Since its inception in the 1960s, the highly selective Peace Corps has sent volunteers across the globe promoting friendship and peace, often in areas of the world that experience great hardship. Katy Cremer ’14 has been selected as one of those volunteers and will spend the next two years serving in the African nation of Namibia.
“The Peace Corps has multiple sectors: environment, community development, education, health, youth development and others according to what specific countries need,” Cremer explains. “I’m a part of the health sector, so I will primarily work with AIDS and malaria in some way. I could be working in health education, or in a clinic, with government agencies, or NGOs, or really anything. I still don’t know where exactly I will be staying, so it depends on where I’m placed in Namibia. Volunteers are placed after a couple of weeks of in-country training.
“We’re also supposed to pick a side project to help the community,” she continues. “Some people work in orphanages, or build playgrounds for kids, or build bridges. It really just depends on where you’re placed and your interests.”
The application process for the Peace Corps is lengthy, and the wait to find out if an applicant’s candidacy has been accepted is often agonizing.
Cremer said she began working on her application the summer before her senior year at Centre College and officially applied the following October, during the government shutdown of 2013.
“I had my interview in February, and I was allowed to pick from three choices: Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana (Namibia was not even on my list),” she says. “Then came radio silence, which I have heard is typical. They are trying to match your qualifications to the country that can benefit the most from your service, keeping in mind your preferences.”
Cremer’s wait continued beyond graduation, until a long-anticipated reply arrived later that fall. While her initial request to work in Tanzania was denied, the following day she received an invitation to serve in Namibia.
“At this point I was excited just to receive an invitation, and after looking over the country on Wikipedia and the Peace Corps website, I decided it looked better than any of the other countries,” she explains. “Finally, I left for Namibia on April 13, 2015, after having started my application process in October of 2013.”
Service in the Peace Corps is the fulfillment of a long-held dream for Cremer, who set this as a life goal from a very early age.
“My neighbors, who were also two of my high school teachers, actually met in the Peace Corps,” Cremer remembers. “I am not exactly sure why, but they just planted the idea of the Peace Corps in my head and it stuck.”
Cremer is thrilled and humbled by her good fortune.
“I’ve had wonderful opportunities,” she says. “I went to one of the best college prep high schools in the country, and then to Centre, an amazing liberal arts school. With these opportunities, I feel the need to give back.
My mom always told me the quote, ‘character is how you treat others who can do nothing for you’—this has impacted my life.”
Above: Dune 45 is a star dune in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert in Namibia
by Cindy Long