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Returned Volunteer Profile

Krysta J.

“My general philosophy about community organizing was developed in Paraguay. As a Peace Corps Volunteer there, I was enamored by the concept of community building and fostering an appreciation and understanding of sustainable civic engagement.”

RPCV Krysta J. headshot

1. What were your primary responsibilities during service?

The Peace Corps created a municipal services development sector in the 1990s as Paraguay transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy. My community often questioned why a democracy was so important when they had food on the table and no crime in the streets under a dictatorship. They brought the Peace Corps in to help with the transition. During my service, I was responsible for strengthening municipal and community services, providing education on the basics of a democracy, and inspiring civic engagement.

2. What projects did you collaborate on with your community?

I organized an empowerment event for Día de la Mujer Paraguaya (Day of the Paraguayan Woman). I helped a local community radio station grow their services and capacity due to the fact that during a dictatorship, one of the first things they try to eliminate is communication channels. I taught English classes. I worked with the local municipal government to improve their infrastructure. I also focused a lot of energy on building student governments for elementary school students.

RPCV Krysta J. working in her community in Paraguay
RPCV Krysta J. working in her community in Paraguay

3. How did Peace Corps service influence your professional path and development?

My general philosophy about community organizing was developed in Paraguay. As a Peace Corps Volunteer there, I was enamored by the concept of community building and fostering an appreciation and understanding of sustainable civic engagement. It was almost as if I was “reexposed” to the basics of democracy that I had lived in and learned about my entire life; but this time I was part of the change in a new community.

By starting student councils and helping grow an independent community radio station, I was laying the groundwork for a career in politics, advocacy, and communications. I have led many grassroots organizations, and the one aspect that is often dismissed and ignored is sustainability; this is a key part of the Peace Corps’ mission. As a result of my work with the community radio station, I hosted a local TV show and podcast in Arlington, Virginia. In Paraguay’s transition to a democracy they created Decidamos—a nongovernmental organization that produced books and games about democracy. I relied on these materials, and went on to write a children’s book about civic engagement.

4. How do you use some of the skills you honed during service in your current job?

My profession is currently in government relations, and I rely heavily on the skills I honed during my time in Paraguay—getting to know new people, being an advocate, and contributing to building our democracy.

Cover of RPCV Krysta J.'s children's book on Democracy
RPCV Krysta J. wrote a children's book on democracy called "Ella Goes to City Hall"

5. How have you shared your experience to help those at home understand the value of Peace Corps service and communities abroad?

When I first came back from the Peace Corps I attended a recruitment fair to discuss my experiences. The University of Florida, my alma mater, wrote an article about my Peace Corps experience. I spoke to a class at my former elementary school about the Peace Corps and Paraguay. In almost every panel discussion I participate in, I mention the Peace Corps, and almost every time, someone comes up to me afterwards to ask me about my time in Paraguay!

6. What Peace Corps benefits have been useful to you?

In addition to the amazing experience and lifelong friendships and networks I have created, the Peace Corps brand is strong! I have no doubt that my success today is largely dependent on the fact that I did what so many people dream of doing—living in a foreign country and working collaborative alongside so many people, doing “the toughest job you will ever love!”

RPCV Krysta J. working with community members in Paraguay
RPCV Krysta J. working with community members in Paraguay

7. How have your remained involved with the Peace Corps community following service?

In 2022, I spoke virtually at a global Peace Corps staff Black History Month event. I also spoke to current Peace Corps staff at their Headquarters several years ago. I have remained connected to RPCVs from my cohort in so many ways. Our shared experiences—that time, that place, that journey through time—is incomparable. We are even having a reunion this year in Panama!

8. What advice/tips do you have for Volunteers just returning from their service?

I would encourage new RPCVs to find a way to continue practicing the language(s) they used in the Peace Corps, stay in touch with your cohort, and reflect often on the lessons you learned while in your host country. Also, try to stay in touch with the host country nationals from your site. This is something I did not do, and I regret it every day.