Ponte Vedra Beach resident begins Peace Corps service in Fiji


Ponte Vedra Beach resident Sara Conklin, 28, departed for Fiji Aug. 27 to begin training as a community youth empowerment volunteer with the Peace Corps.  

Conklin will live and work in a community to serve as a teacher and help improve life skills, emotional, physical, mental health and social outcomes, as well as opportunities to positively impact her community through increased access to effective health education, and youth development programs.

“Without a doubt, my time spent living and working abroad has been my greatest asset in understanding the intersectionalities of community-driven work and has left an indelible mark on my personal growth,” said Conklin. “Now more than ever, I feel confident that Peace Corps service will bring about more formidable experiences, challenges, and triumphs than I can possibly imagine. I hope to gain an entirely new experience from my Peace Corps service than what I have been a part of in my past.”

Conklin is the daughter of Cheryl and Dave Conklin of Ponte Vedra Beach and a graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville. She attended Florida International University in Miami, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations in August 2011. Conklin also earned a Master of Arts degree in African studies specialization in LGBTQ health and education from Stanford University in Stanford, California, in June 2012.

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Conklin was the events manager at N Street Village, a community of empowerment and recovery for homeless women in Washington, D.C. She was responsible for planning and executing large-scale fundraising events on behalf of the organization. Conklin also spent numerous years studying and working abroad. She studied the effects of heritage tourism on local communities and exporting culture to the U.S. in Senegal and The Gambia, West Africa.

She also worked with Support for International Change (SIC), an Arusha-based non-governmental organization working to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in northern Tanzania. She lived in a Tanzanian homestay during an eight-week program to conduct a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, which involved living and working in rural Tanzanian villages, learning Swahili, monitoring progress reports, conducting training and forming interest groups. She created and developed relationships with HIV positive individual participants to facilitate an encouraging environment, responding directly to the needs of each client individually.

During the first three months of her Peace Corps service, Conklin will live with a host family in Fiji to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist her, Conklin will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Fiji, where she will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I am eager to take on the world with this newly acquired perception, creating sustainable impact through the Peace Corps,” said Conklin. “I have a particular interest in supporting health efforts and youth development in Southeast Asia or the Pacific, enhancing youth and parental life skills in communities with specific challenges that have been shaped so strongly by geography and dramatic changes in history."

Conklin will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Fiji and help Conklin develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home.

Conklin joins the 313 Florida residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 8,032 Florida residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.