Peace Corps volunteer goes the distance
Hayley Webster of River Forest hugs a Kenyan girl in the village where Webster is working for the Peace Corps and other groups. | Courtesy of Carol Webster
for Hayley Webster’s project
Friends and family will hold a house party in River Forest to benefit Women’s Global Education Project
Date: Wednesday, May 16
Time: 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Place: 1002 Monroe Ave. , River Forest
Host: Catherine Cappel
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (708) 557-5190
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:43AM
It’s never been about Hayley Webster.
“She’s always looking out for the other person,” said Carol Webster, about her 26-year-old daughter, Hayley, who grew up in River Forest.
“It’s less about her. It’s more about someone else,” her mom said.
As an adolescent, Hayley Webster was involved in church missions and was a Best Buddies officer. Now she’s trying to make a difference half a world away, in western Kenya, as a member of the Peace Corps.
Forest Leaves was unable to connect with Webster, because she has limited access to phone and Internet in the small village of Shibuli, where she’s currently stationed.
But family and friends talked easily about Webster’s penchant for kindness and service.
Webster has been a public health volunteer in the Peace Corps since 2010. She’s been involved in and spearheaded initiatives that will positively impact communities now and after she leaves.
Recently, Webster partnered with a local women’s group to launch an income-generating project aimed at supporting orphans in Shibuli with HIV and AIDS.
Using the Peace Corps as a fund-raising venue, Webster and Wake Up Women — her Kenyan partner group — raised over $1,900 to purchase and rear some 500 chickens.
The eggs those chickens lay will feed the orphans, providing them with much-needed protein. What’s more, a number of the chickens will also be sold for their meat.
Revenue from the latter venture will support future work that Wake Up does.
The Peace Corps does not require its volunteers to do partnership projects like this.
Many do, though, said Caitlin Gliniecki, a Peace Corps program specialist, who is familiar with Webster’s project. But the partnerships are still a way of going “above and beyond,” Gliniecki said.
In addition to the Peace Corps partnership, Webster has also volunteered for an Oak Park nonprofit that does women’s empowerment work in Kenya and Senegal.
The group, Women’s Global Education, is focused primarily on education and the prevention of female genital mutilation, which has affected some 92 million women and girls in Africa alone, according to the World Health Organization.
Women’s Global undertakes a number of different programs with local partners to accomplish its goals.
Amy Maglio, the group founder and a former Peace Corps volunteer, said that Webster has monitored a number of programs the group’s partners are undertaking, and has also helped the women involved come up with project ideas.
On one occasion, Webster suggested that women in Thakara, Kenya — located in the country’s east, where a Women’s Global partner is — use basket-weaving as an economic tool.
“The basket weaving helps generate revenue to keep the girls in school,” said Maglio.
Webster was an intern at Women’s Global before she entered the Peace Corps. Maglio’s organization and the work it does had a lot to do with Hayley’s decision to join the Peace Corps, according to her dad, Scott Webster.
“She was struck by how much women [in areas of Africa] needed to be able to further their education, to better themselves,” Scott Webster said. “Hayley worked in this organization, and really was inspired by it. So she applied for the Peace Corps. And she asked to go to Africa, and went to Kenya where one of these schools was.”
Carol Webster said that Hayley was looking for jobs in international relations from the time she graduated from the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, in 2008.
Those jobs all require “field work,” Carol Webster said, describing what Hayley would tell her, during her job search.
“I’d ask, ‘What’s field work?’ And she’d say, ‘Mom, it’s the Peace Corps,’” Carol added.
She was apprehensive about Hayley applying at first, but then gave in.
“I finally said, ‘Fine, just apply,’” she said. “She is so independent and doesn’t see roadblocks. She keeps going and figures out a way to get things done.”
Hayley’s time in the Peace Corps will be up in July. But it’s not the end of her public service. She plans to pursue a law degree in public interest.
“I’ve filled out about 900 recommendations for law schools,” Maglio laughed.
She added that once Webster gets back the two will be working together again, in some capacity.
“She calls herself intern for life, and it’s sincere,” Maglio said, lightheartedly. “She will be working for us no matter what happens.”