May 21, 2002 - Chicago Daily Herald: Volunteer stretches compassionate wings

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 05 May 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: May 21, 2002 - Chicago Daily Herald: Volunteer stretches compassionate wings

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 1:05 pm: Edit Post

Volunteer stretches compassionate wings

Read and comment on this story from the Chicago Daily Herald on Craig Trongeau, an electrician by trade, who he is stepping into a life adventure void of the modern-day amenities of running water, electricity and other comforts. On May 28, the 30-year-old Hampshire man will board a plane for Kenya, Africa and begin a much-anticipated journey as an AIDS educator for the U.S. Peace Corps. Read the story at:

Volunteer stretches compassionate wings *

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Volunteer stretches compassionate wings

May 21, 2002 - Chicago Daily Herald Author(s): Stephanie Price Daily Herald Correspondent

Craig Trongeau is an electrician by trade, but he is stepping into a life adventure void of the modern-day amenities of running water, electricity and other comforts.

May 28, the 30-year-old Hampshire man will board a plane for Kenya, Africa and begin a much-anticipated journey as an AIDS educator for the U.S. Peace Corps.

For Trongeau, the three-year trip is an opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to break away from the daily grind and make a real impact in the world.

"When I turned 30 last June, I thought, 'OK, where am I and what am I doing?' " Trongeau said. "I felt a void, an emptiness that needed to be filled.

"I always liked traveling. And I always liked volunteering. I wanted to see a different culture and new people. And I thought, 'Where can I put all these things together?'"

Trongeau sent an application to the Peace Corps, which typically is geared toward college graduates. But, after a lengthy interview process, Trongeau received his official invitation in January to work as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Trongeau thought he might be sent to one of the 70 countries served by the Peace Corps to use his electrician skills. He had selected South America as his choice country and began taking Spanish lessons at Elgin Community College. He was surprised when he learned his assignment had been switched to Africa.

"Our volunteer recruiter nominates a candidate who must then pass medical and dental tests," said Scot Roskelly, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corp's Chicago office. "The placement office tries to match up the volunteer's skills with the country."

Upon hearing his new assignment, Trongeau quickly undertook the task of learning Swahili, the local language, and acquainting himself with the country and the AIDS epidemic now affecting 14 percent of its population.

Upon arriving in Kenya, Trongeau will be set up with a contact person and receive three months of training.

"I was a little surprised when I learned I would be going to Africa," Trongeau said. "Here I am an electrician, and I'm going to a place where there's no electricity. But hey, maybe I can wire some up while I'm there."

Volunteering is nothing new for the Central High School graduate who grew up in Plato Center.

For the past five years, Trongeau has been involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley. First Trongeau served as a Big Brother, and after his charge, Jason, turned 18, he was asked to join the board. The non-profit organization matches youngsters with adult mentors.

Trongeau also led the group's activities committee, helping arrange fun outings and programs for the children and their mentors.

"I decided to become a Big Brother because I've always been one to keep busy," Trongeau said. "I had some free time, and I wanted to do something constructive with my free time."

Although his Big Brother match officially ended, Trongeau maintains close ties with Jason. Jason's mother, Marci Matuszewski, of Elgin, has high regard for Trongeau. And, while she's excited for the journey he's about to undertake, she regrets he won't be around anymore.

"That's a long way to send a box of cookies," Matuszewski said, jokingly. "But, I'm happy for him. I can't say enough about Craig or for what the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has done for my sons. Craig has been so wonderful. He's a really supportive person, and he's helped me so much."

Deb Howe, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley, echoed Matuszewski's praise, and admitted that the Big Brothers Big Sisters program may have been the driving force behind Trongeau's desire to expand his volunteer wings.

"Craig is one of our most active volunteers," Howe said. "He's involved in all aspects of our organization. He's helped us with our fund-raisers, helped with getting team sponsorships from his union. He's done handyman things around the office.

"I think over the years, he just realized how good it feels to help other people," Howe said. "And I think his volunteer help here led him to his decision to join the Peace Corps."

While Trongeau prepares to embark on his new life, his relatives in Plato Center are still coming to terms with his decision.

"It's taken my family a while to get used to the idea," Trongeau said. "They're still not used to it. This is just something that's been in me a while, and it took a while for me to get the courage to do it."

Trongeau plans to use his vacation time to return home each Christmas. And he plans to keep in touch with his 7-year-old niece, Aubrey Schuls, through the Peace Corps' World Wide Schools Program.

Beginning in the fall, Trongeau will share his experiences with Schuls' second-grade class in Genoa, and with students at Central in Burlington. Trongeau hopes the program will help him keep in touch with his home community while he immerses himself into a whole new way of life.

"I'm looking for the experience in the Peace Corps that'll allow me to come back and be a stronger leader in my community," Trongeau said. "The boundaries of your community are limited only by the distance of your fences. I'm just moving my fences further out."

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps - PCVs; COS - Kenya



By Brandy Bankus ( - on Saturday, February 25, 2006 - 3:13 am: Edit Post

Hello my name is Brandy. I'll keep it short. I am a union electrician apprentice. I have been looking into peace corps since I was a teenager. I am eager to help to, and Craigs story of courage and leaving a good paying job to help people gives me hope that I could one day do the same. I am 23 now, when I journey out I hope that there is a way that I could help humanity with the trade I have learned. Good for you Craig and safe travels.

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