Creating Community


Until recently, Peace Corps volunteer Ashby McCoy ’13 woke up every day in a small, remote village in northern Morocco near the base of the Rif Mountains, surrounded by groves of olive trees. She lived alone in a cement-walled rooftop apartment above her landlord, who delivered fresh-baked khubz—Moroccan flatbread—and taught McCoy how to wash laundry by hand. The Peace Corps brought its volunteers home in March because of COVID-19. Life in Morocco was not always easy, and McCoy struggled with loneliness and being an outsider in a conservative, tight-knit community. However, this helped her grow as a human being, she said. She went to the weekly souk (market) and was invited to people’s homes for traditional couscous meals on Fridays. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far,” she said, “is that when you open your heart to a community, they’ll open not only their hearts but their homes.”

McCoy worked at a youth center in the village, teaching classes in English, art, music, and movement, and leading an outdoor club with a local woman, who taught her Darija, a Moroccan dialect, and Moroccan cooking.

McCoy grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts, and followed her mother’s footsteps to the Peace Corps and Morocco after first attending College of Charleston in South Carolina, spending a semester in South Africa. She led outdoor expeditions in Alaska, Montana, and New Hampshire and taught elementary school in Maine and Wyoming.

These experiences have laid the groundwork for her time in Morocco. Even at Williston, she said, “what I remember most, as cliché as it sounds, was the sense of community and the positive culture it created.” As she forged community in Morocco, she reflected,  “Something I’ll undoubtedly take away is how human connection is inextricably linked with our sense of purpose, feeling like we have a place in the world.”