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Wonder how volunteering can change your life? Ask a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Larissa Gummy was first introduced to the work of the Peace Corps in high school. All it took was seeing a few photos shared by her ninth-grade teacher, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, to know that one day, she would follow in those footsteps.

This inspiration eventually led Larissa away from her home in Minnesota to Rwanda in East Africa, to give back to her family’s country of origin and pursue her passion for international development. Though her decision confused her parents at first, they’re now proud and excited to see what their daughter has accomplished through her volunteer work.

And just what was that work? Well, it changed from day to day, but it all had to do with health.

Mostly, Larissa worked for Rwanda’s First 1,000 Days Health project, which aims to improve the conditions that affect the mortality rate of kids within the first 1,000 days of being born (or almost three years old). These conditions include hygiene, nutrition, and prevention of childhood diseases like malaria and acute respiratory infections (ARI). Addressing malnutrition was a particular focus, as it continues to cause stunted growth in 33% of Rwandan children under the age of five.

In partnership with the local health center, Larissa helped with vaccination education, led nutrition classes, offered prenatal care to expecting mothers, and helped support health education in surrounding communities. Needless to say—she stayed busy with a variety of tasks.

But what she also liked to focus on was her personal project: one that aimed to help mothers find ways to provide their kids with proper nutrition. One idea she worked on was to start a savings fund that would allow mothers to buy chickens, which in turn would continuously provide a source of much-needed protein through eggs.

She fell in love with the beauty of Rwanda from the warm interactions she shared with its people. Not least of which being Marcella, aka Mama Kuku, Larissa’s “counterpart,” a local community member who worked alongside her as a cultural liaison. But after welcoming Larissa into her home, teaching her to cook, celebrating multiple holidays…Mama Kuku truly became an extended family member.

“She’s literally my favorite person,” Larissa gushed.

And while Larissa had dedicated a lot of time to nutritional education, she learned a few invaluable lessons herself.

“The Peace Corps has taught me that I am a lot stronger than I think I am,” she shared.

Larissa also added how traveling helped her, and can help anyone, get to know a different part of themselves and expand their worldview. All pretty handy skills, if you ask us.

“If you’re thinking about [joining the Peace Corps] you should do it. Challenge yourself. It’ll be worth it.”

Does reading this generate a little buzz of excitement, or pique your curiosity? The Peace Corps has immersive and fulfilling opportunities in over 60 countries. Learn more about becoming a Volunteer here.
Source: Upworthy
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