Shalin Shah’s commitment to service started long before he entered Peace Corps. Growing up in Southern California he was always looking to help people. In college, Shalin volunteered with UNICEF, serving as his chapter president during his junior and senior year. During games, he and his fellow club members would sell water bottles to raise money for the children’s fund.
Even in the earliest chapters of his Peace Corps service, Shalin’s passion and dedication won the respect of everyone around him. He was beloved by the community members he met, and deeply respected by his fellow Volunteers, even as he inspired friends and family back at home.
Shalin had nearly completed his training as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru when he became very sick. He returned shortly thereafter to the United States and was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
While undergoing grueling treatment, he remained in close contact with Peace Corps staff and his fellow Volunteers in Peru. From his room in the hospital, he would write to those facing challenges in their service, sharing messages of encouragement and support. Everywhere he went, he wore his Peace Corps hat, and that is how everyone in the hospital came to know him – “the Peace Corps Volunteer.”
In an article Shalin wrote shortly before his passing, he reflected on his experience. “Had I not been pushed to this limit” he said, “I would not have cultivated a deep appreciation of the beautiful gift of life and of everything around me. I also would not have thought intensely about the legacy I intend to leave behind and how I wanted to impact the world in a positive way before my exit.”
Like so many others, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet was deeply inspired by Shalin and at his memorial service spoke of the impact he made. “He reminded us that the opposite of death is not life, it is purpose. Our stories only come to an end when the reasons to keep telling them fade away, and that is why I know that Shalin’s legacy of love and light will live on forever.”
A memorial fund has been established in Shalin’s honor. All donations to the Shalin Shah Memorial Fund will support approved Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) drinking water and sanitation projects in Peru, honoring Shalin’s memory and commitment to improving access to clean water in Peruvian communities.