PEOPLE

Nominee for Peace Corps Director Carries on a Family Tradition of Volunteer Service

© 2013 Liz Lynch
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
Aug. 8, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

Many new­ly­weds cel­eb­rate their nup­tials by snorkel­ing in the Vir­gin Is­lands or ski­ing in the Alps. Two weeks after get­ting mar­ried, Car­rie Hessler-Rade­let and her hus­band, Steve Rade­let, were shipped off to a Poly­ne­sian is­land thou­sands of miles from the main­land. He had nev­er been on a plane be­fore.

Then a 25-year-old Peace Corps vo­lun­teer, Hessler-Rade­let taught at a girl’s Cath­ol­ic school in West­ern Sam­oa and lived in a thatched hut with her host par­ents and their eight chil­dren. Now 56, the act­ing dir­ect­or of the Peace Corps has said that ac­com­pa­ny­ing her host moth­er, who was preg­nant at the time, to monthly ap­point­ments at a nearby clin­ic was a trans­form­at­ive ex­per­i­ence.

“See­ing what it’s like to be a wo­man in a [pat­ri­arch­al] so­ci­ety, where you have vir­tu­ally no abil­ity to make de­cisions re­lated to your home health care “¦ really gal­van­ized my in­terest in pub­lic health,” she told a loc­al news­pa­per in Geneva, N.Y., last Novem­ber.

Last month, Pres­id­ent Obama nom­in­ated Hessler-Rade­let to be per­man­ent dir­ect­or of the Peace Corps. Since ar­riv­ing at the agency three years ago, she has helped rad­ic­ally re­make the Peace Corps as its deputy dir­ect­or.

“There has nev­er been a time in the his­tory of the agency, apart from its first five years, when there has been so much in­nov­a­tion and change in such a short peri­od of time,” Hessler-Rade­let said in a re­cent in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. “We are “¦ util­iz­ing tech­no­logy like nev­er be­fore and provid­ing in-depth tech­nic­al train­ing to all of our vo­lun­teers.”

The Peace Corps is in Hessler-Rade­let’s DNA. Her grand­par­ents, aunt, and neph­ew have all served as vo­lun­teers, and Hessler-Rade­let’s com­mit­ment to the agency “has been in­stru­ment­al in re­cruit­ing and train­ing thou­sands of Peace Corps vo­lun­teers,” Obama said in a state­ment with her nom­in­a­tion.

A nat­ive of Frank­fort, Mich., Hessler-Rade­let re­ceived a bach­el­or’s de­gree from Bo­ston Uni­versity and worked briefly for a time-share con­domin­i­um com­pany be­fore “my grand­moth­er called me and said, ‘I need to talk to you,’ ” she told the New York news­pa­per. “She took me out to cof­fee and said, ‘What are you go­ing to do with your one life?’ The im­plic­a­tion was selling time-share con­domin­i­ums was not suf­fi­cient.”

Hessler-Rade­let signed up for the Peace Corps and per­suaded her then-boy­friend to do the same. Upon re­turn­ing from West­ern Sam­oa, she served as a pub­lic-af­fairs man­ager at the Peace Corps re­gion­al of­fice in Bo­ston and later es­tab­lished the Spe­cial Olympics in Gam­bia.

From 1994 to 1995, Hessler-Rade­let was a U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment-sponsored HIV/AIDS ad­viser in In­done­sia, where she helped set up the coun­try’s first na­tion­al strategy to com­bat the dis­ease. Be­fore re­turn­ing to the Peace Corps in 2010, she was the vice pres­id­ent of John Snow Inc., a pub­lic-health con­sultancy.

Hessler-Rade­let holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in health policy and man­age­ment from Har­vard Uni­versity. She has two grown chil­dren and lives in Falls Church, Va.

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