By Shanna Crumley
Peace Corps Colombia has seen a flurry of activity the past few months, with retirements, maternity leaves, site changes, incoming and outgoing volunteer groups and the holidays.
But perhaps the busiest man has been Jonathan Drewry, the new Director of Programming and Training. Not only did he and his family pack up for an international move and a new job, his family also welcomed a new baby girl, born during the transition process. Sofia Renee and three-year-old Jonathan Aubrey are already following in the footsteps of their globe-trotting father.
Jonathan continues a career tour of Latin America with his new post as the Director of Programming and Training.
Shanna Crumley had the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan to talk about the transition to Colombia and his career in public health and development. Here are three dimensions of Jonathan Drewry.
Jonathan the Internationalist
Raised by a British mother and an “internationalist” father, Jonathan’s career abroad is only natural. Over the past twenty years, he has worked in Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Mexico, for organizations including the CDC, the UN, HIV training centers, and the Peace Corps.
He began working in Latin America during college, working in Honduras before serving as a PCV in Nicaragua. Post-PC, he got an MPH in environmental health in Texas so that he could work on the Mexican border, then in Peru with the CDC.
Serving five years as an Assistant Director of health in Peace Corps Nicaragua led him to a doctorate in public health. There, “the Peace Corps experience was really inspirational… the experience made me want to go back to school for more research and management.”
He comes to Peace Colombia from Lima, Peru, where he was directing health assessments with the United Nations. Here, he will use his background in public health and administration to oversee all the logistics of keeping the PC Colombia programs running smoothly.
Jonathan the PCV
Jonathan served as a rural sanitation volunteer in a 400-family community 190 kilometers from La Paz, Bolivia. In Bolivia, the number of kilometers didn’t necessarily reflect the amount of time to travel: it took about four hours to travel from La Paz to his community, but the return journey took eight hours due to the terrain and elevation!
He worked alongside Save the Children and the Japanese embassy to do school projects in water sanitation, education and vaccination campaigns. Together with his community, they also built a school using resources and materials produced by the community.
As a PCV, he also fought against chagas, a potentially life-threatening parasite transmitted by beetle bites.
Jonathan integrated by starring in the community’s annual passion play, an elaborate production of the life of Jesus, complete with a tall, long-haired, bearded gringo in the lead role as Jesus!
As for advice for current volunteers and soon-to-be returned PCVs? “Embrace the experience!” He said. “Dedicate yourself to your time here and focus on the work at hand, the cultural exchange and on having fun!”
Echoing CD Martha’s advice in a recent volunteer conference, he said, “Disconnect for a while, to try new things. It’s unique to have so much time away from a lot of noise and distractions. Having that in Peace Corps is really a privilege.”
For future Returned PCVs, he advised: “Don’t overstress your plans for after Peace Corps. Definitely consider trying different things when you return to the States. When I left, I ended up teaching a year of ESL and then spent a year working with migrant health. From those two years, I was able to make a better informed decision for my career.”
Jonathan and Colombia
“I’d always wanted to visit Colombia, and here we are.” Jonathan hopes to get out and see more of the country in the next few months.
He expected Colombia’s geographical and cultural diversity, but he’s also been impressed with the people. “It’s been surprising, the love for art and dance, the strong cultural presence, but also the level of development in Barranquilla.”
What’s his favorite Colombian dish so far? Sancocho, the classic vegetable and meat soup that is a staple at every celebration. He’s not so much a fan of mondongo (tripe) soup, however. He doesn’t have any “crazy Colombian food” stories yet, so the PCVs are challenged to introduce him to the local flavors soon.
As for the dancing and festivals, he says his three-year-old son is already learning to dance! His two children are certain to pick up some costeña culture these next few years.
With that, we give Jonathan and his family a great bienvenidos to our Peace Corps Colombia family!