When the COVID-19 pandemic scuddled Calvin DeWitt’s, BA ’21, plans to volunteer on international missions with the Peace Corps, the former economics major vowed not to give up on his service dreams.
Now, he’s among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the pandemic. Nearly two years after first applying to the Peace Corps, DeWitt completed a three-month training regimen and is serving as a teacher in The Gambia. He will help the West African nation of 2 million people fill a teacher shortage gap as its education sector continues to grow.
During his 27 month service, DeWitt will also work in cooperation with local community and partner organizations on sustainable development projects.
“Serving through the Peace Corps is a great opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds that I know will spur personal growth and give me a better understanding of what to prioritize in life,” DeWitt said.
As conditions permit, the Peace Corps will continue returning volunteers to service on an ongoing basis until all posts have reopened. In March, the agency welcomed it first volunteers to service in Zambia.
“Actions taken in the next few years have the potential to fundamentally impact development trajectories for decades to come,” said Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn. “Peace Corps volunteers returning to The Gambia will work alongside community members to support urgent development efforts and build critical connections.”
The volunteer cohorts are made up of both first-time volunteers and volunteers who were evacuated in early 2020. They collaborate with their host communities on locally prioritized projects in one of Peace Corps’ six sectors—agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health or youth-in-development—and all engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work.
DeWitt was inspired to volunteer partly by the example of family members who also served in the Peace Corps. The Lawrence, Kansas, native said he is eager to learn about new cultures during his time in The Gambia and to work with the local community.