BATAVIA – Batavia resident Karen Kilberg never has been away from home for more than three months.
On Friday, Kilberg will board a plane at JFK International Airport to take a 17-hour flight to Cameroon to start a stint with the Peace Corps that will last until 2015.
“I will miss my family and my Mexican and Italian food,” said Kilberg, 21, a 2010 graduate of Batavia High School. “But I think I will have as much to learn from them as I can help them.”
She joins the 352 Illinois residents currently serving in the Peace Corps.
More than 8,157 Illinois residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.
Kilberg flew on Wednesday to Philadelphia to begin training as a community health education volunteer. While she is in Cameroon, Kilberg will be promoting immunizations for mothers and children, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning and hygiene and sanitation.
“Working in the health sector has always been an interest of mine,” she said.
This isn’t her first visit to Africa.
While she was in college, Kilberg did two internships at small medical clinics in Sierra Leone and has been to West Africa on four occasions.
“I fell in love with West Africa,” Kilberg said. “I love the culture and the music and the people.”
Her father, Steven Kilberg, is proud of what his daughter is choosing to do.
“We will miss her,” he said. “But this is what she was born to do, I think. It’s what she really wants to do.”
Karen Kilberg won’t finish her Peace Corps service until November 2015.
After she finishes, she hopes to work in rural development or health for an internationally based nongovernmental organization, preferably in Africa.
“This is perfect for what I want to do later in life,” she said.