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A Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru

Alexandra Kaye volunteers for the Peace Corps in Peru.

Alexandra Kaye '13

Alexandra Kaye ’13, who double majored in anthropology and Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies, is one of 13 volunteers currently serving in the Peace Corps and one of 234 Dickinson alumni who’ve served the organization since its founding in 1961. For the third consecutive year, Dickinson is ranked in the top 10 among small colleges on the Peace Corps’ list of top volunteer-producing schools. Kaye participated in this Q-and-A with the Peace Corps:

Where are you living and working?

I am currently living and working in a small mountainous village in Peru. With a population of 600, the town is small and very "tranquilo" or "calm." Everyone knows each other, and many of the residents are related. Any time I walk out of my house, I am greeted with, "Buenos días señorita Alexandra." And that goes on all day long. Everything is about agriculture. My host family grows potatoes, wheat, quinoa, and raises pigs and chickens. My site is mountainous and beautiful, and while transportation is sometimes an issue, that just means I get to hike around the Andes all the time!

What is your main project?  Do you have a secondary project?

I’m a water and sanitation volunteer. My primary project involves working with an NGO to install elevated water tanks in most of the homes in the town. My counterpart and I are training families on how to care for and maintain the tanks, water treatment and storage, how a rural water system works, and working on forming a new water committee to supervise the town’s current system.

I am also involved in a secondary project involving construction of environmentally friendly latrines in a small community nearby. I am soon to begin another project on investigating and documenting my town’s genealogy.

How did your college education and experience prepare you for Peace Corps service?

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Latin American studies. I honestly apply knowledge from many of my classes on a daily basis. Dickinson has tremendous programs that provide its students with significant hands-on experience while studying. One semester my junior year, I participated in a Mosaic Program for my Latin American studies major. It focused on Latino migrant workers in the county, and all the classes I took that semester involved that community as a common thread or theme. One of the classes was an advanced language class called Spanish for Health Professions, where in addition to in-class work, we were required to volunteer as translators for a health clinic that treated migrant workers and their families, who were working at apple orchards in the area. Experiences like this pushed me closer to making the ultimate decision to apply to the Peace Corps.

What is your favorite part of your service or location?

I definitely hit the jackpot when I was invited to serve in Peru. There is so much to do and see here, I often worry about not getting to it all! Being able to explore the country helps me understand the culture even better. The coast, jungle and mountains are all wildly different and have shaped the country in such a fun, interesting way. My goal is to make it to at least 16 of Peru’s 24 departments before I finish my service!

How are you making a difference for your Peace Corps host community?

My water and sanitation projects are vitally important to the health and welfare of the community, and I know that the work I am doing is having a measurable impact on quality of life. On a personal level, just being present in my community by playing with little kids, buying snacks and laundry detergent from the local stores, or sitting and talking to women about their day, is making a difference. Everyone is curious about what I am up to every day or wants to hear about my travels. Sharing a little of myself with my tiny, rural town as a member of their community is fun, and I still feel I am making a difference. It is not just the projects that make a difference, but also the personal, human impact on the community—even if it is just someone laughing at me for falling in the mud, or asking a silly question about something so obvious to them.

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Published February 17, 2015