Premise’s growth is being driven by employees that bring a diverse array of backgrounds and skills to our company.
We are launching a new series spotlighting our employees who have served in the Peace Corps. Every year, thousands of people join the Peace Corps to drive change in developing nations. They travel to remote locations around the world, work with a diverse group of people, and develop new skills that help set them up for future career success.
Today we talk to Alexandra Wilson, Technical Writer — International Development about her Peace Corps experience.
How long have you been at Premise?
What do you do here at Premise?
I help the International Development team with any communications and writing needs they have including marketing materials, custom materials for clients, reports, blogs, PowerPoints, etc.
How long were you in the Peace Corps for?
Just under the full 27 months! Three months of training (some of which we did in the Dominican Republic after there was a coup in Honduras!) followed by 23 months of service. The standard is 24, but they gave us flexible departure dates.
Where did you serve?
Tell us more about your experience — What did you do, and what was your favorite part about the experience?
I was a Protected Areas Management Volunteer basically assigned to do any environment-related work. I was the first volunteer in a community of about 500 people living just beyond the border of a large national park. I worked with them on various projects.
We did a big trash initiative in which I taught the difference between organic and inorganic trash and the alternatives to burning trash or throwing it in the river or open area. We held a few community trash pickups; built a very small, pilot landfill (a cement-lined hole and lid the size of a dumpster); and built a compost bin with the elementary school. I also recruited and trained a small group of students to serve as the “trash police”, looking out for litterbugs during recess. I did general environmental education with the school as well.
In a community project, we built 13 latrines for families who didn’t have one or had one in a state of disrepair. Everyone involved had to help put in work and resources. I also worked with the school kids and a few women on home gardens and nutrition education.
There were a number of individual workshops I held, including teaching the littlest kids about toothbrushing and handwashing and teaching women how to make chicken feed from foraged resources.
It is tough to pick a favorite thing about my experience, and I think for most volunteers the experience is difficult to summarize. Honestly, it was a tough two years, but also full of really happy and gratifying moments. Some of the many positives for me were the lasting friendships I made with a few of the other volunteers, reading over 70 books, eating the delicious baleadas (fluffy flour tortilla with refried beans and a special Honduran sour cream inside), swimming in rivers, and eating mangoes right off the trees, and the RELAXED pace of life!
But the things I’m most thankful for are that the experience helped me understand 1) the importance of recognizing cultural differences and 2) what life is really like for the majority of the world who live in poverty and often lack access to healthcare, clean water, higher education, etc. These two things totally changed my perspective on everything else in life.
How has the Peace Corps helped you in your career?
I learned a lot about patience and project management – and failure! I think that having that on-the-ground perspective gave me an upper hand when applying for jobs, particularly in the field of international development. Of course, I learned Spanish with the Peace Corps! This also has given me an upper hand a couple of times in my career.
What lessons from the Peace Corps do you bring to your role at Premise?
I think as a writer, I’m able to think more critically about the stories that happen in the IDev (international development) sphere, really connect with the problem statements, and stress the importance of the solutions. I have myself witnessed issues of poor health coverage, food insecurity, ecological destruction and inadequate infrastructure. I’ve also met workers from international development organizations working in the field. Through the Peace Corps, I had the privilege of meeting the people behind the data, which makes stories easier to understand and communicate.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the Peace Corps?
The process is largely self-selecting, meaning if you get through all the interviews and still want to do it, then do it! Two years is really a pretty short amount of time. I’d also say that once you get your invitation, just focus on getting on the plane. Don’t worry about doing too much research beforehand. I almost chickened out after reading about a volunteer experience from Honduras in which they mentioned hitchhiking. The idea of this totally freaked me out, but once I was there, I learned and experienced just how normal it is. After that, I told myself “no expectations, just get on the plane.”
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