Peace Corps campus recruiter Hunter Ryan comes to the Stevenson Center from Paraguay, where he engaged with the local community to improve the health and well-being of its members. Now he is educating students about Peace Corps.
Originally from Houston, Hunter left Texas for Lawrence University in Wisconsin, which he described as a “small liberal arts college.” Upon graduation, he went to Maine to work at a summer camp and then became an AmeriCorps Member in Arizona. He likened the yearlong experience to being a junior park ranger in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Hunter saw volunteering as a privilege, which led him to apply to Peace Corps.
Hunter was a rural health and sanitation Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, which involved extensive community outreach.
“While I was there, I coordinated and collaborated with the health post that served in the area and we did a lot of educational outreach with the schools, ranging from HIV and STD/STI prevention and education in the high schools to dental health and parasite prevention with elementary schools,” said Hunter.
Educating young children on these important issues ranged from games about washing hands to teeth brushing songs.
Living in a new country exposed Hunter to issues that others faced. “For example, in the rural communities, if it rains, the roads are difficult to pass, so sometimes if it rains, you don’t go anywhere. Kids don’t go to school,” said Hunter.
There were of course noticeable cultural differences as well. Hunter remarked that the devoted “Puritan work ethic” that is standard in American society is absent in Paraguay.
“The motto there was tranquilo,” he said. “Don’t not try to do it: Try, but it happens. What happens happens.”
Hunter extended his service for a third year and moved to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. Remaining a health volunteer, Hunter shifted focus to youth development. Aiding a nongovernment organization, he used soccer to connect with youth, focusing on the benefits of teamwork.
The Peace Corps had a life changing effect on Hunter. It was in Paraguay that Hunter met his wife, Meagan Terry, a Peace Corps volunteer originally from New Jersey. He carried away many deep memories from his time in Paraguay.
“It just showed me the connection that all of us have and that languages and cultures and differences between those things tend to fade away if you take the time to sit with somebody and be with them and get through the uncomfortable, and just let the uncomfortable silences just sit and rest, and then you’re able to share in this sense of being,” said Hunter.
Hunter is now a Peace Corps Fellow pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology and recreation, with a sequence in applied community and economic development. Fellows programs are one of the many benefits for Peace Corps Volunteers after service.
Considering joining the Peace Corps or just want to know more about it? Hunter Ryan is available to answer your questions: (309) 438-1177 or PCRecruiter@IllinoisState.edu. Additional information including office hours can be found at the Stevenson Center.
The Stevenson Center offers Peace Corps Prep, designed to help students bolster their application and gain skills for careers. The deadline for applying this semester is September 8.
Sarah Aten is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.