By Geneva Peppars
Humboldt State made the Peace Corps list of Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges for the tenth year in a row. This year HSU ranked fifth on the list of medium size colleges for its current 33 alumnus volunteering around the world. Since 1961, 841 Lumberjacks have served as volunteers, according to Humboldt Now.
Kayla Mesangale, graduated from HSU May 2015, and is currently serving in Timor-Leste, a 15 year-old country in Southeast Asia. She is apart of the first group back in the country since the Peace Corps evacuation in 2006 due to civil unrest.
“Peace corps was in Timor from 2002 ,when they won their independence to 2006. I’m apart of the first group of volunteers since the evacuation in 2006. We arrived 2015.”
She graduated from HSU with a degree in child development. Now she works as a community development volunteer in Timor Leste.
“Basically we are reestablishing the [Peace Corps] program and building relationships and trust with the locals,” Mesangale said. “Our focus is nutrition, water sanitation, agriculture and business, but we all do a variety of different projects. Really whatever our communities need.”
Charles Truong also graduated from Humboldt State in 2015 with a degree in kinesiology education and he is currently living in rural Fiji. Truong teaches physical education and life skills at a nearby high school. Truong participated in throwing events for the HSU track and field teams and now coaches track and field throwing events in Fiji.
Charles Truong said the ability to bring his students outside of their villages is a highlight for him.
“Seeing the impact it had on all of my students was a proud moment for myself because I know I had sparked something inside of them. Now, in the new school year, I see the students more open and willing to try new things. It makes me proud that I could just be part of their growth,” Truong said.
Katie Sidel served in Zambia for after she graduated in 2013 with a degree in Environmental science ecological restoration before she returned in March of 2016. Sidel worked as a forestry extension agent where she promoted income generating activities such as beekeeping. Sidel also educated kids on malaria and HIV and planted trees for multipurpose such as cropping and nitrogen fixation. Sidel knows many HSU alumni Peace Corp volunteers and even ran into one she went to school with at a music festival in East Africa.
“I met another PCV in Malawi who I went to HSU with”, Katie said. “We randomly met at a music festival in Malawi. [A]HSU alumni who would’ve thought”.
Kayla’s advice to HSU students or alumni contemplating signing up to volunteer is to not romanticize the decision.
“Really think about it realistically. It’s important not to romanticize it, because this will be one of the most challenging experiences, from loneliness and explosive diarrhea to harassment and health problems” said Kayla. “ But ultimately, this will be a worthwhile and life changing experience. The relationships you build with people and the little changes you have an impact on, are worth it all”
“If you’re willing to challenge yourself and sacrifice many of your privileges to grow, then Peace Corps is for you,” said Charles Truong. “The experience, relationships, and lessons you learn are all worth the hardships”
If you are interested in learning more about joining the Peace Corps, the Humboldt State recruiter, Barbara Smith will be on campus holding an application workshop on April 21.