Jan Emswiler’s journey to Goshen

Goshen College’s newest nursing professor might have a few words of advice for Ryan Sensenig and the Tanzania SST group. Jan Emswiler has only spent a year and a half in the United States since 1998—she spent the other 11 years in Tanzania.

It all started between her sophomore and junior year of college, when she participated in Mennonite Central Committee’s SALT (Serving And Learning Together) program. SALT sent her to Tanzania for the first time.

After graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in 1998, Emswiler heard that M.C.C. was looking for a nurse to go to Tanzania, so she volunteered. M.C.C. was working with a Tanzanian community health program run by a local Mennonite church.

“I specifically worked with developing their HIV/AIDS program,” Emswiler said.

She worked on a wide variety of tasks related to HIV/AIDS education and care: school visits, counseling, testing, home care, and orphan support, to name a few. She learned how to creatively use minimal resources and how to address the constant stigma of HIV/AIDS sufferers.

“At first, one of my major struggles was working with HIV issues and facing the extreme levels of stigma and discrimination,” Emswiler said.

The HIV rate in Tanzania is between 6 and 7 percent, except in smaller areas where it is much higher. Discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS in church, politics, and health care are all barriers to prevention and treatment.

Another challenge Emswiler faced was the lack of resources available. The Tanzanian program M.C.C. partnered with was small and primarily run by volunteers. Emswiler had to learn how to be creative with what she had.

“That’s something I didn’t learn in nursing school: how to creatively use resources and increase the impact of the program,” Emswiler said.

Emswiler’s work in Tanzania resulted in more than just increased medical and creative skills. After five years of knowing each other, she and Kajungu Mturi, a Tanzanian man working in the same program, got married. They have been married for five years and Mturi is currently a student at Goshen College.

After working with M.C.C. for eight years, Emswiler taught nursing classes for two and a half years at Aga Khan University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This made for an interesting transition to teaching at Goshen College. In Tanzania, most of her students were older than her. At Goshen, most of her students are younger than her. She also had to readjust to the stricter nursing standards and regulations required in the United States.

Emswiler is excited that Goshen College sends an SST unit to Tanzania—and it was especially fitting that the most recent Tanzania unit (which only goes every three years) left during her first year here. She and her husband made sure to connect with the students currently in Tanzania before they left. Mturi helped tutor them in Swahili, and they hosted a dinner for the students. Several students have even been placed for service in the same area where Emswiler and Mturi worked.

Even after returning in 2009 and spending a year in Virginia before coming to Goshen, Emswiler is still getting used to America.
“It feels temporary,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen, but my husband and I will go back eventually.”

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Written by Kristina Mast

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