Last month Peru was struck with heavy rains, leading to disastrous flooding, as a result of an abnormal El Niño, the warming of surface sea temperatures in the Pacific. An El Niño is associated with warm and wet weather from mid spring through the summer along the coasts of northern Peru and Ecuador. The wet weather causes major flooding. As of April 19th the death toll from the floods had risen to 113.
On March 20th Kevin Drumm was in Morropon, Peru, where he has been working as a Peace Corps volunteer since May 2016. He was sick in bed, in his host family’s house when he received an email from the Peace Corps saying he needed to evacuate within the next few hours. Not long after this he got a call telling him the road to the city was blocked, and he had until the next morning to try and leave. Fortunately, Drumm was able to make it out of the country and home safely. Every “site,” location, the Peace Corps has volunteers in is required to have internet or cellphone connection for safety purposes. “They want us to check our email or phones at least once a day,” Drumm said. “You have to be connected.”
Peace Corps volunteers should be cleared to return to the country in the first weeks of May after inspections take place. Approximately 70 out of 200 Peace Corps volunteers residing in Peru were evacuated from the country to ensure their safety until conditions improve. Some of them left without being able to say goodbye to their host families and they may not return to their original sites. Drumm was living with a family of seven.
“My host mother worked as a teacher,” Drumm said. “The Dad worked in the health post in town.” Drumm grew rather close with the youngest son in the family, 7, getting to spend time at home with him. Two of the elder children attend college, all though Drumm says Peru is ranked nearly last in the America’s for its education system.
Drumm graduated from the University of Rhode Island’s International Engineering Program (IEP) with duel Bachelor Studies Degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Spanish in 2015. The IEP requires students to spend their fourth year, out of the five year program, studying and working in a country that speaks the language they are majoring in. He spent time studying in San Sebastian, Spain and working in Leon, Mexico.
“That helped prepare me and it helped me appreciate being able to go to college and the education we have here,” Drumm said. Thanks to Drumm’s studies and traveling he has had years of experience speaking with Spanish. Every volunteer undergoes three months of training before their two year tenor with the Peace Corps. “You start in or just outside of the capital of any country you go to,” Drumm said. “Then you go out to different sites around the country.”
Drumm spent three months in Lima, the capital of Peru. During their training Peace Corps workers learn and enhance skill sets for the divisions they will be working in. Drumm has been teaching water sanitation/hygiene and English to twenty English teachers during his time in Peru. Drumm noted that it is more about “capacity building,” being able to learn and prove your ability to work than knowing any difficult math or science for these projects.
After going on a trip to the Dominican Republic in high school with the Boy Scouts of America, Drumm gained a heightened interest in the Spanish language and other cultures. He attended another trip to Indonesia with the Boy Scouts over winter break one year in college. These trips were organized by Neil Ross, the first URI graduate to ever serve overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer, who served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in 1962 to 1962. Ross founded the Peace Corps Prep Program at the university in February 2016. Since 1962 URI has had over 400 undergraduate alumni serve in countries around the world with the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps Prep (PC Prep) program supplies students with the knowledge and experience needed for international development field work, careers in international service, and Peace Corps service. The program can be weaved into a regular undergraduate curriculum. It pairs selected courses with leadership and community service to help prepare students for work. The program is open to all undergraduate students with any major at URI. Upon graduation students receive an official Certificate of Completion from the Peace Corps, providing them with a competitive edge when applying either to be a Peace Corps volunteer, or for other international development work.
Drumm will be taking advantage of his time home to give a lecture on his time in Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer. The discussion will be in Lippet Hall on Tuesday, April 25 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. He will talk in depth about his work, including sanitation, hygiene, and other activities such as teaching English and gender equity training. He will also discuss the application process for anyone interested in the Peace Corps program and the Peace Corps Prep Program at URI. Additional information for the program can be can be found at http://web.uri.edu/peacecorpsprep/