By Caitlin Webb
Alexis Huth was a CII-5 volunteer in Santa Marta whose service was cut short against her will due to security issues. Despite the setback, Lexi served and continues to serve her community with thoughtfulness, creativity, and an open heart and mind.
What were some positive and negative aspects of your Peace Corps service?
There are those days when you struggle—you fight with your students to get them to practice their English. Then there are those days when you see their face light up because they are so proud of themselves for understanding. Working with SENA, I got to experience the gratification of opening doors to their immediate future.
I respected the level of trust that Peace Corps gave us at site and their process for assigning volunteers their schools. They believed in us; from how we managed our time and projects, to the everlasting impact we ultimately leave in our communities.
There were also numerous staff members and Peace Corps peers who treated me with even more value than my own blood. Their support and our unique relationships were unlike anything I’ve ever known, and they would be impossible to replicate. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the right words to express my gratitude.
The most negative aspect of my service was my abrupt separation from Peace Corps. I still had four months left and projects that I was looking forward to. It was hard to make commitments to my community that I wasn’t able to fulfill. However, it ended positively and I can see now that there was good that came from the bad.
What are you doing now?
I am volunteering as a chef for Cocina de Campo in Minca, where I get to pursue my love of baking that I encountered in Peace Corps. I loved being in charge of the blog, Costeños Saludables. I realized that all of my free time was geared toward the kitchen and so I took note of that and after Peace Corps, this is what I’ve dedicated myself to. It was always hard to see my students suffer from gastritis, diabetes and other health problems, so it was empowering to talk about healthy food options and apply it to the blog and now here, where we promote clean eating with local ingredients here on the coast.
When you left Peace Corps you worked in a few different places around Colombia. Why did you decide to stay in Minca over anywhere else?
I am currently doing my master’s in Alcohol and Drug Prevention online from the University of Oregon. They gave me so much freedom to write my own reports and choose my own direction for my masters and I was able to direct my program towards drug and alcohol prevention in Colombia. My reports thus far have all been on Taganga and the negative impact tourism has had there. Minca is growing in tourism and by interacting with the community, I realize that a similar situation could happen here. Due to the large influx of volunteers, Colombians aren’t always able to find jobs and are forced to turn to alternative ways of making money. (That’s why Cocina de Campo employs locals.) I’ve always been passionate about Minca since I arrived in Santa Marta, and a lot of us are really concerned about its future. I hope that I can collaborate with the school here and provide workshops on drug and alcohol prevention.
Minca has changed drastically in the last few months. What do you see in Minca’s future and how do you hope to contribute to it?
The person I work for and I are passionate about finding opportunities to provide more local employment in Minca. We are trying to collaborate with SENA or a similar organization with local employment as the end goal.
What aspects of your PC service, if any, do you use in your current work?
The opportunity to have almost two years here to really feel and see and interact was so crucial. All of the tools I was given in the three months of training have made me a more proactive and confident person in any community that I find myself slipping into.
How long do you see yourself here?
This is the first time that I’ve ever bought a one-way ticket! I see myself here indefinitely. I have to go back at some point to finish my master’s (it’s 75% online and 25% in person,) but I can see myself spending time in Colombia for many years to come.
What does your family think about you staying here?
My family is incredibly supportive. They’re excited to come out and visit me again soon.
Do you have any advice for PCVs?
Sometimes we must be outright uncomfortable to discover surprisingly great comfort. Be the first in your home to take initiative in washing dishes and watch others follow suit. Talk to those piropo-throwing men to make friends with the source causing you discomfort and frustration. Write an encouraging note with your most unreliable and ungrateful counterpart you work alongside, highlighting something positive. Recently learning about gardening has taught me that one small seed can spark the growth of an entire flower box. This couldn’t be truer in our acts of kindness when we offer spontaneous love to the not so loveable.