Bridgewater College alumni Hunter Potts ’20 and Sydney Ryan ’20 are among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency’s unprecedented global evacuation in March 2020. The Peace Corps, an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff who are driven by the agency’s mission of world peace and friendship, suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Peace Corps provides an opportunity to live abroad and explore myself in an entirely new context. I may not have running water or power, but I look forward to learning to adapt and exploring new qualities of myself,” said Ryan. “Mostly, I look forward to making connections and building relationships with the Togolese people.”
Potts has a bachelor’s degree in economics while Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences. They will serve together as volunteers in the West African country of Togo in the agriculture and health sectors, respectively.
“Peace Corps provides an avenue to do something purposeful, engaging with a community that will be different and similar to my own,” said Potts. “I joined to help provide a sustainable and positive change that is community-oriented.”
“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,” said Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn. “Peace Corps volunteers returning to Togo will work alongside community members to support urgent development efforts and build critical connections.”
The volunteer cohorts are made up of both 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. Potts and Ryan will work in cooperation with local community and partner organizations on sustainable development projects.
On March 15, the Peace Corps welcomed the first volunteers to service in Zambia. After more than two years of careful monitoring, evaluating, adapting and planning, the agency is returning volunteers to service on an ongoing basis until all posts have reopened. The Peace Corps will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends in all its host countries and send volunteers to serve as conditions permit.
Learn more about the pair’s mission in this Richmond CBS News 6 article.