Years in Peace Corps: 2012-14
Wendy Maya ʼ10 immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. with her family at age three. At UCLA, the first-generation college student enjoyed studying abroad, working part-time and taking Muay Thai classes, a type of boxing. In her senior year, while weighing her future options, she attended a Peace Corps information session. Maya applied to the program, and was assigned to Mozambique. “When I applied to the Peace Corps, I assumed I would be in a Latin American country. I never imagined it would take me to Africa.”
Located in Southeast Africa, Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese in the 1500s, and gained independence in 1975. Assigned to Chimoio, a commercial and industrial center and the fifth-largest city in Mozambique, Maya found herself living alone for the first time in her life. Accustomed to being around family, Maya found cooking for one and eating alone depressing. However, she quickly adapted to her day-to-day routine of carting water, since her home had no running water, sleeping under a mosquito net, and taking bucket baths. “I was surprised how quickly I got used to these new conditions,” says Maya. “After a few weeks being in Mozambique this lifestyle became the new normal.”
Maya served as a community health volunteer, funded under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). She worked with local nonprofit organizations and community based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop and strengthen projects promoting HIV education and prevention. “Throughout my service, I was heavily involved in secondary projects that focused on girls’ empowerment, life skills and sexual health education.” says Maya. “My work in a girls’ empowerment initiative was one of the best parts of my experience.”
Maya felt her experience helped her to grow as a person, “The solitude was isolating, but in the end, I think it made me stronger, much more independent and a lot more resilient.” She currently works at the Social Security Administration as a social insurance specialist. Maya is proud to serve as a public service professional, and continues to be an avid traveler. She made her Muay Thai amateur fighting debut in 2019.