Molloy’s G.E.R.L.L. Club (Girls Empowerment for Real Life Leadership) recently welcomed Karla Hernandez ’12 as a guest speaker to share her amazing story. Over two years ago, Karla decided to join the Peace Corps. Before she departed for her assignment, Karla went through 11 weeks of training which included cross-cultural immersion, language classes, and informational classes about working with youth and people with HIV. After training, Karla was sent to Lesotho, a small, landlocked country within the border of South Africa. There she worked as a teacher for an organization called Good Shephard Center for Teenage Mothers (run by the Good Shephard Sisters). Karla worked with a group of teenage mothers daily and taught life skills, computer skills, financial literacy, physical education (she accompanied her students on daily runs), nutrition, professional development, and more. “In Lesotho, teenage mothers only have one school in the country where they are allowed to go, and that’s where I worked,” explained Karla.
Karla shared that one of the greatest challenges facing not only teenage mothers but all of Lesotho is the prevalence of HIV. “Lesotho ranks second highest in the world in cases of HIV. A lot of my work was related to reproductive health and HIV prevention.” Another serious issue in Lesotho is gender-related violence. “The center provides counseling, but a lot of the volunteers, myself included, engage in psycho-social support,” said Karla.
Karla worked outside the Good Shephard Center as well, providing her services at a community clinic. While there she introduced a life skills curriculum and a health-focused program in English at the preschool. “The sisters wanted us to teach more English and integrate more health topics related to childhood. I taught many skills they could bring back to their communities.”
“When I went to Lesotho I didn’t know anything about the place,” said Karla. “Reflecting now, the most rewarding thing was seeing people have that ‘aha!’ moment – when my students realized it was possible for them to be leaders, compete in sports, and start their own businesses. The Peace Corps is about helping people bring out their best qualities and strengths.”
After 27 months, Karla returned to the United States in December. Her experience in Lesotho helped her confidence grow, and she is considering continuing her work in global public health. For now she is enjoying being back home – including back at Molloy! At the conclusion of her presentation, Karla fielded questions from our students and even showed off some local garments she brought home from Lesotho. Thank you, Karla, for inspiring our students with your amazing story!