When Kim Krytus was 16 years old, she learned about the devastating famine that was crippling Ethiopia and how many children were dying of starvation.
From that moment on, Krytus dreamed of traveling the world so she could help as many people as she could. But that dream was put on hold once she graduated from Depew High School.
“I grew up in Depew and graduated in 1985,” Krytus, 49, explained. “I got married and had a child very soon after that. Life took a different path.”
Still, Krytus kept her dream folded neatly in her back pocket. In the late '90s, after a divorce, she started studying at the University at Buffalo, working her way toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology, one class at a time.
Finally, in 2004, she graduated.
“Ultimately, I enrolled in the master's of social work program at UB. I was working full time and had another marriage that didn’t work out. Something felt like it was missing, so I began looking at the Peace Corps and found out that they like to hire people with a master's of public health. UB had a program for that particular degree, so I dual-enrolled.”
Name: Kim Krytus
Current location: Cheektowaga
Previous locations: South Africa, India and many other countries
Loves most about Buffalo: The close-knit community
Place she misses the most: Uganda, South Africa – because it was her first trip abroad
At the time, Krytus was a single mother, working full time and going to school for dual master's degrees. Her son was older by then, she says, and she had a lot of support from her ex-husband.
Though it was tough and, at times, overwhelming, Krytus graduated in 2006 and finally entered the Peace Corps. Her lifelong dream became a reality when she was sent to South Africa in 2008.
“I had always had it in my head that this was something I needed to do in my life. I was always working toward that dream,” she said. “I immediately fell in love with the work and fell in love with the people. They have so little yet they are some of the happiest people in the world.”
Krytus spent nine months in rural South Africa working on HIV prevention programs, where she says about 20 percent of the population was HIV-positive.
When she returned home, she secured a position with Evergreen Health Services. Then she headed to Bangladesh for two months to work on flu prevention. For the next four years, she traveled extensively around the world. Throughout her entire time in the Peace Corps, for work and for some fun vacations, Krytus says she’s been to 22 different countries overall.
In 2012, she returned to Buffalo and she’s been here ever since.
“When I was a teenager and thinking about doing this, I always said to myself – I’m leaving Buffalo and I am never coming back. I couldn’t wait to go elsewhere. But of course, I ended up coming back. There is a sense of community in Buffalo that I have never experienced living anywhere else. For me this has always been home, but it just took me a lot of years to realize it.”
Now, Krytus serves as the director of MPH initiatives at UB. She says she still feels like she’s doing some of the same work, even though she’s not physically traveling anymore.
“I help train students who are preparing to go overseas. So, I still feel like I’m giving back. They have the same dream that I had when I was their age, and now I get to be the one to help them make it come true.”
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Story topics: Expats to repats