Dr. Grace Mukupa is a recognized expert in international development, agriculture, gender, community development and policy and has been a speaker for Envision at our Global Young Leaders Conference and NYLF National Security program. As we work through the COVID-19 pandemic, we reached out to her as a volunteer and global citizen to speak to her experience and give us advice on ways we can help as well. Read more about Dr. Mukupa after her Q&A.
What inspired your interest in volunteering and Public Health Issues?
Approximately 1/3 of migrating husbands fail to return home to their families, leaving the wives particularly vulnerable to depression, suicide, food shortages, kidnapping, or entering into polygamous marriages after their husbands leave them financially and emotionally; “abandoned families”. Therefore, I analyzed the specific challenges faced by abandoned families in relationship to food security. These experiences inspired me to help underserved communities. For instance, when I won a poetry competition for charity in high school, I donated the funds to the Zambia clinic. This act became my genesis for public service, which later lead me to join the Peace Corps.
Where did you serve as a Peace Corps volunteer?
I served in Macedonia and worked in the Office of European Union Projects conducting cross-border programs for Bulgaria, Greece, and Macedonia. The decision to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer was fueled by my desire to represent our great country abroad and promote American values, which I hope in some small way can repay my adopted country for the opportunities which have been afforded to me.
Are you volunteering in your community during COVID-19?
I am very engaged in my community. As a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Arlington, Virginia, I assist in delivering food for quarantined, disparaged residents housed in hotels.
I have also teamed up with volunteers at drive-thru and walk-up testing sites to limit community spread in areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Being a CERT volunteer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a humbling experience.
I am sharing this experience to let you know that I am a responsible and conscientious citizen. Working as a member of the Emergency Response Team for COVID-19 has taught me about the threat posed by infectious diseases and the need for well-trained public health professionals to respond to disease outbreaks in a timely fashion. Being a responder in the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has also helped me identify gaps in my general health training and outbreak investigation.
Are you completing any international volunteer service during COVID-19?
I am the president-elect for Crystal City Pentagon Rotary Club, and we will be supporting a school in Honduras. We will be adding bathrooms to the Honduras Independence Bilingual School (HIBS). Our Rotary will also be providing fresh produce to food banks in Arlington and the local area.
Do you have any advice for youth regarding volunteering and service?
I would encourage anyone who wishes to serve and volunteer; it is a way of giving back. Volunteering services afforded me with opportunities to develop an in-depth knowledge of world geography, international events, and disaster and conflict management. I was able to travel and conduct hands-on research in different countries while mentoring youth, particularly young girls.
About Dr. Grace Mukupa
Dr. Grace Mukupa holds a PhD in International Development from State University of New York at Buffalo. Grace is a Fulbright fellow and former Peace Corps Volunteer, and is a recognized expert in international development, agriculture, gender, community development and policy. She has worked with many organizations such as the United Nations, European Union, Embassies, NGOs, and U.S. federal and state governments. Currently, she is the Senior Associate of Student Success Initiatives for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
As a gender specialist, she led discussion forums with various foreign and domestic government agencies on gender and food security. During Peace Corps service in Macedonia, she was assigned to the Office of European Union to work on cross-border programs for Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece.
In Tajikistan, she worked with the UNDP/Global Fund, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and U.S. embassy. These experience lead to her PhD research on food security among wives of labor migrants.
Dr. Mukupa was born in Zambia; grew up in Tokyo, Japan; and lived in Belgium, Macedonia, Tajikistan and the United States. The languages she speaks include English, Macedonian, Serbian, Zulu, Ndebele, Tonga, Shona, Nyanja, Mbemba and some Russian and Japanese.
She is a respected member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., a Rotarian, a volunteer at the Fire Station and a member of Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).