Barbara-Jean Payne Janes ’61 joined the Peace Corps right after her Wheaton graduation in 1961. That December, she left for Pakistan, in one of the first groups to go abroad for the international development organization. The experience changed her life.
For nearly two years, Janes served in the city of Peshawar, where she taught biology and chemistry at Frontier College for Women. She had planned to pursue a career in chemical research, but she returned home with other ideas.
“As a result of my teaching experience in Pakistan, I got my master’s in education at the University of Chicago, and spent the next thirty years teaching middle school science,” she says. Along the way, she and her husband Bob Janes reared two children.
In 2002, several of the volunteers who had served in Peshawar 40 years earlier came together for a reunion. In the wake of the terror attacks of 9/11, the group decided to do something to support girls’ education in Pakistan. Eventually, they connected with The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a Pakistani NGO that runs 660 schools and serves 92,000 students, half of them girls.
TCF was started in 1995 “by four Karachi businessmen who were concerned that the government had abdicated its responsibility for education,” Janes reports.
In 2007, under the aegis of TCF, Janes returned to Pakistan to conduct several teacher training workshops. During the summer of 2009, she went back to help TCF run science camps for a thousand students.
Janes brought along 15 hands-on science lessons she had created for students in grades 4–5 and 6–8. After training the Pakistani teachers in how to teach the lessons, she visited one school every day to help with the curriculum’s implementation.
Now back home in Evanston, Ill., Janes and her former Peace Corps colleagues are raising money to provide scholarships for high school girls in Pakistan. And, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps next year, the group hopes to raise $15,000 to operate a Pakistani school for a full year.
Janes still appreciates her Wheaton education. “I am eternally grateful,” she says, “for the opportunity to learn from and work with the wonderful chemistry faculty” who taught at Wheaton: Maude Marshall, Mildred Evans and Bojan Jennings. “They challenged us and really cared about our development as students and as young women.”