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His experience in Venezuela as a Fulbright Scholar, however, began to lead him in a different direction. He began to see more clearly that working at the grassroots level, and focusing energy and resources on empowering people to make changes for themselves, was the only way for effective change to occur.
His investigations there were focused on three areas. In the first he reviewed and evaluated nine of the most important environmental organizations in Venezuela.
The second area of study involved working with several professors in women's studies and a family planning organization. They were focusing on the relationship between the status of women in Venezuelan society and Venezuelan fertility rates (and the resulting continuation of poverty, environmental degradation, and subjugation of women's rights).
The third area involved his living and working in Petare. Petare is one of the poverty-stricken shantytowns outside of Caracas. He lived with a community leader there and observed and assisted in many of their admirable efforts at organizing themselves and confronting the problems they face, such as high rates of violence, drug use, teenage pregnancy and gang involvement.
Having learned the importance of grassroots organizing and empowerment, Jeff returned to the United States and dedicated the next five years of his life seeking to empower the most neglected and maligned sector in American society - urban youth. He primarily taught "Literatura de La Raza", a bilingual Spanish class he developed that celebrates latino culture and empowers latino youth through a study of the literature of Latin America. After teaching for several years at Mission High School in San Francisco, he taught a year at Leadership High School, San Francisco's first start-up charter high school.
Jeff first conceived of The Odyssey in the spring of 1995 and launched the initial website in the summer of 1996. He was volunteering full-time with The Odyssey by 1997 and has been directly involved in all aspects of the program's development to this day.
While Jeff's personal life went into hibernation with the onset of The Odyssey, he has managed through most of his life to be very active. While in Venezuela he did a solo trek through the Grand Savannah and the Amazon to reach the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls. He also became a certified scuba diver, climbed Venezuelan's highest peak, and traveled to Aruba, Colombia, and Ecuador.
He has traveled to China and Hong Kong and speaks "something short of fluent" Chinese. He has also traveled to Spain and Morocco and has studied Arabic.
The Odyssey allowing, Jeff enjoys ultimate frisbee, rock climbs, mountain bikes, backpacks and loves to country and salsa dance (and play chess with his grandmother!).
©1998 The Odyssey: World Trek for Service and Education. All rights reserved.