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Rachel Coventry
If you choose to join the Peace Corps, recognize that it isn’t going to be easy. There are definitely going to be trying times, but whatever you put into it you, you will get out of it and ten times more.

Profile: Rachel Coventry

Peace Corps Volunteer

“It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love,” said Rachel Coventry, echoing the Peace Corps slogan.

After college, Coventry joined the Peace Corps and moved to Paraguay. She lived in a rural village surrounded by wheat, soybean and cornfields. The closest town, about the size of Savoy, was an hour away by bus.

“If you choose to join the Peace Corps, recognize that it isn’t going to be easy,” Coventry said. “There are definitely going to be trying times, but whatever you put into it, you will get out of it and 10 times more.”

Coventry said it was important to consider how she could serve the whole community using the knowledge and skills she gained at the University of Illinois.

Her greatest accomplishment: a library. She wrote up a proposal and received funding from the Andando Foundation to build bookshelves, buy books and develop a simple organization system for checking books out. Better World Books also provided books for the project.

“Most of the children had never heard of a library before. They had never really read for pleasure,” she said. “The library will continue and be a lasting impression. It will touch generation after generation."

The National Soybean Research Laboratory at U of I helped her use the village’s soy to create products such as tofu. She also helped the villagers create homemade pesticides with garlic and vermicompost piles with worms, potassium-rich ash and more.

“I told one family they would do great because they were diversifying,” Coventry said. “Before they had this empty wasteland, and now they have banana trees intercropped with luceana and herbs.”

Coventry said she will never know the real impact of her time in Ka'a Jovai, Paraguay.

“When it was time for me to leave, it spoke volumes that people were sad to see me go,” she said. “I was such a part of their lives and actually helped them. They told me ‘don’t forget us, we’ll never forget you.’”