Abbey Hedges of Parkville, Mo., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Belize June 25 to begin service as a community health education volunteer. Hedges will make a difference educating community members about water sanitation, maternal care and child health, nutrition, noncommunicable disease mitigation, HIV/AIDS, and other health issues.
Like many Peace Corps volunteers, Hedges was inspired to serve by experiences at home. After giving back to the Kansas City community with organizations such as the Humane Society and American Red Cross for years in her free time, she decided to make volunteering her full-time job.
“I started to explore my options and attended a Peace Corps orientation session, and I instantly knew that this was my true calling!” Hedges, 27, said. “Ever since I left that session, not a minute has gone by without some thought of Peace Corps service.”
Hedges is the daughter of Jim Hedges and Carla Parry. She graduated from St. Pius X High School in Kansas City, Mo., in 2004 and earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations and business from Missouri State University in Springfield in 2008.
“Missouri State University allowed me to interact with people from very diverse backgrounds and helped me understand and appreciate a different world outside of my own,” Hedges said. “I grew to love different cultures, religions and traditions and yearned for a deeper understanding of those around me.”
During the first three months of her service in Belize, Hedges will complete technical, language, health and safety training while living with a host family to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. The training and cultural exchange prepare Hedges for her two years of service, while also allowing community members to gain a better understanding of Americans. After Hedges is sworn into service and assigned to a community, she will work on sustainable, community-driven development projects that make a difference for the people of Belize and provide Hedges with leadership and cross-cultural skills she can use throughout her career.
“During my service, I hope to share my life experiences and educational background to all those I come into contact with,” she said. “I hope to connect with everyone on a personal and professional level and create an unforgettable experience.”
Hedges joins the 124 Missouri residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 3,140 Missouri residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.
About Peace Corps/Belize: More than 1,915 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Belize since the program was established in 1962. Currently, 34 volunteers serve in Belize. Volunteers work in the areas of education, business development and health. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Garifuna, Q’eqchi, Kriol, Mopan, and Spanish.
About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.