by Ashley Huebscher (CII-5)
While finishing my teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was invited to serve in Peace Corps Colombia. Joining the rapidly growing community of other volunteers who bravely ventured off into the world to serve a higher cause, I left with just two suitcases not knowing yet where this bold decision would lead me. My primary project was entitled Teaching English for Livelihoods which took me on an incredible life journey that has impacted me in ways I would have never expected. I learned valuable lessons about teaching and working with diverse constituents, about joining unfamiliar communities, about creating honest relationships, about gaining respect and becoming a leader; but perhaps most surprising was the realization of my own talents and attributes that I had to contribute to the world. It was emphatically encouraging to know that I held something valuable and with that, I could help to improve the lives of those around me. Ultimately I learned that small change makes a big difference, if even in the life of one individual. Peace Corps Colombia, in turn, has changed my life quite differently than I had ever imagined.
I now find myself living in beautiful Hawaii where the scenery closely resembles the Caribbean beach town of Santa Marta, Colombia, the place where I was proud to call home for over two years. It’s a wonderful medium for me as I can enjoy the faint resemblances of home in the United States, while still remaining aloof from the culture shock of the mainland. The island has provided me with tranquility and inspiration to continue forging toward my goals. Shortly after arriving to the island, I was invited to work with the University of Hawaii as an ESL instructor. I accredit this opportunity to the Peace Corps which prepared me and gave me the necessary skills to teach students from other countries. In addition, I continued efforts to fundraise for a children’s foundation with whom I worked closely during service. With the help of many donors, I was able to raise nearly $1000 to send back to my community in Santa Marta. Most notably, however, my work in the Peace Corps gave me confidence to capitalize on skills that I hadn’t recognized in the past. In reflecting on the talents that I now saw as valuable to the world, I decided to start a clothing design business, something I had never imagined doing previously. Although starting a business is an arduous task, I embody the grit and tenacity to continue pushing toward my goals only due to my service in Colombia which provided me with great challenges. From those moments, I found ways to adapt both physically and mentally to strenuous times. For that, I am grateful because I can take those learned skills and now apply them through abstract thinking to find creative solutions to problems when they arise in my business.
While moving to Hawaii, working with the University, raising money and starting my business seem like an individual endeavor, I know that it takes an incredible amount of teamwork to make anything successful. Graciously, I have an unwavering community of support from fellow volunteers and those who supported me through my service who are constantly cheering me on. To their accreditation, I am constantly inspired and motivated to continue achieving my goals. Every move, every exchange of communication, every decision I make, is done so out of the experiences I had while serving in the Peace Corps.
Ashley’s clothing is a perfect addition to your summer wardrobe and her beautiful skirts are available for purchase on her website: http://www.ashleyroseclothing.com/home.html