From Greeley to Madagascar

Matthew Kennedy graduated from UNC in 2011 with degrees in Economics and International Studies (with minors in Chinese, Spanish and Asian Studies). Since then, he's taken his skills abroad to Madagascar to help those in need through the Peace Corps.

Kennedy, who was born and raised in Greeley, recently visited campus to give a presentation -- summarized in the slide show below -- about his journey so far.

For more about that journey, read a Q&A session with Kennedy on the UNC Bear Den blog.

As a freshman with an undeclared major thinking about a career in economics, Kennedy lived in Gordon Hall on central campus, where he made many friends who would influence his educational path and lead him to branch out and find new passions that would take him around the world.

He soon became involved in various ethnic clubs and societies on campus, and found himself engrossed in the Student Ambassador program, which allowed him to make many international connections and friendships.

The international relationships helped spur Kennedy’s desire to travel. During his time at UNC, he studied abroad four different times during trips that took him to Spain, Taiwan and China and allowed him to further gain fluency in Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.

After graduating in 2011, Kennedy spent some time back home with his parents, working various jobs before discovering the organization that would change his life from then on - The Peace Corps.

Kennedy sent in his application without knowing which of the above sectors of the Peace Corps he would he would be working in. Six months later found out he would be traveling to Madagascar to work in the Health Volunteer sector, but first had to attend three months of pre-service training that was mostly intensive instruction in the country’s language - Malagasy.

Kennedy works in the village of Mahasoabe, which is close to Fianaranlsoa in southern Madagascar.

Many of the difficulties in working in Madagascar come from the differences in culture between the United States and those of the 18 different ethnicities found on the island.

This hospital is the building where Kennedy works. He can be found here daily giving sanitation lectures, teaching healthy hygiene, discussing family planning, promoting healthy pregnancy and teaching English.

Kennedy’s main goal is to help the people in the village build latrines in an effort to make the village, and Madagascar at large, more sanitary.

Kennedy will soon return to serve his second year in Madagascar. His hard work and dedication are helping accomplish the Peace Corps’ goals.

All photos courtesy of Matthew Kennedy.