June 24, 2002 - Daytona Beach News Journal: Corps volunteer teaches, learns in Madagascar

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 06 June 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: June 24, 2002 - Daytona Beach News Journal: Corps volunteer teaches, learns in Madagascar

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, June 25, 2002 - 10:42 am: Edit Post

Corps volunteer teaches, learns in Madagascar

Read and comment on this story from the Daytona Beach News Journal on PCV Corrina Stevens who recently left Madagascar when the Peace Corps evacuated from that country at:

Corps volunteer teaches, learns in Madagascar*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Corps volunteer teaches, learns in Madagascar

By DONNA CALLEA (donna.callea@news-jrnl.com) Staff Writer

SOUTH DAYTONA -- Ask people at random to pinpoint exotic-sounding Madagascar on a map and most would probably have no idea where to point the pin.

Corrina Stevens didn't know, either, until about a year ago.

But the poverty-stricken, war-torn island nation off the southeast coast of Africa is where the Daytona Beach native recently left her heart -- or at least a big part of it.

In fact, if the Peace Corps hadn't insisted on evacuating her because of an ongoing civil war that has resulted in blown-up bridges, communication and travel problems, and some violence in the major cities, the 28-year-old Mainland High School graduate says she would still be there.

Stevens, who came home earlier this month after spending time visiting other parts of Africa, says she longs to return to the beautiful, impoverished, endangered and amazingly diverse country, where she was accepted not as a "vazaha" (white foreigner) but as a friend.

Madagascar, she says, is a place where "people have nothing, but will give you half of everything they have." A place that Newsweek magazine has called the worst place to be a tree, because its irreplaceable forests are being destroyed at such an alarming rate. A place that touched the volunteer teacher deeply and left an indelible imprint on her heart.

Despite the civil war that began after the country's December elections, when two candidates both claimed to have won the presidency, she says she was never afraid for her safety.

The Malagasy, as the people of Madagascar are known, consist of various ethnic groups including Malayo-Indonesians and Africans, and -- are "not a violent people," Stevens says. "They're very passive. Even their language is (spoken in) the passive voice rather than the active voice."

"The actions of a few people have caused a lot of destruction," she says, noting that most Malagasy "don't trust politicians."

A former public relations professional, Stevens says she decided to join the Peace Corps after working for three years in a windowless office at her alma mater, the University of Florida in Gainesville.

It was the windowless office that did it.

"I knew there were things I wanted to do, and I didn't want to wait to do them anymore."

She yearned to see the world, she says, to travel, to do something for others.

But after spending 10 months in Madagascar, living in the classroom where she taught English to hundreds of eager adolescents, doing without the material things most Americans take for granted, and learning more about herself and others than she ever expected, she says she gained much more than she gave.

The Malagasy people are "poor, but they're not poor of heart and spirit," says Stevens, who made many friends in the small town of Vangaindrano, right on the Tropic of Capricorn.

Although the Peace Corps had more than 100 health, education, and environmental volunteers working in Madagascar -- which is about twice the size of Arizona -- Stevens was the only one assigned to Vangaindrano. Her job was to teach English -- which many Malagasy consider essential for improving their future prospects. And no one seemed to think it was a problem that she knew not a word of Malagasy, the only language spoken by most residents, when she arrived in Madagascar. She quickly became immersed in her surroundings.

A fellow teacher became "my Malagasy mother," she says. A teenage boy with a very keen mind and outgoing personality gave her lessons in Malagasy culture. And she was especially moved by a 15-year-old girl who invited her home -- which turned out to be a storage shed where she lived all alone so she could attend school in the town.

Though Stevens missed her own family in Florida, she began to feel that she was where she was supposed to be, and was even making plans to re-enlist in the Peace Corps after her 27-month commitment was complete so she could stay in Madagascar.

She says she was caught very much off guard in late April when the Peace Corps decided to evacuate all its volunteers. She was attending a meeting in another city when the decision was made, and had to leave suddenly, taking only her backpack with her.

"My heart is very much still there," says Stevens, who's now staying with her great aunt and uncle, and taking time to decide what to do next -- which may include re-joining the Peace Corps, though she has no idea where she might be assigned.

"I had to leave without saying goodbye," she says of her friends in Madagascar, who are still very much on her mind. But someday, somehow, she hopes she will return.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Senator Dodd introduces new Peace Corps LegislationAlleged Larium link to Suicide
Attend the COS Flag Procession in DC on June 23RPCVs start the Peace Corps Fund
Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalInterview with Sam Farr on new Peace Corps legislation
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyThe NPCA's New Mandate
When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?Peace Corps Cartoons
RPCV Character on new Fox SitcomBush and JFK

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; PCVs in the Field; COS - Madagascar



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.