- Created on May 15, 2014
Global becomes local for returned Peace Corps volunteer
Andrea Kayne, second semester BSN student at the UAB School of Nursing, grew up in the suburban town of Rochester Hills, Mich. However, her dreams and aspirations were always further reaching than Rochester Hills’ city limits.
Andrea has a heart for volunteering and helping others in a global capacity. But it wasn’t until Andrea entered the Peace Corps that she realized that she wanted to turn her passion for health care into a career.
In 2007 Andrea enrolled in Michigan State University with the intention of majoring in forestry when a more practical side of her decided to pursue professional writing, an area that she felt naturally drawn to.
When Andrea was 20 years old and a sophomore in college, she went on an eight-week health centered study abroad trip to Costa Rica. She fell in love with the world of global health. Andrea decided that she would continue in her major in professional writing, but also obtain pre-nursing credits in case she decided to pursue another path.
Andrea, now 26, joined the Peace Corps two years ago. She says her interest was sparked by two inspiring presentations given by returned Peace Corps volunteers that she saw while attending Rochester Adams High School. The experiences they shared struck a cord with Andrea because of her love for volunteer work and appeal of international travel. Andrea applied to the Peace Corps her junior year of college.
She was accepted to the Peace Corps program in 2010 as an environmental conservation volunteer in the South American nation of Paraguay.
Andrea was assigned to work in Ysypo, a town in the department of Misiones, roughly 125 miles south of Asuncion where Spanish is spoken but Guarani is the primary language.
In preparation for her placement Andrea took 129 hours of intensive language training; 66 hours of CORE studies in Paraguayan culture and history; 88 hours of health and safety courses; and 150 hours of technical training, which also consisted of field activities.
During Andrea’s appointment her primary objectives were to increase awareness and train on local environmental issues such as sustainable waste, water conservation and plant and animal species preservation.
At first, Andrea says, she was very culturally challenged. Assimilation was her main goal.
“I had to focus on relationships first, and work second. I learned how vital they were to one another in Paraguayan culture,” she says. “The United States is a very productivity driven country. In Paraguay, there is a more holistic approach to work.”
As a secondary project, Andrea worked closely with the local health post and regional hospital to promote exercise and nutrition, presented a safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention program and discrimination lecture to 40 high school students, and helped establish the first-ever head lice check in the local primary school.
Andrea’s time in Paraguay shaped her future directions. She witnessed first hand the tremendous importance and need for quality health care in rural communities such as Ysopo. The community health nurses were sometimes the only contact locals ever had with healthcare professionals, she said.
While environmental conservation is her first love, she said, “If you don’t have your health, you can’t do anything. Health is the basis for a strong and happy life. The idea of working in a smaller hospital in a rural community really appeals to me. I want to use my Spanish in a global health capacity and work with a disadvantaged population. That’s where my heart is.”
Andrea says that her experience in Paraguay, where access to health care is an everyday struggle, will make her a better nurse. There were health issues that she wishes she could have fixed but did not have the knowledge -- yet.
Andrea enrolled in the BSN program the UAB School of Nursing in 2012 as a Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows Program. She said that UAB School of Nursing will enable her to one day be an invaluable resource for rural communities such as Ysypo in a nursing capacity.
Reflecting on her two-year service experience Andrea said, “My perspective on life has completely changed. If you can do the Peace Corps, you can do anything. I am more comfortable with whatever life throws my way because I have been uncomfortable for so long. I realized things about myself that I never knew before, like that I love the countryside, and I am a family person. I learned to be happy with very little.”
Andrea now travels to different schools and shares her story in an effort to inspire others to embark on this life-changing journey.