire. I arrived in Lesotho in June 2014. After ten weeks of Peace Corps training I moved to my village. I am happy to live in Lesotho. Thank you.

When I was facing my impending college graduation, one of my top interests was to join the Peace Corps. Philanthropy has always been a part of my life, but it was more than that. I wanted to face the challenges that come from leaving everything familiar to test yourself in a new place. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to expand my horizons.

What I did not want, however, was a commitment. And Peace Corps makes it very clear in the application and interview process that it is, in fact, a big commitment. So I withdrew my application during the medical review and found adventures closer to home with shorter contract lengths. I taught outdoor education and directed summer camp. I volunteered with a hospital construction team in the Dominican Republic. I sailed on tallships with teenagers challenging them and myself. I did relief work following Hurricane Katrina. I taught at an alternative boarding school that included stewardship as a major part of its curricula.

Throughout the decade following my graduation, the niggling idea that I was missing something by not embracing the challenge that living and volunteering abroad with Peace Corps offered. Thus, I found myself once again completing the rigorous application process (which has since been simplified) and eventually squealing with excitement at receiving my invitation to serve in the country of Lesotho as a Healthy Youth Volunteer.

After finding out where Lesotho is, I spent the next few months preparing for my departure while continuing to teach World Cultures and Senior Humanities at the Oliverian School. Moving to Africa for 27 months seemed to need more preparation then boarding a ship for 4 months. In addition to the obvious things, like putting my belongings into storage, packing, and arranging power of attorney; I wanted to ensure I saw family and friends. The hardest part of saying goodbye was the knowledge that some might not survive my service, including elderly grandparents and a father half a decade into abattle with cancer.  Unlike ten years earlier, however, I never questioned whether this was the right decision.

My host mother, two brothers, and me at a wedding.
The day I arrived in Lesotho, my host family for Pre-Service Training gave me my Sesotho name: Thato (see video above for pronunciation). My mother was thrilled to share that Thato means God’s Will, to which my host father added that if it were not God’s Will, I would not be in Lesotho at that moment. It was reassuring to hear that as I adjusted to eating Basotho food by candlelight trying to understand their accented English and rapid-fire Sesotho.

With this guy as my brother, how could I possible leave
Lesotho at the end of my initial service?



For my first two and half years of service, I lived and worked in a small community in rural Botha Bothe, Lesotho. My primary job had me building the capacity of MCCC, a loosely structured support group of volunteers trying to ensure the orphans and vulnerable children in the five surrounding communities are properly cared for. This included working extensively on income generating activities, organizational structure, and activities for the youth. Additionally, I did a number of other activities in the community, including teaching life skills at the local primary school, co-directing GLOW and Grassroot Soccer Camps, helping with a local HIV+ Teen Support Group, helping with the outreach clinic in the village, and similar activities.

Peace Corps Service is said to be 27 months, including the three months of Pre-Service Training. Most of my peers headed home in July 2016, however, I extended my service twice (first in July 2016 and again in August 2017) and am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. This has me working at my host organization half of the time and with Peace Corps the other half. I will continue to work in Lesotho until April 2018.

Despite trading the ocean for a land locked country full of mountains, I am absolutely in love with my life in Lesotho. Although many people join Peace Corps fresh out of college, as I once considered, I am grateful I waited and gained greater insight and skills before moving abroad.

Kea Leboha (thank you in Sesotho)!

~Beth

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3 comments:

Emilio Fernandez said...

Good morning, how are you?

My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because through them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Lesotho? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Lesotho in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

Emilio Fernandez Esteban
Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
28902 Getafe (Madrid)
Spain

If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

Yours Sincerely

Emilio Fernandez

Ray Blakney said...

Hi Beth,

Sorry to bother you.  My name is Ray Blakney and I am an RPCV from Mexico (2006-2008). I love your story of becoming a PCV. I am working on a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the main office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost.  I have created a sub-section on the website my wife and I run Live Lingua with all the information I have been able to get to date (from over the web and sent to me directly by PC staff and PCV's).  I currently have close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios, and even some videos. 
 
The next step for this project is that I am trying to get the word out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV's or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site they can send it to me and I can get it up for everybody to use.  I was hoping that you could help getting the word out by putting a link on this on your site here, so that people know it is there.  There should be something there for almost everybody.  It is all 100% free to use and share.  Here is the specific page to what we call the Live Lingua Project:

http://www.livelingua.com/project/

Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success.   And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, please don't hesitate to pass them my email.  Thanks and have a great day.

Beth said...

Hey Ray,

I remember you from CWRU :-). I have a digital copy of our Sesotho training manual, so I will check and see if you already have it or not. If not, I will definitely share what I have.

Hope you and your wife are well!