SALEM — Jennifer Jordan was looking for a way to educate her Salem State colleagues about the Peace Corps and the sub-Saharan African country of Botswana, where she'll be living the next two years as part of a public health mission.
So she asked people to join her in a symbolic "Trek to Botswana," by either running, biking or swimming the distance from Salem to Botswana — 7,694 miles — by her departure date on April 16. To her amazement, 30 faculty and staff members got on board.
"I'm overwhelmed by the support you get from people when you go forward with something you really want to do," said Jordan, who works at the college's Wellness Center.
Since Jan. 14, the eclectic, multiage group of professors, staff and students has been exercising and tracking their mileage on a Trek to Botswana wall that Jordan set up at the Wellness Center in the O'Keefe Center.
"It's a fairly stable African nation, but like all African nations, they need support. Public health is a big issue," said professor Louise Swiniarski of Salem, who is a runner. "I teach global education, so I hope she'll come back and talk to my graduate students in two years."
Every week, Jordan pastes up facts about Botswana and phrases in the country's main dialect, Setswana, such as "Le kae?" which means "What's up?" and "Go Siame," meaning "OK/goodbye."
"I've learned a couple of phrases, and I went home and Googled Botswana by myself and learned a little more on my own," said Salem State senior Rintaro Fukutomi of Salem.
A "Wall of Shame," marked by an askew skull and crossbones, draws attention to participants who don't keep up with their 20 miles a week.
"Everyone has been so wonderful that it makes it even harder to leave," said Jordan, 39, a petite, energetic woman who has worked at the Wellness Center for four years. Last May, she graduated from Salem State with a bachelor's degree in fitness and leisure studies.