GoAbroad Interview

Jessica Bergmann - Marketing Team Volunteer

Jessica Bergmann - Marketing Team Volunteer

A graduate of the Loyola University Chicago, Jessica volunteers her time with PED outside of her work as a full-time teacher. She loves being able to incorporate her service experiences with PED into her curriculum and share with her students the culture of Uganda.

Jessica spending time with some of the Ugandan students
Jessica spending time with some of the Ugandan students.

Can you explain your role at PED?

Working as a member of PED's marketing team has been an invigorating process. As a team, our primary purpose is to ensure that PED's mission and story is accessible to a variety of audiences in a variety of platforms. My primary role is drafting copy for our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, blog), producing calendars for content publishing, editing and revising content submitted by other authors, and monitoring analytics to grow our audience and keep them actively engaged with what our organization is doing.

On a larger scale, our team is also working to assemble materials for corporate outreach to increase the number of sponsors, and we have several events that we are currently devising strategic marketing plans for.

I am also a volunteer for PED and have served with the organization in Uganda for the past three summers. Last summer, I was able to take on the role of volunteer leader and was responsible for ensuring that the volunteers were prepared for the trip and well-looked after during their trip. This summer, I stepped out of the volunteer leader position and instead assumed the role of collecting media for the upcoming year. I had the privilege of interviewing teachers, students, and PED Uganda staff in order to begin sharing more of the stories of the individuals who make our organization what it is.

How were you connected with Pangea?

I graduated from Loyola University Chicago, and one of the many things that the university is known for is its study abroad campus in Rome. I had the opportunity to take a two-week class there during the summer after my sophomore year of college. But I came back feeling like I had an adventure, but not feeling entirely fulfilled. It was then that I decided I wanted to travel to Africa. I discovered PED by chance through a friend of a friend, but after doing some research, I found that the organization's mission aligned perfectly with my passion for education and my desire for community.

What makes the Pangea’s volunteer programs unique?

For me, the difference between PED and other organizations is simple: sustainability. Our mission emphasizes the need to create independence and empower schools to take ownership of their learning environments. With that being said, PED's volunteer program is unique because individuals who join us are able to witness firsthand the power of true sustainability versus other traditional aid models.

We also emphasize the importance of sustaining relationships with the schools that we work with. Volunteers who serve with PED not only build relationships with other volunteers, but have the unique opportunity to sit down with students over lunch, join teachers during a class in session, and meet individuals in the community who are helping to advance access to quality education. And of course, our program is unique for another reason: dance parties. All the time.

What do you do to assure applicants are ready for an experience with PED?

Individuals interested in serving with PED go through an application process that helps them to learn more about the organization, our mission, and their responsibilities if they choose to join us in Uganda. Once the volunteer is accepted to the program, we host a series of monthly volunteer meetings intended to prepare the individual for departure. These meetings introduce everything from what to pack, cultural customs and practices in Uganda, and core values of service, but they are also intended to build community before the departure date.

Some of our volunteers are returning, while others will be experiencing Uganda for the first time, so our goal is to establish friendship that will continue to grow while on the trip and extend beyond the end date. With some music, some mangoes, and a lot of personality, our pre-departure meetings help our volunteers to become a member of the PED family.

In your role, how do you help participants prepare for the experience of volunteering in Uganda?

From a marketing standpoint, we consistently publish content that allows individuals some insight into daily life in Uganda, aspects of being volunteer, and cultural pieces. I am one of the only members of the marketing team who has traveled to Uganda with PED, so my responsibilities are to really develop the story of what our trips are like and share those moments with the rest of the team. We are working on several pieces that will continue to allow individuals to immerse themselves into the experience and to witness the passion, drive, and above all, love, that one encounters when joining the PED family.

What advice would you give to prospective PED applicants?

Take the plunge. When I was first considering whether or not to travel to Uganda, there were times where I stepped back and wondered if it was the best decision for me. But then one day I realized that I needed to stop thinking about all the technicalities and focus on living in the moment. I recognized my desire to develop my passions and grow my way of thinking. My only word of caution would be to make sure that you're in it for the right reasons.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job with PED?

Apart from my work with PED, I am also a full-time high school English teacher. To me, there is nothing more fulfilling than being able to utilize my passion for the written language in a way that is mobilizing change. I love being able to share with other educators, students, and individuals the idea that education is an agent that can transform lives. There is nothing more humbling than working in collaboration with the other PED staff members, whose passion and humility remind me that true change can occur if one is willing to invest the time, the energy, and the love.