Katy Cremer ’14 has been named a Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Fellow, a graduate fellowship program that offers financial assistance to returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Cremer’s 27 months of Peace Corps service in Namibia began in April of 2015 and ended in 2017.
Coverdell Fellows receive tuition remission and a stipend. Cremer was offered a fellowship at the University of Arizona (UA), one of the 120 universities working with the Coverdell Fellowship program.
“In return, we have to continue our service with program requirements: a certain amount of service projects; leadership opportunities; professional development opportunities; passing on Peace Corps’ third goal, which is teaching Americans about our service and country; and working as a graduate assistant for a local organization 10 hours a week,” Cremer says.
She has worked at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, which helps resettle refugees and asylees—primarily from the Congo, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan—in the Medical Intensive Case Management (ICM) program.
Cremer is pursuing a public health master’s in epidemiology at UA. At Centre, she completed a B.A. in anthropology and sociology, minoring in biology. She was treasurer of the Student Jewish Organization, and she took the Taglit-Birthright Trip to Israel, where she worked in Jewish overnight camps.
“After leaving the Peace Corps, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Cremer says. “I even thought about going back to work for the Peace Corps either abroad or in the U.S. I ended up getting into the University of Arizona as a Coverdell, which was my number one choice. The program takes 25 fellows each year—I think more than 100 apply.”
After an arduous Peace Corps application process beginning in 2013, Cremer was assigned to serve in Namibia in 2015. But things didn’t start off smoothly.
“After three months of training, I was placed at a regional hospital in Nyangana and lived on a Catholic mission,” Cremer explains. “Unfortunately, within the month, there was an armed robbery on the Catholic mission. For security reasons, I lived in the local town until they placed me at my new site.
“I lived in a village called Bunya in the Kavango region and spoke a language called Rukwangali,” she continues. “I was attached to the health center there, working daily with the nurses and clinic staff to help them with the hundreds of patients who came to the clinic every morning. I checked in patients, took their vitals, assisted with patient consultations, helped in the pharmacy—basically whatever the staff needed done.
“I was also the computer expert, which involved anything having to do with the extremely old computer that was in the health center. I am definitely not a tech expert, but I was the only one who could even turn it on.”
But, as with all Peace Corps volunteers, her mission was multi-faceted.
“The patients would usually be finished being seen by the afternoon, so I started finding other things to do to fill this time,” Cremer says. “I created a garden (probably about 20 feet by 30 feet) on the clinic grounds; I tutored some elderly individuals in English; I grew Moringa trees for HIV-positive and TB patients; and I started an after-school health club at the local school. Many days I would go into the ‘bush’ (which just means more inland and to more rural areas) with some clinic staff in order to provide outreach or a mobile clinic for people who didn’t have easy access to health care.
Cremer goes on to explain that her main project was centered on a program called Youth Exploring and Achieving in Health (YEAH).
“About twice a year, a group of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) in the Kavango region would take a couple of their students in their health clubs and come together for a workshop. So it was about 25 students and 12 PCVs, and some had Namibian counterparts. We would teach the students about health-related topics. In the Kavango region, HIV and teenage pregnancy are large issues. So those were the topics we focused on for our workshops. The HIV workshop was about six days long and the teenage pregnancy workshop was about four days long.
As part of the project, Cremer collaborated to create educational, but fun, activities for students, ultimately working to teach them about creating goals, such as sexual education, nutrition and empowering them to say no.
“For example, we had an HIV simulation where students had to go through an obstacle course. Some students were randomly allocated heavy sandbags to represent the burden of HIV, and while they finished the obstacle course, it took them a bit longer than those without sandbags/HIV. This showed that they can reach their goals, however if they have HIV, it might just take longer and become harder to reach them. Teaching these students and watching them learn was definitely a highlight of my service.”
by Cindy Long
June 18, 2019
Above: Katy Cremer ’14 (second row, third from left) and other Peace Corps volunteers gather with Former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush.