June 13, 2005: Headlines: COS - Eastern Caribbean: Recruitment: The UCLA Daily Bruin: Naya Villarreal has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Eastern Caribbean: Peace Corps: Eastern Caribbean : The Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean: June 13, 2005: Headlines: COS - Eastern Caribbean: Recruitment: The UCLA Daily Bruin: Naya Villarreal has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps

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Naya Villarreal has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps

Naya Villarreal  has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps

"I can't see myself regretting anything in the future," she said. "It's more a soul-search going to the Peace Corps, and to help people in the process. I'm not going to be wasting two years not doing anything. I'll be helping people."

Naya Villarreal has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps

Alumni pursue humanitarian causes
Peace Corps, volunteer opportunities provide direction to UCLA graduates

Caption: Naya Villarreal, a political science alumna, plans to go to the Caribbean to join the Peace Corps after graduation. LISA CATES/daily bruin senior staff

By Heather Rabkin
DAILY BRUIN CONTRIBUTOR
hrabkin@media.ucla.edu

Naya Villarreal is a political science student who graduated from UCLA last quarter and has decided to spend her first years out of college in the Caribbean – not on vacation, but rather as a member of the Peace Corps.

Villarreal always knew the Peace Corps was something she was interested in, and her experiences at UCLA as part of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), only confirmed her desire to pursue humanitarian work.

Villarreal said that her attraction to UNICEF was "because of what it stands for, helping children. I love helping people who don't have the means or opportunities in life to do things they want to."

Although Villarreal still feels unprepared for the Peace Corps, she has no doubt that the time she spent at UCLA will benefit her efforts. She is among many UCLA graduates who choose to pursue humanitarian work upon receiving their bachelors degree. "UNICEF definitely helped me be better advocated on issues around the world," she said.

In the past fiscal year, ending September 2004, UCLA had 56 volunteers go onto the Peace Corps, which ranks 18th among large schools with 15,000 undergraduates or more, said David Briery, a public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps volunteers are required to be at least 18 years of age, and more than 80 percent of volunteers are in their 20s, Briery said, although there is no age limit.

Villarreal is among the thousands of Peace Corps volunteers who will go to one of 72 countries and work in a multitude of jobs designed to benefit the community they are based in.

In the Caribbean, Villarreal will be working on community development.

Although Villarreal has not been given specific information about what her job will entail, volunteers are put through an intensive three-month orientation to train for their job and learn the language.

"They don't just throw you into the mix," she said.

Volunteers have to be prepared not to have running water, electricity, or an actual toilet, she said.

"They tell you not to expect to have much. You can be in a city or rural town. You could have Internet and telephone, everything, or absolutely nothing," she said.

Though it remains uncertain what Villarreal should expect, she has no doubt it will be a worthwhile experience.

"I can't see myself regretting anything in the future," she said. "It's more a soul-search going to the Peace Corps, and to help people in the process. I'm not going to be wasting two years not doing anything. I'll be helping people."

Briery agrees that the Peace Corps is something an individual must be passionate about to pursue.

The number of applicants to the Peace Corps has only gone up since Sept. 11 and the tsunami in Southeast Asia last year, said Emily Farrell, a recruiter for the Peace Corps.

"People are wanting to get involved and make a difference in an international setting," she said.

Other students interested in pursuing humanitarian aid have decided to volunteer at a domestic level.

Sarah Novick, a sociology student who will be graduating this week, has decided to spend next year across the country.

She will be working in Brooklyn at a soup kitchen, part of the Avodah program, which means "service" in Hebrew. At UCLA, Novick was always interested in social justice. She was also part of the original planning group for the Darfur Action Committee.

"With UCLA, the opportunity to pursue (volunteer work) was readily available, with existing groups or to create your own organization. UCLA facilitates opportunities really well," she said.

Novick planned to go to graduate school, but her work with the DAC enabled her to see that choosing to volunteer was part of pursuing her passion.

"My work this year (at UCLA) was globally focused, with international policy. I'm looking forward to focusing on domestic issues," she said. "I think it's huge to make an effort to make things better here."

Novick said she was attracted to Avodah because she was told not to expect to feel success regularly.

"Dealing with bureaucracy is really trying and frustrating, but volunteering wasn't about the challenge, it's about it being real," she said.

Novick doesn't know what will come after her year in Brooklyn, but she is looking forward to experiencing a new setting.

"For me it was about taking that break to step outside the university setting and see the big picture. As much as academia is really important and beneficial and idealistic, it was time for me to transfer that idealism to being in the world," she said.

Though a strong passion is necessary to pursue work in the humanitarian field, Novick said "anybody who feels a part of humanity would feel natural going into this work."





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Story Source: The UCLA Daily Bruin

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Eastern Caribbean; Recruitment

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