Former Steamboat woman among first Peace Corps volunteers to return overseas
In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Peace Corps suspended global operations and removed nearly 7,000 of its volunteers in an evacuation that was unprecedented for the organization.
On Friday, July 29, former Steamboat Springs resident Avalena Everard became one of the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to service overseas. Her flight departed from Seattle at 8 a.m.
“I think I’d be insane not to be slightly nervous,” Everard said. “Because with Peace Corps, you’re not guaranteed running water or electricity — definitely not WiFi, cell service.”
She’ll be flying to the Republic of Uganda in East Africa, where she’ll help farmers and others in the agricultural sector improve their financial outlook. Everard has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Everard and thousands of other volunteers will also engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work.
“The world is at a critical juncture,” said Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn in a news release. “The largest global vaccination effort in history is underway while other widespread health, social, political and environmental issues continue to erode the foundation of our global society.”
Everard was originally supposed to serve in Guatemala after her senior year in college in September 2020, but the pandemic and the ensuing Peace Corps volunteer evacuation shelved her plans. In the two years since, her conviction to serve in the Peace Corps didn’t waver as she could not be shipping out any sooner.
“I think COVID derailed a lot of people’s postgraduate plans for sure,” Everard said.
Upon arrival, Everard will undergo training at the Ugandan capitol, Kampala. From there, she is unsure where exactly in the country she’ll be for the remaining two years of her service.
Everard was a ski racer until her junior year of high school, having been in the Steamboat Winter Sports Club since she was on the magic carpets.
Like many people who grow up in Steamboat, Everard said she appreciated growing up in a tight-knit community and can see herself moving back if she decides to settle down.
“I think Steamboat is a very special, little town,” Everard said. “I never grew up locking my car, or our house. I knew everybody. When you go to the grocery store, you run into everybody that you know that has known you your whole life.”
Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps is recruiting volunteers to serve in 47 countries around the world. Already, volunteers have returned to a total of 21 countries.
In addition to agriculture, Peace Corps volunteers assist in projects in the areas of education, community economic development, health, environment and youth development.
Everard said she hasn’t made any plans beyond her two years of service.
“It’s hard to say how two years and a very different place will impact you as a person,” Everard said. “So, I’m very open to whatever the future looks like.”
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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