Kunal Hivale, the son of parishioners Vivek and Minita Hivale, is one of the outstanding young people in St. Peter’s parish. This week, we present Part I of his recent life story…
On January 12, 2021, I left for Army Boot Camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. I bid farewell to my mother in our driveway and my dad drove me to the Army Recruiting Station.
I departed from the Philadelphia airport to Atlanta, and from there I got on an army bus to Fort Benning. I had my last meal as a civilian at the Atlanta airport. It was a burrito bowl.
The funny thing is that about a year ago I was leading a completely different lifestyle.
On September 16, 2019, I had gone to Guatemala to serve in the American Peace Corps. My service was expected to last for two years. Unfortunately, my time in Guatemala was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I had to return home in March 2020.
I had completed only six months of service in the Peace Corp. During my brief period as a volunteer I worked as a Healthy School Promoter in a small mountain village called Chajul (pronounced cha-HOOL). My site was very remote – about 7 to 8 hours from the Peace Corps Main Headquarters.
My primary job was to work to improve the health quality of the schools at my site. I worked to initiate health programs and integrate training on health related topics to teachers and parents of the community. All this was done in partnership with the Guatemalan education department. Unfortunately, I was never able to see the final product of all the projects I worked on due to the early evacuation.
During my time there I lived with two different host families – one during training and one at my site. Both families welcomed me with open arms and I grew very attached to them. I give my host families total credit for my survival in Guatemala, as without them I don’t think I would have had such a positive experience.
I have made lifelong friends with fellow volunteers as well. We still keep in touch even after a year since our Peace Corps Service abruptly ended.
I returned home in March 2020 blindsided by my sudden departure from Guatemala. I didn’t anticipate the pandemic or the resulting evacuation. It was nice to return home and to my creature comforts. I was happy to be with my family and friends again. I had a renewed sense of gratitude for my life in the states when I was in Guatemala. I learned that clean running water, electricity, and reliable WiFi are luxuries one should not take for granted. And the time you spend with friends and family should be cherished because when you’re up in the mountains in a foreign country, isolated from all that you know and love, you will learn just how valuable your loved ones are. I certainly did.