Danielle Porter ’10 will deploy to Madagascar on Monday, March 4 to begin a two-year term of service as one of the Peace Corps’ newest health extension volunteers.
Porter joins the ranks of a select few of alums from HWS who have dedicated themselves to pursue a role with the Peace Corps. Established in 1961, the Peace Corps sends thousands of volunteers around the world working in important fields, such as business development, information technology and AIDS relief; in turn, helping those in need to improve their lives.
“I’m looking forward to the whole experience of serving in the Peace Corps,” says Porter, who was a religious studies major with honors at HWS. “I have this sneaking suspicion that whatever contributions I’m able to leave in Madagascar after two years will not touch the knowledge and experience that I take home with me.”
In Madagascar, Porter’s assignment is primarily in the field of health extension. As she prepares for deployment, Porter says she’s looking forward to working with clinics to hold educational events in communities. In addition, Porter says she anticipates educating the public about the prevention of illnesses like malaria and HIV, while providing valuable information about water sanitation, nutrition, women’s health issues and pre- and postnatal care.
Porter’s work will not only allow her to educate the community on these vital issues, but also will immerse her in a culture where she can forge new friendships and connections that she hopes will last a lifetime. While the abrupt lifestyle change may seem startling for some, Porter’s studies with various languages throughout her time at HWS have left her well equipped to make the transition with ease.
Porter cites her time at HWS as factor in motivating her to pursue a future with the Peace Corps.
As an undergraduate, Porter studied abroad at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, a program facilitated by Binghamton University. The heightened global awareness Porter gained in Morocco gave her a sense of cultural sensitivity and global understanding, attributes highly desired in the Peace Corps.
“That experience gave me a firsthand lesson in cultural sensitivity and understanding, which is one of the core expectations that the Peace Corps emphasized in its application process,” Porter says. “The availability of language study at William Smith will also be valuable because I was able to pursue a few languages.”
Equipped with a newfound outlook and valuable experiences gained from her time at the Colleges and abroad, Porter decided to dedicate her life to others, and applied for a position with the Peace Corps.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter, Porter’s honors adviser, could not be more proud of his former pupil’s achievement. A former Peace Corps volunteer himself, Salter describes Porter’s case as one in which the “world of experience that was opened at William Smith turned into a life of consequence.”
Salter recalls relishing the opportunity to work with Porter on her honors project, and spoke to the pleasure of watching her “move through William Smith, study Arabic, construct a terrific honors project, work for a few years, and then join the Peace Corps.”
Salter was able to use his own experiences in the Peace Corps to pass on some well-earned advice to prepare Porter for what to expect, namely, the unexpected.
Porter’s time in the Peace Corps will allow her to teach a community the importance of various health issues; however, her aspirations do not stop there. In addition, she will take from this experience a sharper sense of self-identification and cultural sensitivity that is ever so valued as a global citizen in today’s ever-changing world.