University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumna Nicole Graham is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency’s unprecedented global evacuation in March 2020. The Peace Corps suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Graham, who graduated in 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in public health and Spanish, will serve as a volunteer in Peru in the health sector. She will work alongside community members to support urgent development efforts and build critical connections. After 2–3 months of training, her two-year Peace Corps service will begin.
Seeing firsthand the disparity of health care access around the world as a child inspired me to join the Peace Corps
“Seeing firsthand the disparity of health care access around the world as a child inspired me to join the Peace Corps,” said Graham. “My family has also always been a major influence on developing my passion for caring for others through healthcare. My family includes an obstetrician, a nutritionist, a pediatric oncologist and a physician’s assistant, all of whom inspire me to pursue a career in healthcare. I am excited to meet and develop relationships with the people of Peru.”
The volunteer cohorts are made up of first-time volunteers and volunteers who were evacuated in early 2020. Upon finishing a three-month training, volunteers will collaborate with their host communities on locally prioritized projects in one of Peace Corps’ six sectors—agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health or youth in development—and all will engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work.
Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn said, “The world is at a critical juncture. The largest global vaccination effort in history is underway while other widespread health, social, political and environmental issues continue to erode the foundation of our global society. Actions taken in the next few years have the potential to fundamentally impact development trajectories for decades to come.”
Volunteers have already returned to a total of 23 countries around the world. Currently, the agency is recruiting volunteers to serve in 48 countries around the world at the request of host country governments, to connect through the Peace Corps’ grassroots approach across communities and cultures. The Peace Corps continues to monitor COVID-19 trends in all of its host countries and will send volunteers to serve as conditions permit.
Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries worldwide. Americans interested in transformative service and lifelong connections can apply to Peace Corps service.
—Based on a Peace Corps news release