Young Alum of the Month: Brian Castro

Brian Castro
Title and Company: 
Community Health Development Agent, Peace Corps Burkina Faso
Chicago, IL
Major and Graduation Date: 
Global Resource Systems, May 2014 (Nutrition and Wellness, emphasis in Emerging Global Diseases)
Major Job/Position Responsibilities: 

The Peace Corps has three overarching areas of intervention that reflect the work of volunteers.  They are 1) to assist host country nationals (HCNs) in meeting their needs through training and resource access.  2) to help promote a better understanding of Americans to HCNs, and 3) to help promote a better understanding of the host country to Americans.  These three domains provide leeway and flexibility to assist volunteers in creating effective programs for their assigned communities.

As a Community Health Volunteer in Burkina Faso, I work primarily with my assigned community on certain projects deemed important by community leaders.  This includes my helping grassroots organizations with local projects that contribute to health advancement.  Though my specific roles are determined by community-identified needs, these roles also reflect project initiatives of the Ministry of Public Health of Burkina Faso.  At the local level, such programs include malaria prevention and control, the deconstruction of HIV/AIDS stigmatization, gender equality/female empowerment, family planning, nutrition and hygiene.

What you like most about your job/position: 

The Peace Corps two-year commitment highlights the importance and the necessity of community integration for effective project development.  Community integration includes language learning, cultural understanding and the acknowledgement of intercultural-differences.  Though arguably sensitive topics, it is through working in these communities that one becomes acutely aware of how integral these aspects are in building conducive relationships with HCNs if we are to work together to attain sustainable solutions to issues defined by the community.  It is the inclusion and exploration of this balanced system that I admire most about my job.  Recognizing and understanding the social intricacies of my community is extremely essential as a health development worker. Having this very unique type of experience is what motivates me and continuously challenges the paradigm through which I see the world. 

What advice would you give to current students: 

If you have a particular interest in a specific niche, explore it.  Certain professors, advisors, peers and courses have the potential to whet your curiosity.  Challenge yourself to seek those interests.  You never know what could come of it, and unless you pursue it, you never will.  Surround yourself with individuals who challenge you.  Exposing yourself to new ideas and different spaces will force you to think critically and challenge your perceptions.  Allow yourself to have those uncomfortable conversations with people.  It is in these moments, when I have felt most challenged and arguably have grown the most.  Never again will you be more exposed to as many people who are going through the same process yet with fundamentally different views from you than your time in college.  Cherish that.

Favorite ISU class:
Entomology 374: Insects and Our Health with Dr. Lyric Bartholomey
Sociology 411: Social Change in Developing Countries with Dr. Robert Mazur