Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer, Bejaad, Morocco
Samantha Druckman served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco’s Youth Development program from 2014-2016. She lived in the small city of Bejaad, which had about 60,000 people, quite a bit larger than what most people expect when they think of the Peace Corps. Samantha had access to resources you would find in most cities: an apartment with wifi and electricity; access to sought-after PCV goods like chocolate, candy, and pizza; and reliable transportation to virtually anywhere in Morocco. However, this small Moroccan town presented a number of challenges: pervasive gender inequality, few recreational activities for kids, no resources or education aimed to help youth with special needs, and little to no access to basic health and sexual education.
As a youth development volunteer, Samantha spent the majority of her service aimed at addressing the three tenets of Peace Corps’ youth development model: life skills and community engagement, healthy lifestyles, and employability. She also taught English and creative writing in both classroom-based and tutoring environments, which served as a great tool to learn about her community and their needs, many of which centered around healthcare. She contributed to three health fairs aimed at teaching children the importance of handwashing, regular tooth brushing, and balanced diets low in sugar and fat. She eagerly joined the Peace Corps Morocco’s Sexual Health Committee, which trains volunteers on how to educate Moroccan youth about sexual and gender-related health and safety and HIV/AIDS in a culturally sensitive manner. Samantha’s favorite projects, however, were weekly art projects with a group of special needs youth. Resources for intellectually and developmentally disabled youth are scarce in the smaller towns of Morocco, and most of the special needs classroom teachers knew very little about working with differently-abled children. This project was particularly special to Samantha because it focused on health as an overarching entity, instead of just physical.
When her Peace Corps service came to a close, Samantha felt a strong passion to continue working with children in the field of healthcare, and wanted to find a graduate program that would give her the tools needed to continue working in varied and challenging environments. Working with people of all ages, education levels, backgrounds, and abilities in Morocco taught Samantha that a passion for service is a lifelong skill that can be cultivated in any profession, but especially in nursing.