Years in Peace Corps: 2015-17
Region/City: Taveuni Island
“The most important advice for anyone considering the Peace Corps is this ꟷ expect to gain more from the entire experience than you could ever give,” says Hamilton Luu ’15. While a UCLA freshman, Luu enrolled in a Global Studies course that changed his world view. He found his classmates committed to developing solutions to address global challenges. “For me, the Peace Corps seemed like a great start.”
Assigned to Taveuni, the third-largest island in Fiji, he served as a community youth empowerment facilitator at a local high school, developing grant proposals and implementing professional development activities. Luu led several initiatives, one by accident. “Early into my service, I started a vegetable garden to get variety in my diet. Eventually, some of the children in my community wanted to help me maintain it.” Though he didn’t plan the project, he spent a great deal of time with his community in the garden talking about healthy nutrition and sustainable agriculture. “I’m still taken by how quickly they adopted me as one of their own. They exhibited an incredible amount of patience with me as I essentially had to relearn a lot of basic life skills.”
After completing his service, he was recruited by the American Red Cross to assist in Puerto Rico’s relief efforts following Hurricane Maria, which became instrumental in his acceptance to graduate school. Says Luu, “While you might accomplish meaningful projects, the reality is that you will leave your community much more changed personally than whatever changes you hope to make for your community.”
Luu recently received his master’s degree in public administration, specializing in monitoring, evaluation and design, from Middlebury Institute of International Studies. He started work as a grant writer for a community clinic in Los Angeles, and hopes to apply his skills towards improving the lives of underserved Angelenos. Back in Los Angeles, he hopes to volunteer with the Los Angeles Westside and Asian Pacific Alumni of UCLA networks.