MSU grad among first Peace Corps volunteers to return to service overseas

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI (CBS DETROIT) — Michigan State University graduate and Farmington Hills resident Charles “Randy” Perkins considers his first trip and experience in the Dominican Republic a calling in life. Perkins was able to participate in Farmington Hills Harrison High School’s international baccalaureate program during his freshman year and said his opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic was a blessing. Following what he called a life-changing experience, Perkins started down the path for a future in public service.

Randy Perkins

Randy Perkins

“When I went there, how welcoming everyone was in the country. The energy and the vibe of the country itself, I just really appreciated that as a young American and not really having stepped out of that comfort zone before. After having that experience, it kind of almost corrupted me in a sense to where now I always want to travel and always meet new people and have new experiences. So I’m blessed and thankful that I had the opportunity,” Perkins said.

After several years of studying, internships, experiences, and networking, Perkins graduated from MSU in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and criminal justice. Months before Perkins graduated, however, the Peace Corps had to evacuate nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries worldwide at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners, and staff whose mission is to strive for world peace. The agency suspended global operations during the pandemic, with no timetable for when volunteers could return to service — until now.

Perkins is among the first wave of Peace Corps volunteers heading back out to help serve the world, returning to where his spark to help and serve others all began — the Dominican Republic.

“I’m thankful that this opportunity was still available to start, but also, honestly, I just feel more ready, more prepared. I had two years to undergo professional growth and engage in a couple of different professional opportunities, including working with the Michigan senate in the office of senator Marshall Bullock II. So I feel like that experience just helped me a lot and helped me grow a lot to be able to better serve,” Perkins said.

The volunteer groups heading back out are made up of both first-time volunteers and some volunteers who were evacuated in March of 2020. After three months of training, the volunteers work with their host communities on projects in one of the Peace Corps’ six sections , including education, health, environment, agriculture, economic development, and youth development. The agency says all volunteers will also engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work. Perkins, who arrived in the Dominican Republic around 11 am Tuesday, will work in the youth development sector.

“I’ll be a youth development facilitator, so I’ll be working with children in and around schools within a set community. Just making sure they have access to after-school programs, maybe teach a health class or two, start a sports league. Just making sure that we’re able to be positive role models for them, so they are able to live happy, healthy lives,” Perkins explained.

Perkins will be volunteering in the Dominican Republic for the next two years. And while he’s ready to get to work and start making a positive impact on lives, Perkins says he’s looking forward to the sun, the food, and (with a chuckle) the first phone call from friends and family members when the first snow falls in Michigan. After waiting over two years for this moment, Perkins is ready to get out into the evolving post-pandemic world and make a difference.

“The Peace Corps is a good way for us to go back out into the world and try to create that type of intercultural engagement and intercultural interactions that are very important to help our world and society move forward. Because in order for us to move forward and grow, we have to lean on each other,” Perkins said.

The Peace Corps is recruiting volunteers to serve around the world at the request of host country governments. Volunteers have returned to over 25 countries so far. Emily Nguyen, a Michigan-based Regional Recruiter for the Peace Corps, said the agency is still looking for more volunteers.

“We have over 90 positions that are currently open. So, we’re very much looking forward to having people look to us as an opportunity to serve, in terms of the Peace Corps. The communities are excited to have volunteers back. Right now , we have a little over 25 countries that are currently hosting volunteers and then over 50 countries that have sent invitations for volunteers to serve,” Nguyen explained.

Peace Corps officials are monitoring COVID-19 trends in all of its host countries and will send volunteers to serve as conditions permit. Anyone who’s interested in global service or wants to learn more about the Peace Corps, click here.


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