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Alumna embraces the challenge of serving in the Peace Corps

No one can be truly prepared for the Peace Corps, according to Kari Smith, '15, a volunteer in Mozambique.

Volunteers find themselves far from home, taking on the challenge of speaking new languages and adjusting to far different living standards and cultures.

But it's a challenge that some people with a heart for service are drawn to, especially Whitworth alumni.

"After attending Whitworth," Smith says, "I knew I would have the resources and the capability to work through any difficulty I faced during my Peace Corps service or in life."

Earlier this year, Whitworth made the Peace Corps' Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list, tying for fourth place nationally among small schools. At the time, 12 Whitworth alumni were volunteering overseas.

Smith is finishing her two years of service in Dombe, Mozambique, where her main responsibility has been teaching English to eighth- and ninth-graders. "My kids are wonderful," she says. "They are generally light-hearted, can be very imaginative and usually laugh at my jokes."

She also works to develop youth through groups centered on theater, girls' empowerment and Portuguese literacy for younger children.

Several experiences at Whitworth steered Smith, a biology major, toward the Peace Corps, including a Jan Term medical mission to Guatemala and involvement in Whitworth's Dornsife Center for Community Engagement.

"The Dornsife Center staff had this contagious knowledge that it was a privilege and joy to work with our community partners and to serve Spokane," Smith says. "It's hard not to fall in love with volunteering and community service in that kind of environment."

Smith also developed a support system at Whitworth that she has come to rely on.

"My Peace Corps experience has challenged me more than I could have imagined," she says, "but I have had Whitworth professors, staff and students alongside me the whole time, praying for me, checking in with me, and offering advice and encouragement."