Service has always been a core value for Lisa Waugh (Hum’81; Nurs’84; MPubAd’97; PhD’10) and Peter Waugh (CivEngr’81; MS’84).
In 1986 the couple first served in the Peace Corps soon after graduating from CU Boulder. Decades later in 2019 while approaching retirement, they reapplied and were soon accepted and assigned to work in Peru. There, the Waughs would work in health and environment to improve water safety and supply. But when the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded globally in early 2020, the Peace Corps suspended global operations, canceling their trip and evacuating its nearly 7,000 worldwide volunteers.
Now, in May 2022, Lisa and Peter will be among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to service overseas — 35 years after they first served together in Seychelles. The couple will resume their original commitment to water, sanitation and hygiene efforts in Peru.
“I believe that every person has a right to a safe water supply and access to safe and clean sanitation facilities,” said Peter.
From Boulder to Seychelles
Lisa and Peter first met in the Kittredge residence hall on the CU Boulder campus in 1977, when Peter was a sophomore and Lisa a freshman. As they forged a relationship, they were connected by each other’s ambitions to serve others.
“It was something Pete and I had in common from the beginning — we were drawn by the ethic of service,” said Lisa.
Since childhood, Lisa has been interested in serving in the Peace Corps. Officially established in 1961, the Peace Corps partners with communities abroad to develop sustainable solutions for pressing challenges through volunteerism. To date, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries worldwide.
But it was while studying humanities and pre-nursing at CU Boulder, that the opportunity to participate presented itself to her.
“I remember walking by the recruitment table near the UMC [University Memorial Center] under the arches by the fountain,” Lisa recalled.
She joined informational sessions that inspired her commitment, and shared that enthusiasm with Peter. Soon after graduating, the couple married and decided to officially join together. In 1986, they embarked on their first service trip to Seychelles, a small country in the Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles east of Kenya. There, they took on different roles. Lisa served as a community health nurse, teaching continuing education courses for Seychellois nurses. Peter spent his time with the land transport division of the Seychelles government, working with engineers and technicians to design and construct bridges, maintain roads and assist small communities with their own roadway construction.
“The Seychellois were a joy to work with,” said Peter. “They were gracious, friendly and open-hearted.”
The experience heightened the couple’s passion for community-based work, inspiring both Lisa and Peter to explore other ways of helping others when they returned home in 1988. In addition to working as an engineer and operating a consulting business, Peter’s career also included time spent working with Indian tribal communities throughout the U.S. and with Engineers Without Borders abroad. Lisa went on to work for Boulder Public Health as a nurse outreach worker before transitioning her career to policy, planning and evaluation. She worked in program evaluation for donor organizations like the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and even served as a fellow with USAID, the leading U.S. agency for international development and humanitarian efforts.
As they neared retirement, Lisa and Peter considered how they might want to continue their service. Returning to the Peace Corps came to mind.
“The Peace Corps affords volunteers the opportunity to work at a grassroots level with people from a different culture — and that is a unique and special experience,” said Peter.
Making the Most of Moment
Though their trip was delayed, that didn’t stop the couple from offering their skills during a time of need. While waiting for the opportunity to resume, Lisa and Peter volunteered with the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps, providing COVID-19 vaccinations across rural New Mexico.
With their Peace Corps assignment to Peru back on schedule, Lisa and Peter look forward to their following through on their commitment to improving water and sanitation efforts abroad. But no matter where in the world they serve, Boulder is always home.
“We’ve spent our lives on this campus, attending events, dramatic productions, lectures, rallies, the Conference on World Affairs, the film series, holiday concerts at Macky, running the Bolder Boulder, the Fourth of July fireworks…” said Lisa. “It’s been a central part of our lives for so many years. Even now, we’re calculating the time until we qualify to audit classes as seniors, when we return from the Peace Corps.”
Photos courtesy Lisa and Peter Waugh