Boulder residents some of the first to return to Peace Corps service

·3 min read

May 19—Boulder residents Lisa and Peter Waugh are among the first people to return to service with the Peace Corps.

Later this month, the couple are set to leave for Peru — more than two years after they originally planned to leave the country. They applied in 2019 and were all set to leave in March 2020, until the pandemic happened.

The Peace Corps suspended global operations and evacuated almost 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the beginning of the pandemic.

The extra time to prepare has helped, but it's not the first time the Waughs have embarked on such a mission.

They traveled to the Seychelles, an island country in East Africa, to serve in the Peace Corps in 1986. Peter worked as a roadway engineer, and Lisa was a community health nurse in the small country.

The island of Mahe in the Seychelles is about 18 miles long and 6 miles wide, Peter said.

When the Waughs decided to apply for service in the Peace Corps more than three decades ago, it felt like a good opportunity.

For Peter, it was a chance to put his engineering skills to use at a grassroots level. Lisa could use her nursing degree as a means of providing health care and support in the developing world.

At the time, neither realized the trip would lead to a lifetime of service.

After the first trip in the late 1980s, Lisa worked in public and global health. Peter worked on international water projects through Engineers Without Borders.

During the pandemic, the Waughs volunteered with the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps, administering COVID-19 vaccinations in rural New Mexico.

"The world is at a critical juncture. 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. Actions taken in the next few years have the potential to fundamentally impact development trajectories for decades to come," Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn stated in a news release. "Peace Corps volunteers returning to Peru will work alongside community members to support urgent development efforts and build critical connections."

The Waughs remember Seychelles for its indescribable natural beauty and the kind people who live there.

There are many countries where it takes time for Peace Corps volunteers to build relationships with local residents, Peter noted.

"In the Seychelles, that was not the case. It was almost immediate," he said. "And so that's what sticks out the most for me."

After their initial two-year stint in the Seychelles, the Waughs returned to Boulder. Both are from the area and wanted to raise their family in the city.

But returning to Peace Corps service was always in the back of their minds.

Lisa worked in various global health jobs over the years, all of which were impactful. But she said it often felt like something was missing.

"I didn't feel like I was closely linked to the local communities," she said. "I wanted to get back to community-based work."

In Peru, they will help with community economic development and on a water, sanitation and hygiene project.

With a previous experience in the Peace Corps and the extra time to prepare, the Waughs are ready for two years of service in Peru.

"It's a pretty special opportunity to get to know another culture other than your own," Peter said. "It is important for me and I anticipate loving it as much as I did last time."