PROVIDENCE, RI – Providence, Rhode Island resident Melissa Morales is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency’s unprecedented global evacuation in March 2020. The Peace Corps suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morales is a graduate of University of Rhode Island and will serve as an Environmental volunteer in Zambia.
Promoting world peace motivated Morales to join the Peace Corps. She is also eager to support the community in Zambia.
“This is a historic moment at a pivotal time in the world. We are witnessing the largest vaccination effort in history, ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and a war that is expected to broadly impact food security,” said Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn. “The return of Peace Corps volunteers to the Dominican Republic and Zambia is just one step in returning volunteers to countries around the world to partner with host communities and support urgent response and recovery efforts.”
The volunteer cohorts serving in the Dominican Republic and Zambia are made up of both first-time volunteers and volunteers who were evacuated in early 2020. Upon finishing a three-month training, volunteers will 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 will engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work. Among their assignments, volunteers in Zambia will partner with communities to provide COVID-19 education and promote access to vaccinations in coordination with local leaders and partner ministries, including the Ministry of Health. In the Dominican Republic, volunteers will support communities in overcoming challenges attributed to the educational and economic impacts of the pandemic. Their activities will include recovering student’s literacy skills, addressing increased school drop-out rates, and preparing young adults for the workforce.
On March 15, the Peace Corps welcomed the first volunteers to service in Zambia. Currently, the Peace Corps has 35 volunteers in Zambia and the Dominican Republic. The agency is recruiting volunteers to serve at 24 of the agency’s 60 posts, though all posts have enthusiastically requested the return of volunteers. The Peace Corps will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends in all of its host countries and send volunteers to serve as conditions permit.
Morales will work in cooperation with their local community and partner organizations on sustainable development projects.