Photo: Phillippe Diederich


Alexander Philiphose M’74 

The oldest volunteer currently in the Peace Corps Response Program reflects on his recent service. 

Over the course of his career, Philiphose served others as a nurse, teacher, and owner of a home health care agency. Now retired and 80 years old, he is the oldest volunteer currently in the Peace Corps Response Program. “I wanted to help people where help is needed most,” Philiphose said, “where they don’t have the opportunities we do in the U.S.” After the pandemic cut short his overseas Peace Corps stint in Zambia, he signed up to assist FEMA with COVID-19 vaccination efforts in New Jersey. Here, Philiphose reflects on his recent service.

Finding motivation—Peace Corps work is hard at any age. You are used to having running water and now you have to go two miles on your bicycle to get your water. Most people think they cannot do it, but once you do, you get a feeling that “I am not doing this for myself, but I am doing this because I can and because I have the gift of health and the motivation to do this.” I am doing it for the greater glory of God.

Helping people with AIDS—I got a government grant to encourage people with AIDS to take antiviral medication. In Zambia, the stigma of an AIDS diagnosis and the shame surrounding it oftentimes outweigh the fear of the disease and its progression. I used the funding I received to give people who got into successful treatment six chickens. It sounds small, but chickens are a source of income. So even if you get disowned by your family, you can be somewhat independent.

Listening to understand—Every day, I see a connection between my work and my educational psychology degree from Boston College. I can tailor a conversation to each listener’s level and build on what they already know. Camden County, New Jersey, is an economically distressed area where people are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of misinformation. But if you take the time to listen, you’ll understand that they are suspicious of anything coming from the government or the state because many of them are immigrants who came from countries where the government did not support them or even oppressed them. 

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