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Trinity S.

“Rather than just looking at issues and jumping straight to solutions, I'll use what I've learned in the Peace Corps to take the time and energy to understand the lived experiences and daily challenges faced by those in affected communities.”

Person smiling at the camera.

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

I first found out about the Peace Corps as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati. I knew that I wanted to live and learn abroad, but I was not sure what that would entail with my career. When I learned about the Peace Corps, I felt that it was a perfect opportunity to deepen my cultural humility, learn another language, and learn from other cultures. I was interested in the sustainable development work that the Peace Corps focuses on, as well as how the Peace Corps implements community integration. Overall, I knew that Peace Corps would be a life-changing experience, and I was excited to pursue the next steps necessary to join.

2. What projects are you working on?

I am working within the Community Health Empowerment Project. As a Health Volunteer, my main projects have been focused on nutrition interventions and preventable transmittable diseases. After conducting a 5-day program focused on infant and young child feeding, I am working with counterparts to ensure that the knowledge and skills gained in that training are being shared with caregivers and mothers within the community in order to combat malnutrition. One aspect of this project is developing reporting tools and systems to ensure that community-based volunteers are following up with families who have underweight children in order to provide a timely intervention.

Due to a recent outbreak of cholera, I am also working on hygiene and sanitation projects to encourage community members to build latrines and tippy-tap handwashing stations to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases. I plan on hosting soap-making demonstrations using ash and other locally sourced, affordable items.

Lastly, I am working with counterparts to ensure that newly distributed insecticide-treated nets are hung properly in the homes of community members to prevent the transmission of malaria.

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

The strategies I have used to integrate have evolved over time. Initially, I would sit outside of my host family’s house and chat with members of the community. As time went on, I began walking through the village and would greet people or sit outside of their house to chat. I also found that baking goods and sharing it with friends and my host family was a great way to build relationships and serve as a cultural ambassador. Overall, walking around and greeting people in the community was a great way to feel more comfortable with others.

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

A highlight of my time in service so far has been attending Zambian traditional festivals. So far, I have attended two traditional ceremonies: Likumbi Lya Mize and Ntongo Day. Attending Likumbi Lya Mize, a UNESCO World Heritage Ceremony, was absolutely breathtaking. I got to witness traditional Luvale costumes and dances, while also meeting the local chief. I learned a lot about the origin of the ceremonies, and the meaning behind the music and dances performed. I felt so grateful to learn more about Zambian culture and share these experiences with friends and family back home.

Volunteer standing next to a local chief in Zambia.
Trinity attending a traditional Zambian festival.

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

I have enjoyed the people and the location of the community where I am serving. I feel so fortunate to have a strong relationship with my host family, as I truly feel like I have gained another mother and siblings. My relationship with my host family, as well as the counterparts and friends I have made, has shaped and impacted my Peace Corps service significantly. I am also grateful to be located close to other catchment (watershed) areas. While the farthest catchment area is six miles away from my village, it's an exciting adventure to mountain bike through bush roads and on rough terrain.

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

One of the most important things I have learned from my community is to slow down and take the time to observe my surroundings. Initially, it was very difficult for me to break out of American cultural norms regarding timeliness. But as a result of living in my community, I have learned to be patient and understand factors that may prevent an individual from attending a meeting or event on time. I have learned that issues are not straightforward, and that there are so many nuances that impact public health. Had I not built relationships with individuals in my community, I would not have understood the various barriers to public health initiatives. Overall, my community has taught me to use the creative problem-solving skills I have developed in culturally appropriate ways.

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

When I am not working on a project, I enjoy spending time talking and cooking with my host family! I also enjoy reading, making art, and journaling. I often work as a medical secretary at the community clinic when I am not working on a project, which is also a great way to socialize with people from other catchment villages. I also make an effort to prioritize relationships with friends and family back home by sending voice messages or video chatting when internet connectivity allows. Overall, I spend time deepening my relationships with others in the community while also maintaining self-care activities.

A collage of photos demonstrating cooking food in Zambia.
Cooking in Zambia.

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

In my remaining time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am looking forward to upcoming projects. I also am looking forward to continuing to refine my language skills in Kikaonde, one of Zambia’s 72 local languages. My host sister will be getting married and having a baby soon, and I look forward to participating in the cultural celebrations and ceremonies. I also am looking forward to continuing to deepen the relationships I have built with friends and counterparts within Zambia. Overall, I am excited to continue to be present in my daily life here!

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

When I finish my service, I will be approaching sustainable development projects very differently. Rather than just looking at issues and jumping straight to solutions, I will use what I have learned in the Peace Corps to take the time and energy to understand the lived experiences and daily challenges faced by those in affected communities. I have learned that it can be easy to jump to conclusions or assume solutions without understanding the barriers that exist. I will also value my time differently rather than treating it as a precious or finite resource. I will be more flexible and adaptable as things change or new situations arise. Overall, my Peace Corps service has changed my outlook on the world and how I interact with it.