Peace Corps volunteer Charles Hill.


On a Mission of Peace

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Thursday July 19, 2018

Earlier this summer, Charles Hill departed for Columbia, South America. Although not a typical trip nor a permanent move, the journey promises to be life-changing for the 22-year-old from South Burlington. He explains, “My love and passion for connecting with people from around the world has driven me to join the Peace Corps.” Hill joins the 42 Vermont residents currently serving in the Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the United States government.

During the first three months of his service Hill will live with a host family to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After training, he will be sworn into service and assigned to a specific Colombian community, where he will live and work for two years as an economic development volunteer. Hill will live and work in a community, training residents in entrepreneurship, business advising, and personal money management.

“I hope to gain a better understanding of global economics within Latin America as well as community based organizations. I also hope I will be able to work with community members, solving some of the issues that they are experiencing due to the issues within the local business environment,” Hill said.

A recent graduate from Vermont’s Castleton University, Hill studied abroad in Ecuador at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito during his junior year. With seven years of Spanish language learning under his belt, he headed south noting, “Spanish speaking styles tend to vary country to country. However, the Colombian people are always opening their hearts and home to the world.”

A traveler by nature, Hill has had other adventures that have left meaningful impressions. “I spent my last semester of high school studying abroad in India with Where There Be Dragons as a cultural immersion experience.” He adds, “My love of traveling started when doing a month long cultural exploration trip to Cambodia in 2012.”

Hill specifically chose Colombia for his Peace Corps destination, describing it as “a perfect option for a ‘Spanish for Business’ major interested in working on developmental economic projects.” Initially, for ten weeks, he will be living in Baranquillas, the capital of Colombia’s Atlántico Department, which is a busy seaport flanked by the Magdalena River. After these weeks of training, he will be assigned to his “permanent location” for the remainder of the two year stint.

Projecting what he will leave with after those two years, Hill remarks, “I will be walking away with an amazing group of friends from all over the world, which I will always consider to be a part of my family and with a sense of understanding on how to help community members and their businesses.”

According to the organization, in 2017, Vermont ranked second among states with the highest numbers of Peace Corps volunteers per capita. The South Burlington-Burlington metro area was ranked sixth among metropolitan areas with the highest number of volunteers per capita. Hill will join more than 1,579 Vermont residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

As his parents, South Burlington residents Elizabeth Foster and Roger Hill, see him depart for South America, Charles says, “I spent so many years traveling that they are used to me taking off and are really excited to visit me in Colombia. They are my support system and have always been there for me no matter what.”

The new recruit believes his time in the Peace Corps will instill the organization’s values of promoting peace and understanding while helping others. Hill states, “Those values will play a vital role in my life.”

SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper