THREE RIVERS AREA Running water and electricity come and go at his three-room apartment in Kilifi, one of Kenya’s three biggest cities. Beau Jones arrived in Kilifi in November as a Peace Corps volunteer.
The 25-year-old Searcy native was working on his doctorate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway when he realized he had not had any “real life experiences” and began questioning the reasons he was still in school.
“I was in my mid-20s and had been in school every year since preschool,” Jones said. “I decided to take a break from my doctoral work to gain more worldly experience.”
Working as a counselor in the summer of 2004 at CampAldersgate, Jones met 81-yearold volunteer Jay Jones, who is no relation. The Jones men began having lunch and sharing conversation.
“He made Peace Corps sound so incredible with all of his adventurous stories,” Beau Jones said. “I looked into the Peace Corps in 2005 but didn’t feel ready for that kind of commitment. I continued hearing stories about Jay’s Peace Corps days while I was earning my master’s at UCA.”
Beau Jones said he began feeling guilty for not doing his part to benefit the world, and Jay’s stories kept coming up in his mind. He visited the Peace Corps Web site and decided to apply for a position as a secondary math and science instructor.
“We would have lunch,and I think I’m the one who talked him into joining the Peace Corps,” Jay Jones said.
“Beau really has his feet onthe ground; he knows exactly what he’s doing and where he’s going.” Jones was accepted andreceived a call from his placement officer. Because Joneshad taken a sign language class at UCA, he was asked if he would be comfortable using his signing skills in his Peace Corps job. He later received his assignment to teach math and science in Kenya, but he said no more mention was made of sign language at that point.
“Once I arrived in Nairobi, I found out that I was in fact using my sign language as part of my job,” Jones said. “There are two kinds of education Peace Corps volunteer jobs in Kenya: secondary math and science, and primary deaf education. I found out that I was the first volunteer to be placed in a secondary school for the deaf, teaching math and science.”
Jim Thurman, professor at UCA in the speech pathology department, has taught at UCA for 38 years and said it takes two years to learn sign language well enough to communicate efficiently.
“There is a huge need for people to learn sign language,” said Thurman, who taught Beau at UCA. “And this guy was a math major, and he was able to make use of these skills.”
Beau had to learn Kenya sign language to communicate with the ninth- and 10th-grade students at Pwani Secondary School for the Deaf. The two-year-old school is Kenya’s fourth secondary school.
Fitting into his new “laidback surroundings,” Beau said the slower pace of life is a nice change from his life in the United States.
“Locally, I am known as ‘Kitsao.’ It is a word in Kigiriama which means ‘little bull,’’’ Beau said. “A local Giriama (one of the tribesin Kenya) man gave me this name because he said I am ‘dependable like a bull,’ but that I still had some growing to do. About once a week, I sit among a group of men and share bottles of manazi (palm wine) and conversation. The men I sit with hardly speak English, which is good for practicing Swahili and Kigiriama.”
B eau, or Kitsao, als o coaches a sport called tennioquent, which is a mixture of tennis and volleyball. He said he is passionate aboutinspiring people to not live for themselves but to see how wonderful life can be from living as a community.
“I am madly in love with our Heavenly Father. ... I adore children,” he said. “They feel free to laugh and love regardless of their surroundings. I love the unconditional love children are able to give out. They are very easy to please and have a better idea of what’s important in this world than most adults. Children know nothing of worldly statuses that grownups are constantly concerned with.”
As far as his plans after Kenya, Jones said anything could happen.
“I plan on living a productive life that is not centered around me,” Jones said. “I see a lot of need for growth in Kenya, and I have a year and a half to think about the best way to spread equality throughout this great nation. If I have a plan for the future, I may pass up a wonderful opportunity.
- jbrosius@ arkansasonline.comSign Language As with the spoken languages, regions and countries have
their own variations of sign language. Everywhere there are
deaf people, there will be some form of sign language. An
estimated 500,000 to 2 million people use sign language in
the United States.
American sign language is a complete, visual gestural lan
guage with its own grammar and vocabulary.
ASL is not English translated in signs.
ASL is the third most used language in the United States.
Babies in households where both ASL and spoken English
are used often sign before they speak.
ASL is recognized and accepted as a foreign language at
many major universities, including Harvard.
About 1 million deaf people use ASL as their primary, com
Information provided by Jim Thurman, Speech Language
Pathologist at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.