RICHMOND, Va. -- Over two years ago as the coronavirus pandemic began to ramp up, the Peace Corps made the decision to suspend global operations and evacuate its volunteers.
Now, the non-profit is sending its volunteers back out into the world to continue its mission. Among them is a Richmond native who is now serving in the West African nation of Togo.
Sydney Ryan and her significant other Hunter Potts were set to head to Togo in 2020 for their first deployment as Peace Corps volunteers when the non-profit recalled people because of the pandemic.
"That was definitely a shock and an adjustment period of figuring out what my purpose in life is going to be now," Ryan said.
Ryan said she and Potts decided on a cross-country road trip to visit around 20 national parks.
"Being able to spend a lot of time in the woods is definitely an amazing experience. And probably the best decision that we could have done after finding out that we couldn't go to Togo," Ryan said.
Fast forward to 2022, deployments have resumed and Ryan and Potts are among the first wave of volunteers heading back out.
Ryan, who went to Bridgewater College for Health and Human Services and Nutrition, will work in the area of community health.
"My focus will be maternal mothers and their nutrition, pre, during and post labor and making sure that the child isn't malnourished," Ryan said.
She said she will also help with malaria and COVID-19 prevention.
Ryan said a week before she left, along with packing, she'd be spending time and taking polaroids with family and friends while they gave her a notebook filled with messages if she's feeling homesick.
"Definitely having those things with me is going to be super important, just as like a solid ground, piece of concrete that I can get back to and get into a state of happiness," Ryan said.
As the journey finally begins, Ryan said she's looking forward to being an ambassador for the United States, helping those she meets and making friends along the way.
"Those, hopefully, will be able to last a lifetime," Ryan said.
Ryan and Pott's deployment is scheduled to be for two years.