Angela Jones on Professional Development

a few months ago

Why did you come work at Kalu Yala?

I came to a point where I didn’t fully identify with the social, environmental, and spiritual values of the culture I was living in. I felt uneasy with such a consumerist, comfortable, and predictable life. I knew that life could be as exciting, creative, and conscious as I imagined it to be. So I decided to move toward that notion 100% and create new experiences for myself.
In April 2016, at a chance brunch encounter in Knoxville, Tennessee, someone mentioned Kalu Yala to me and it just so happened they were hiring. Upon researching, I saw other people who were experiencing a similar thing and were actively seeking a creative and conscious lifestyle in response. I wanted to be a part of it. Even if I was only able to work there for a short time, I knew it would leave a beautiful mark on me and might just be the life bearings I was looking for to direct my life. Just a month later in May 2016, I moved to Kalu Yala.
You worked as the Public Education & Community Development Director, how have you grown professionally?
When I started working for Kalu Yala, I did not have a clear idea of what an entrepreneur was, but I quickly observed and learned how to be one. The entrepreneurial spirit that Jimmy Stice exudes and built into the place is palpable, and it was highly contagious for me. I absorbed and practiced it daily. It entered into my typical mode of operation, without me even realizing its significant presence. As the famous Kalu Yala motto goes, I learned by doing.

It really helped me to shift the control seat in my life from extrinsic management to intrinsic management. This applied to everything from creating and directing a project or program down to, as Jon Trimarco would remind us, establish your own norms for daily living based on your value set creating the structure of your day. With this shift in self-management, I saw people working really hard because they were driven by ideals, not money or a menacing supervisor. I saw the beauty of what it looks like when someone works really hard but doesn’t feel it, because that same work is driven by a cause or a dedicated group, something much greater than the individual.  

Not only did I learn to operate this way independently, but I learned the beauty of collaborating with others to plan projects and execute them by incorporating everyone’s strengths for the most optimal, creative, and holistic possible outcome. I learned that incorporating other strengths and ideas will produce richer and stronger outcomes. I learned that saying a hard no to seemingly achieve creative inputs from collaborators would inhibit the project’s growth potential and quality. Although working with others can require a little more juggling, it produces results you could have never imagined and most likely could have never accomplished alone. This is a simple illustration of the importance of community.
Anglea giving a FOCIS (Foundations of Community Innovation & Sustainability) Talk with the Business Director, Zouheir to the Spring 2017 interns a part of the Kalu Yala Institute.
Also, my sense of creativity expanded in a big way and broadened to include every aspect of life, from the way I prepared my breakfast, planned lessons, to the way I incorporated nature and plants in the design of my corner on the platform. It grew to include how I could transform otherwise boring moments into memorable connections. Being able to identify needs and develop creative solutions is a skill that is valuable in almost any area of life, such as professional settings, educational settings, and in the household. Creativity grew and diversified in a big way during the entire time I was there thanks to all the incredible individuals that surrounded me.
I was able to understand the importance of community involvement, collaboration, and care. I daily witnessed people passionately working together on a project that will make the world a healthier, more efficient place. I saw friends and community members working in place of one another, staying after hours to ensure project completion. I saw people using one another as resources instead of reverting to other references. I saw people get up before the sun to make sure all the community members had coffee and breakfast. I saw people taking time with one another for important conversations, even if they happened late at night on the way to brushing their teeth. I was able to apply all of these things in the small town where I now live, and the community values I developed have undoubtedly made me a better community member.

What have you moved onto after Kalu Yala? 

I partnered with Villa Vento Hostels to establish the Panama Spanish School, a language school with a social impact, in a small, touristic beach town in Santa Catalina, Panama. I teach Spanish to travelers looking to travel consciously to create more meaningful connections in the local community throughout their travels. These classes, in turn, help fund English and alternative educational activities in which community partners and I teach to local adults and children in town who may be looking to create better economic opportunities for themselves. I use the school as a basis to organize community events and work to create spaces where tourists and locals can have a truly authentic exchange on the basis of language exchange. Within this structure, a true cultural and linguistic exchange can happen in which everyone walks away with a greater understanding of others and themselves.
 To learn more about the Panama Spanish School, click here.

What was your biggest takeaway from living in the Panamanian jungle?

By any means necessary, there is always a way. Find a way or make a way. Also, fashion first.