THE VILLANOVA PEACE CORPS CONNECTION
he Peace Corps’ website states, “Peace Corps Volunteers work at the grassroots level to create change that lasts long after their service.” It’s a philosophy that resonates with Villanova’s College of Engineering, as evidenced by its commitment to service learning and sustainable development initiatives. This connection has made the University a natural fit for former and future Peace Corps Volunteers.
SARIELLE BENJAMIN ’13 MSSE Returned Community Service Volunteer, Ecuador Arielle Benjamin served as a community service volunteer in Ecuador for 27 months.
Volunteers in Peru: Andrew Meluch ’16 ME, ’18 MSSE; Bryan Ramirez ’18 CE, ’22 MSSE and Chris Wilson ’16 ME (far right), seen with Deputy Chief of Mission from the US Embassy in Lima, Mark Wells.
How you would encourage others to prepare for
I always knew that I’d want to take my sustainable engineering experience abroad and find ways to connect engineering with community organizing and development work. After the fallout from the Flint water crisis along with a mission trip with my church to Uganda, I decided to put my plans into action. Insight:
I chose human connection over productivity and being present over being perfect. This was a huge transition from my corporate engineering job, but when working in community development, I learned that the most sustainable work comes from fostering deep relationships. Showing up consistently for my community in the ways they needed brought innovation and success to the projects I partnered with them on. Working with others from different cultural and educational backgrounds:
I’ve learned how to become a better listener and observer. There is a lot of power harnessed when we can learn how to just pass time and sit with one another and share our stories. When we look at the world through different lenses, we can see how our ideas intersect and pinpoint better solutions.
Take ample time to immerse yourself in a diverse US community that challenges your cultural norms. Volunteer with a local shelter for immigrants seeking asylum, at a community recreation center teaching dance or tutoring in an after-school program in a neighborhood that is not your own. Find a house of worship that celebrates and welcomes cultural expressions that differ from your own. Learning how to love people and affirm the humanity of fellow Americans who do not share your background story will empower you with the ability to do the same when you enter into another country’s cultural context as an outsider.
ANDREW MELUCH ’16 ME, ’18 MSSE Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Peru Inspiration:
Over the past five years I have visited 33 countries. Traveling expands our minds, opens us to new people and perspectives, fosters a sense of cross-cultural awareness, and pushes us outside our comfort zone. My Peace Corps assignment allows me to apply the skills and knowledge I learned in the classroom in a way that directly benefits those in need. Insight:
Be flexible. A large part of being a PCV is recognizing that anything can happen, at any time, for any reason, and it’s our job to make the most of it, no matter what.