Students, faculty, and staff got a taste of life abroad through East African Eats, an event organized by Peace Corps Prep Campus Recruiter Vanessa Soto and sponsored by the Stevenson Center. Returned Peace Corps volunteers shared food, music, cultural artifacts, and conversation to promote diversity and awareness.

Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated change makers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.

The three featured countries for the event were Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. The fan favorite was Ethiopia, with Ethiopian coffee, injera (similar to Indian naan), gomen (kale), denecha (potatoes and carrots), and lentils with traditional Ethiopian seasonings. Alesha Klein, who served as an English teacher from 2014-2016, prepared the dishes and taught participants how to use injera as a utensil. Alesha is currently a Peace Corps Fellow pursuing a master’s degree in anthropology.

Vanessa Soto and Doug Gass prepared the Ugandan food. The dishes included posho (corn flour and water) with beans and rolex (wheat bread with egg and vegetable omelette), as well as jackfruit, passion fruit, and star fruit on display. Soto served as a literacy specialist in the Peace Corps and is pursuing a master’s degree in political science, while Gass worked in economic development and is a Peace Corps Fellow in kinesiology and recreation.

A jackfruit and samosas, food featured at the event.

Sephrine Achesah, born and raised in Kenya, brought samosas for the event:

“A samosa, or samoosa, is a fried or baked dish with a savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, macaroni, noodles, or minced meat (lamb, beef or chicken). Pine nuts can also be added. Its size and consistency may vary, but typically it is distinctly triangular or tetrahedral in shape.  . . .  Samosas are a popular entrée, appetizer, or snack in the local cuisines of India, Asia, and Africa.”  (

Peace Corps Campus Recruiter Vanessa Soto organized East African Eats to share Peace Corps Volunteers’ experiences and to deliver a cultural experience from a region far from Central Illinois. Many people attended the two-day event, including university professors and staff members, as well as graduate and undergraduate students.

Students interested in learning more about Peace Corps or attending an upcoming application workshop should contact the Peace Corps Campus Recruiter.

Kaitlin Pavsner is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.