Perhaps some fellow RPCV’s caught Katy’s letter in the News & Observer a few weeks ago…. There aren’t many voices in public these days that describe Islam as “communities… who showered me with hospitality and the best life partner I can imagine.”
Here’s the whole letter, if you missed it.
I wanted to know more about Katy, so I tracked her down via our NCPCA Facebook page. She’s a native North Carolinian, attended Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, and then worked for a few years in a health clinic before applying for Peace Corps. She says, “Selfishly, I wanted the opportunity to learn another language, experience another culture authentically and intimately, and learn about development work. Unselfishly, I wanted the opportunity to serve in a meaningful way.” (That all sounds familiar. I bet many of us RPCV’s over the decades remember the same mix of motivations.)
She served as a rural health education volunteer, 2007-2009, and was the sole volunteer in the small town of Ait el Farsi, Morocco.
The assignment had some challenges regarding mustering adequate community support, so Katy had complex decisions about where to put her efforts. People were wonderful and friendly, but were skeptical of her motives and not so willing to work with her, and therefore not really open to substantial projects. She wanted to build bathrooms for a school, but nobody was wiling to take responsibility for maintaining them, so in the end they didn’t build them.
I drafted several grant projects, but didn’t have the support of the community for them to truly be sustainable, so I never submitted them since they never had real buy-in. Most of my efforts were focused on nutrition, hygiene, maternal health, and family planning education. I also had a girl scout-type group that would come over and learn English and health lessons. I taught at a few English-language immersion camps, and worked with a local association in the nearest larger town to do some HIV/AIDS peer-educator trainings. I also worked with others in my province for a training-of-trainers conference for nurses and doctors for continuing education on topics that they and we identified.
The primary language she learned and used is called Tamazight– an indigenous language. She also learned a bit of Moroccan Arabic.
She traveled around Morocco during her free time but didn’t leave the country during her service. After COS there were trips to Kenya and Tanzania.
Then, taking a job working with a study abroad provider in Rabat, she met her husband, Yassir Bougassa, through friends.
They married and came to the US in 2011 and are now living in Cary. Katy is working full-time for an association of international educators, AIEA, based at Duke University, and also doing a Masters of International Studies at NCSU. She is passionate about international education and sees that as her vocation: facilitating transformative culturally immersive experiences for others in order to build interculturally competent global citizens.
There’s not much free time in her life now but Katy will be more active in NCPCA after she finishes her master’s in May. Keep an eye out for her!