Peace Corps perspective

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Caitlin Daniels '09 BSN shared her global health story with seniors in February.

“It was the hardest job I have ever loved”... along with being the Peace Corps tagline, those were the first words that came to Caitlin Daniel’s mind when asked to describe her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanua Levu, Fiji. Caitlin, a Villanova alumna who earned her BSN in 2009, was first inspired to join the Peace Corps by her aunt and uncle who had both served in Lesotho in the 1980s. Caitlin had always possessed an interest in international issues, and in September 2012, she decided to pursue those interests and change her career path. Armed with three years of experience as a nurse in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and the support of friends and family, Caitlin began her two year commitment as a licensed healthcare professional Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji. On February 24th, she returned to campus to share her global health story with seniors studying community health with Dr. Mary Pickett.

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Caitlin Daniels gives a health talk about diabetes prevention in a village for Friday outreach.

During her time in Fiji, Caitlin primarily served as a health educator and nurse educator, she explained, “I had many different jobs, ranging from setting up organic greenhouse programs to improve the food security at the hospital I was assigned, to doing clinical nurse training for the hospital staff, to teaching nursing students how to do assessments. I also traveled around my province to villages and schools to teach about nutrition, avoiding NCDs, composting, and exercise.”

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Learning proper handwashing technique was fun when Caitlin Daniels visited a nearby village.

Fiji culture is male-dominated, which was difficult to get used to, but Caitlin explained, “I met so many strong women who were working for gender equality and equal representation of women in government. It was inspiring.” While Caitlin had an impact on so many lives through her teaching, she credits Camp GLOW as the most meaningful project she was a part of while in Fiji, “Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a female empowerment and leadership training camp. It’s a Peace Corps international initiative, but Fiji had never had one. I worked together with six other volunteers to bring Fiji’s first ever Camp GLOW to my island of Vanua Levu. I’m still in touch with the girls and it’s amazing to see what a difference GLOW made in all our lives.”

Reintegrating herself into life and the workforce after two years spent in Fiji proved to be challenging for Caitlin, especially after seeing first-hand what little healthcare resources existed outside the United States. Caitlin is currently working full-time as a Surgical Intensive Care Unit nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and explained how she currently utilizes knowledge she gained from her experience, “I try to honor the things I learned in Fiji by creating as little waste as possible and truly connecting with my patients on a holistic level. Health education is as important in America as it is in Fiji. I’ve become a true believer in preventative care rather than tertiary care when health problems get really bad. On the other hand, I am so happy to be in the ICU again, where everything is controlled and on time, and the resources seem boundless. I’m so happy to be able to give my patients the best healthcare in the world. It’s an honor to participate in such high-level care.”

While reflecting on life lessons and perspective she had gained from her time as a Peace Corps volunteer, Caitlin concluded, “Fiji taught me a lot about respecting time spent with friends, the importance of resting and reflecting, how much we depend on our natural environment, the richness that cooking can bring to a household, and the invaluable role of family in our lives. I’m striving to bring my values home, but the busy lifestyle in America is hard to get used to!” Caitlin has also been accepted to Johns Hopkins University Master of Public Health degree program for 2015, and recently became engaged to be married this coming June to her long term boyfriend Brent Ceryes, who was so supportive of her service overseas. Immersing herself in another culture has left “an indelible mark on me,” Caitlin says.