Erin O’Halloran grew up watching Peace Corps commercials on TV which featured footage of volunteers serving in Africa and young children in grass hut houses. Even though the images were somewhat romanticized, the pull toward a life of service was always strong for her, and she always knew it was something she wanted to do.
Even so, she didn’t throw caution to the wind until she was in her early 30s when, around the time that President Obama was elected, she sensed a significant positive cultural shift toward, “Yes we can make a difference.” From that, she was inspired to leave her job and join the Peace Corps.
She specifically requested to serve in Eastern Europe because she wanted to continue pursuing a career as a Behavior Analyst working with individuals affected by autism, and there weren’t many countries that were actively addressing autism or developmental disabilities because so many undeveloped nations are still so focused on ensuring basic infrastructure needs like health and water sanitation.
After what seemed like an eternal application process, with a long period of checking her mailbox for her assignment, she was thrilled to be sent to Romania, a serendipitous placement because she quickly discovered Romania was not only very volunteer-focused, but it would also allow her to continue her work with individuals affected by autism.
Once in the country, in one of her strongest initial impressions, O’Halloran recalls being put on a bus in the middle of the night to go to her first site where she would do an initial 11 weeks of training. Looking out the window, she could see large numbers of wild dogs running in packs....