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2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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Mason M.

“Each person that you meet here can share a nugget of advice about life that will change your perspective on the world and leave you with new skills and confidence to take on new challenges.”

A bearded young male person with a pink shirt stands in front of a flower grove

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

I have been interested in working for the benefit of others in a global setting since I was young. Reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park motivated me to pursue my first international work experience on the African continent.

2. What projects are you working on?

I’m collaborating with my community to reduce HIV transmission through weekly life skills sessions with high school students. The sessions help young people build skills around goal setting and making healthy decisions to prioritize their health and future. Life skills sessions are reinforced with weekly Grassroot Soccer activities, which focus on personal development, gender roles, peer pressure, the prevention of sexually transmitted infections like HIV, and more. The goal is to facilitate behavior change and empower participants to serve as models of healthy life skills in the community.

With the same goal of reducing HIV transmission, I work with motorcycle taxi drivers to encourage positive gender norms, manage emotions, prevent sexually transmitted infections like HIV, and more. I also support training sessions with women and couples to promote healthier relationships.

My other main area of work is the prevention of malaria through activities like Grassroot Soccer with children in elementary schools. I help them build skills to prevent, identify, and treat malaria for themselves and younger siblings under the age of 5. I also help run community groups that raise awareness about simple behavior changes that can help prevent malaria.

Photo 1_Mason M
Mason collaborates with his community on health projects in Cameroon.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

The values of patience, acceptance, openness, willingness to participate, and embracing discomfort have all played important roles in my community integration. I greet and talk with anyone who wants to converse (within my comfort level), participate in multiple church groups, keep a consistent presence at schools, and always welcome an evening hanging out on the porches of local mothers.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

A student from one of our Grassroot Soccer groups wrote and directed a sketch about the importance of girls staying in school by prioritizing personal goals and avoiding peer pressure to start sexual relationships. At the end of the sketch, she made a heartfelt speech addressing the local authorities, school director, and her classmates. She emphasized the importance of staying in school and encouraged young adults to make healthy decisions about their futures and prioritize their goals.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

Members of the community have a strong spirit and values. Each person that you meet here can share a nugget of advice about life that will change your perspective on the world and leave you with new skills and confidence to take on new challenges.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

My community has helped me gain a level of patience, resilience, and acceptance that I never thought possible. Life is not always easy for the individuals I live, work, and learn with; however, they always persevere, even when they find it hard to smile. Managing life is simply a matter of patience and continued effort.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

Outside of working on projects, I spend my time tutoring English and hanging out with various families around the village. I tutor English with both primary and secondary school students and have discovered these sessions to be important opportunities for cultural exchange.

I’ve also developed close ties to local families. Some are families of my counterparts, others I've gotten to know through activities in the community. All these connections have been extremely important to my integration into the community. They’ve helped me learn French and the local language and have created a sense of home for me.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

I look forward to continuing activities around HIV and malaria education, implementing activities focused on nutrition, and identifying ways I can remain engaged with my village even after I finish service and return to the U.S.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

I’ve always attempted to live for the benefit of others, and my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer has given me important experiences that will influence the direction of the rest of my life. After I return to the U.S., I hope to pursue a master's degree in public or global health and then enter a career in global development. I want to respond to community needs, with the understanding that patience is required for all efforts we involve ourselves in.