When her two-year commitment as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia begins in January, Cynthia Uwicyeza ’16 will develop public-health projects focused on water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as educational initiatives promoting reproductive health.
Uwicyeza, who graduated with a B.A. in public policy with a concentration in healthcare policy and biology, is the fifth HWS graduate to be accepted into the Peace Corps this year. She joins classmates Elizabeth C. Lunderman ’16 and Thomas A. Ramage ’16, and alums Eliss Mañon ’14 and Tess M. O’Leary ’14. Lunderman and Ramage will serve as teachers in Tanzania and China respectively. Mañon will serve in Peru, O’Leary in the Dominican Republic, both as youth development volunteers.
Born in Rwanda, Uwicyeza has a longstanding interest in public service and ties to East Africa.
At HWS, she developed her passion for service as a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club — “both a humbling and a teaching experience,” she says — and as a member of the Latin American Organization and Sankofa: The Black Students’ Union.
Program Manager of Global and Community Leadership Programs for the Centennial Center for Leadership Solomé Rose first sparked Uwicyeza’s interest in the Peace Corps while she was enrolled in the CCL’s Global Leadership Program, “Beyond Borders.” “[Solomé Rose] knew how much I wanted to be involved in volunteer services and field work,” explains Uwicyeza, who also credits cross-cultural chats at the Office of Intercultural Affairs and discussions with alums about their Peace Corps service.
“I want to give back to my community,” she says. “I am looking forward to reconnecting with my African roots.”
Uwicyeza’s work will contribute to the Peace Corps’ broader efforts in Ethiopia, which include reforestation, agroforestry, watershed protection and sustainable agricultural practices, as well as educational programs centered on English proficiency, library development and gender-empowerment clubs.
Her commitment is the latest example of the longstanding relationship between the Colleges and the national organization. President Mark D. Gearan served as Peace Corps Director from 1995-1998, and in addition to the five HWS alums who joined the Peace Corps in 2016, four graduates elected to serve in 2015, adding to a long list of alums and faculty who have served.
In June, the organization celebrated the 20th anniversary of Peace Corps Response, which sends highly-skilled volunteers on short-term, high-impact service assignments to communities in moments of critical need, often in times of crisis. The program, formerly called Crisis Corps, was founded by Gearan during his tenure as director.
Established in 1961, the Peace Corps dispatches thousands of volunteers abroad each year to serve at the grassroots level and develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development. After completing the highly selective and prestigious program, Peace Corps alums often become leaders in their chosen fields, frequently related to public service and international affairs.