In the community

Malheur County health chief leaving for Peace Corps post in Ecuador

Malheur County Health Director Angie Gerrard departs next month for Ecuador as a Peace Corps volunteer. (Submitted photo)

ONTARIO – Angie Gerrard, Malheur County Health Department director, must like Malheur County. She has remained in this area longer than any other in her life. All that is about to end.

“I am going somewhere in Ecuador,” Gerrard announced. “I am flying out May 20 and will be gone over two years.”

After serving the local health community as director for over two years, Gerrard has decided to join the Peace Corps, a move not unusual to those who know her.

“This is something I wanted to do for a while,” she said. “I worked in Bolivia in 2001 and always wanted to do something like that again.”

It was the time in Bolivia that set Gerrard on her current path. After returning, she went back to school and obtained her nursing license and entered public health. The love of working in other countries continued to pull her.

“I always wanted to go back overseas and considered doing it the last few years,” she said. “Last July, I stumbled on the Peace Corps website and just decided to go for it.”

In what Gerrard described as a long process, she received approval two weeks ago to join the Peace Corps. Now, she is busy packing and preparing for a stop in Miami before embarking on three months of training in Ecuador. 

“We stay with a host family during training and then we are assigned where they think we are needed,” Gerrard said.

Gerrard said she is leaving it up to those in the Peace Corps to assign her where needed.

“I could end up in a large city or a small village. It is up to them,” she said. “For the first six months, you stay with a host family at your assignment. You can either stay with the family the whole time or find your own lodging after that.”

Gerrard, who speaks fluent Spanish, is anxious to get going. She explained many of the same problems she had dealt with here will be ones she will face in Ecuador.

“They have needs in nutrition education, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy health,” she said. “Unlike here, they also have needs in basic sanitation in certain areas of the country.”

Gerrard plans to return to Malheur County after her stint is up with the Peace Corps with a new outlook on health.

“It really feels like a selfish decision on my part,” she said. “I find the idea of bridging a cultural gap appealing and find it exciting that different cultures will be meeting each other. The experience I receive during this time will help in the future.”

Reporter John L. Braese: [email protected] or 541-473-3133.