Karen Campbell, Covergirl

Is Karen Campbell a Houston woman? Not just yes, apparently, but he-yalll yes.

Karen Campbell Houston Woman

The March/April 2015 issue of Houston Woman Magazine features Karen as its cover (girl) story. While Karen is ostensibly smiling in her cover shot, framily members and other loved ones can probably tell she’s also talking. Since this photo was taken while Karen was hiking part of the Camino, she may have been swearing. 

(Editor’s note: This post is not from Karen, it is from a FoKCer administrator.)

Following is the story Karen provided the magazine about her unfolding Peace Corps adventure:

(Dateline: Houston) Karen Campbell is on her way to Costa Rica now. Soon, she will be teaching English as a second language and realizing a life-long dream of serving in the Peace Corps.

Campbell’s resume, at least in part, tells the story of this amazing woman — one fully committed to living a life of purpose and making a difference!

Campbell received a bachelor of arts degree in English and journalism, summa cum laude, from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. in 1983. Three years later, she received a master of arts degree in communications from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Then, in 2007, she received the Cambridge University certification for teaching English as a Second Language.

Campbell has spent more than 20 years working with faith-based organizations as a writer, speaker and communications strategist. She also spent two years learning more about state government and how to advocate for change as a district director for a Texas state representative.

In the past four years, she’s applied her training and experiences to work exclusively with nonprofits, including The Rose, One Voice, Coalition for the Homeless, Houston Recovery Center, Houston Rescue and Restore, Mission Centers for Houston, and the Union Baptist Association.

Campbell said, “Some might look at my departure from my beloved Houston (I’m one of those non-natives who got here as fast as I could.) as ‘sudden.’ But, this new adventure was a year in the making, and many in Houston helped make it happen.

“As I worked with incredible clients, such as The Rose and One Voice Texas, on communication issues, my pride in the Bayou City grew. Media outlets eagerly helped tell the story of the need for access to care. Volunteers were always available to serve as advocates. And, businesses made social responsibility more than photos in an Annual Report.”

She continued, “As a reader of context, I began to see that to continue to bring benefits to my clients, I would need to expand my expertise and master the next social media, perhaps add more staff and grow my services. Or, I could find others with those strengths, connect with them and, then, pursue some personal growth that had been on slow simmer. As I gave the idea more attention, the desire of my heart rose to a full burn.”

Campbell wanted to continue to make a difference, be tested physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally — and take on another adventure while she “was still able to do so.”

She said, “Two friends had regaled me with stories of the Peace Corps through the years. Then, a late-night, pop-up ad on Facebook intrigued me; I went to the Peace Corps link to discover if a (then) 52-year-old woman would have a place there. Though the Peace Corps offers a short-term option for individuals my age, what truly pulled at my heart strings and teased me with possibilities was the idea of committing two years in the field in a regular Peace Corps stint.”

As it turned out, Costa Rica needed a English teacher. Since Campbell had once been an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at Lone Star College — where she had been trained in the methodology — this option seemed custom made for her. So, she applied. That was February 2014. In the time between then and now, Campbell has completed numerous questionnaires, gone through an array of medical tests, taken a Spanish proficiency test and walked 169 miles across Spain to test her ability to be flexible and survive with limited language skills.

Campbell said, “The walk in Spain was also a time of internal exploration and a further development of my relationship with Dorothy Gibbons, CEO of The Rose, who walked the first 65 miles with me.” When Campbell applied for the Peace Corps, she was asked:

“How will service in the Peace Corps influence your personal and professional aspirations?”

To that question, Campbell responded, “The mental model that has shaped my life is an image of me as a much older woman, white hair and skirt slightly blowing in the wind as I exit a warm and inviting space in order to welcome new arrivals who have come to me in search of rest and restoration. I don’t see myself as the source of those desires but as a resource, a means by which others can discover all they feel they were created to be.

“I use that ‘word picture’ more than any written mission or vision statement because I don’t like to restrict myself to what I know now. I’m a big proponent of systems thinking. One of those principles is that ‘every change changes everything.’ So, via my thinking and my experience to date, I know I will be changed by the Peace Corps experience. I know I will add to my creative reservoir, my resources, my communications tool set.

“To be the person in my life’s mental model, I have to be open and ready to collect experiences and learning that will be attractive – experiences I can’t articulate because to do so would limit me. The Peace Corps will be more than teaching English, more than crossing cultures, more than continuing to foster positive experiences cross-generationally. How much more I don’t yet know, but I look forward to the adventure.”

To see the full magazine spread, visit Houston Woman online.

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