Tuesday March 14, 2017

Peace Corps

By Emily Kegel

I came to college pre-determined to major in Pre-Medicine with the intention of going to medical school, but the complexity of one particular experience prompted me to change my thoughts about my future. It was the summer after freshman year, when I went on a Cross-cultural immersion trip to Cameroon through Campus Ministry.  The second I stepped off the plane was when I had my proverbial “light bulb moment” of knowing the direction in which I wanted my life to go.  This sense of purpose only grew stronger when I met my host family, and took on the challenge of understanding the broad nature of their culture, their history, and the various issues that surrounded their country.  I was amazed at the warmth I was met with on an everyday basis, and the open nature of Cameroonians as they loved introducing me to their culture and welcomed a stranger in with open arms.  Although the trip was a small glimpse of another culture, it was this moment that held great significance in my life as I loved every second of my time in Africa, and wanted to be able to give back by being on the ground working alongside members of the community to help effect change. During our time in Cameroon, we visited the Peace Corps headquarters, and during that meeting a seed was planted in my mind about the possibility of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. I came back to school and met with Professor Amin, and asked him as a native Cameroonian and also an American, if he thought the Peace Corps was an effective agency for change in the countries it served, and I will never forget his response.  He told me that the value of hope is immeasurable, which resonated with me because I realized that by becoming a volunteer I might not be able to influence change on a massive scale, but my everyday interactions would be able generate positivity on a personal level.

In the last week, I have accepted a position in the Peace Corps serving in Botswana as an HIV/AIDs Capacity Building Volunteer on a Clinic and Health Team.  I will be leaving in July for Pre-Service Training where I will be trained in learning the local language, Setswana, as well as placed with a host family, who will teach me the intricacies of life as a Batswana. I will also undergo training for my position, and learn more about the specifics of my job and my placement site. After three months of training, I will be placed in a rural village where I will be helping to aid members of the community in adherence to HIV/AIDs treatment plans, work on supply chain management within the clinics, and team up with other Non-Profit Organizations to help initiate HIV/AIDs prevention programs within my village and surrounding villages.  After months of applying, it still seems surreal that I will be leaving in five short months. However, I am so incredibly humbled to have the privilege of serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and begin what I am certain to be one of the most formative experiences of my life.

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