Graduate student to march in Inaugural Parade representing Peace Corps
-- Jake Farnum, 30, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, will march in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. He is one of 200 marchers selected by the National Peace Corps Association and the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
Farnum, a graduate student of Kelly Loftin, extension entomologist and associate professor of entomology, served in Chulu village, Malawi, as a parks and wildlife volunteer from 2001 to 2004. He worked with his Malawian counterpart to help decrease villagers' dependence on resources from the national park. He also educated young people on sexual health issues.
"It was a life-changing experience," Farnum says of his life in the village, which had no running water or electricity. Through his immersion in the culture, he says, he gained tremendous respect for the people.
"They live very close to death from many causes, and their focus is on relationships, trusting people and treating each other equally and fair," Farnum says. "They are some of the happiest people I've met."
Malawians are "very peaceful people," Farnum says. The country, known as "the warm heart of Africa," is landlocked in southeast Africa bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. It is densely populated and the economy depends heavily on agriculture with tea and tobacco as main crops.
Farnum became fluent in the Chichewa language, which is spoken in Malawi and eastern Zambia. After a chance meeting in Mullins Library with another student who speaks Chichewa, he joined the African Students Organization, of which he is now vice president.
Farnum's master's thesis research is on the population dynamics of the phorid fly, which is being introduced as a natural enemy of red imported fire ants in Arkansas and other states. He is a native of Tyler, Texas, and has a B.S. degree in natural resource conservation from Texas Tech University.