Former Steamboat woman among first Peace Corps volunteers to return overseas

Former Steamboat Springs resident Avalena Everard enjoys growing up in a small community, but is not yet ready to return home as she embarked for Uganda as part of the Peace Corps on Friday, July 29, 2022 .
Peace Corps/Courtesy Photo

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Peace Corps suspended global operations and dismissed nearly 7,000 of its volunteers in an unprecedented evacuation for the organization.

On Friday, July 29, former Steamboat Springs resident Avalena Everard became one of the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas duty. His flight took off from Seattle at 8 a.m.

“I think I’d be crazy not to be a little nervous,” Everard said. “Because with Peace Corps you are not guaranteed to have running water or electricity – certainly not WiFi, cell service.”

She will fly to the Republic of Uganda in East Africa, where she will help farmers and others in the agricultural sector improve their financial prospects. Everard holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

Everard and thousands of other volunteers will also engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work.

“The world is at a critical juncture,” Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn said in a press release. “The largest global vaccination effort in history is underway as other widespread health, social, political and environmental issues continue to erode the foundations of our global society.”

Everard was originally supposed to serve in Guatemala after her senior year at university in September 2020, but the pandemic and subsequent evacuation of Peace Corps volunteers put her plans on hold. In the two years that followed, her belief in serving in the Peace Corps did not waver because she could not leave any sooner.

“I think COVID has derailed a lot of people’s postgraduate plans for sure,” Everard said.

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Upon arrival, Everard will undergo training in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. From there, she doesn’t know exactly where she will be in the country for the remaining two years of her service.

Everard was a ski racer until her freshman year of high school, having been at the Steamboat Winter Sports Club since she was on the magic carpets.

Like many people growing up in Steamboat, Everard said she enjoyed growing up in a tight-knit community and could see herself coming back if she decided to settle down.

“I think Steamboat is a very special little town,” Everard said. “I never grew up shutting down my car or our house. I knew everyone. When you go grocery shopping, you meet everyone you know who has known you all your life.

Created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps recruits volunteers to serve in 47 countries around the world. Already, volunteers have returned to a total of 21 countries.

In addition to agriculture, Peace Corps volunteers participate in projects in education, community economic development, health, environment, and youth development.

Everard said she had no plans beyond her two years of service.

“It’s hard to say how two years and a very different place will affect you as a person,” Everard said. “So I’m very open to whatever the future looks like.”

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