In celebration of the Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary, we checked in with HWS alums who, due to COVID-19, were serving abroad and were called home, or whose plans have been delayed. Carl Weiss ’17 was recalled last March from his post in the Dominican Republic as a Spanish Literacy Volunteer.
For 18 months, Carl Weiss ’17 taught Spanish literacy as a Peace Corps Volunteer in an elementary school in Boca de Cachón, Dominican Republic. Working in one of the few Peace Corps posts that taught in the native language, he utilized the language skills he developed with his Hispanic studies minor.
Weiss says the experience was eye-opening. A flood destroyed the town including its farmland which severed the community’s prime food supply as well as a major source of employment. “I experienced a major culture shock. Things that you experience in poverty normally was multiplied tenfold in this town,” says Weiss, who lived with the principal of the elementary school, Maira Recio and her husband Alejandro, who was also involved in the local education system. “They helped immensely in getting me integrated into my workplace and community. They are truly family to me.”
Located about eight hours from the capital on the Haitian Dominican border, he says the rural school was underfunded and understaffed. “Teaching was challenging because there were no private spaces to tutor students without having other distraction,” he says. “I learned to find more creative ways to make teaching materials and focused on what I could control. I ended up focusing on making low budget teaching materials to share with fellow teachers.”
When not teaching in the classroom, the former Statesman organized a community youth soccer team, which he called his proudest achievement. “We did not have a field of our own. We played in the back corner of a baseball field that was made of dirt and rock with a flat ball that was donated to us. The kids got together and chalked lines and pulled rocks and thorn bushes from the field. It was one of my favorite moments, seeing how much being on an organized soccer team meant to them.”
With only six months left to serve, Weiss received an email that he would need to evacuate due to COVID-19. “I had a 24-hour notice from the time I heard the news to the time I had to leave the country. I had to tell everyone, give away everything that I owned – medicine, clothes, toiletries and cookware – and had to be on a plane,” he says.
Since then, Weiss, who grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., moved to Durango, Colo., and is working as a dog sled guide for his uncle who owns 30 Alaskan huskies. “I’m a guide, I help train sled dogs and guide people on mountain trips. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time but I’ve never had the chance until COVID decided to mix everything up for me. It became a solid opportunity for me to do this for the season,” says Weiss.
Thanks to an experience working with the Peace Corps magazine in the Dominican Republic, Weiss is considering a career in journalism. But no matter what he does next, Weiss is confident he’ll always find time for community service as he develops as a global citizen. “It started in high school, I was big into service and my community. At HWS, I loved the fact that you really have to diversify the topics that you studied; it makes you a well-rounded person,” he says. “So, I studied culture, language, sociology, anthropology, and all that. It made me more aware of the bigger world that is beyond HWS.”
At HWS, Weiss majored in international relations and was a member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, the Eye to Eye service group and tutored at the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva. Weiss studied abroad in San Joaquín, Costa Rica, and interned for two summers with Hand In Hand for Haiti, an organization co-founded by Edward J. Brennan P’06, P’09.
To current college students considering going into the Peace Corps, Weiss would encourage them to pursue the opportunity. “The more service we do, the better we make our communities and ourselves,” he says.