Alexandra Baker

Atlanta resident Alexandra Baker is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency’s global evacuation of nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries in March 2020  due to COVID-19.

“At Boston College, I was inspired by the motto ‘men and women for others’,” Baker said. “I took a course freshman year that was 4 hours of class and 8 hours of volunteering at a nonprofit that helped homeless and low-income individuals find sustainable jobs. That’s how I started falling in love with doing the Peace Corps.”

Baker graduated from Boston College last May with bachelor’s degrees in international studies and French. She will serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cambodia and leaves for  training on Oct. 6. 

“As an international studies major, my eyes were opened to what the world has to offer,” Baker said. “I was also a mentor to three international exchange students for a year.”

Baker’s high school teachers from Pace Academy are thrilled for her next chapter.

“Alexandra is a perfect fit for the Peace Corps,” shared Pace Academy teacher Jason Smith. “She is an enthusiastic, outgoing, positive person. She’s hugely empathetic and deeply interested in learning about other people and cultures. Her incredible work ethic and social intelligence will serve her well.”

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff with a shared mission of world peace and friendship. Volunteers work alongside community members on projects in education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development and youth development at the host government’s invitation. Currently, the agency is recruiting volunteers to serve in 59 countries., while monitoring COVID-19 trends. 

Upon finishing her three-month training In December, Baker will focus on education for two years. 

Peace Corps volunteers at work in Cambodia. (Courtesy Peace Corps)

“I’ll co-teach with a Cambodian teacher, helping plan lessons and grade papers in a primary or secondary school,” Baker said.

The Peace Corps program in Cambodia started in 2007, and  more than 700 volunteers had served up until the pandemic evacuation, per Tamim Choudhury, Peace Corps Public Affairs Specialist.

“We are really happy that volunteers like Alex are going, “ Choudhry said. “Currently, we’ve got 31 volunteers in Cambodia and around the globe we’ve reached nearly 2,100. We want the numbers to keep rising to pre-pandemic levels. We’re rebuilding the pipeline.”

Any U.S. adult citizen is eligible to serve, recognizing it is a commitment to leave family and friends for 27 months.

“I keep telling people that I’m ‘n-excited’, ‘nervous-excited’,” Baker said. “I don’t know anybody. I don’t know the language yet or where I’ll be living. But I’m really excited to be in country, learn about Cambodian history and culture, and meet the students I’m going to teach. I love being a mentor.” 

“For Alex to take up this bold invitation, we’re grateful,” Choudhury said. 

“I can’t think of a better ambassador for our country!”  Smith shared.

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Clare S. Richie is a freelance writer and public policy specialist based in Atlanta.