October 6, 2002 - The Pantagraph: Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher teaches future volunteers at ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 10 October 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 6, 2002 - The Pantagraph: Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher teaches future volunteers at ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, October 14, 2002 - 12:40 pm: Edit Post

Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher teaches future volunteers at ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development

Read and comment on this story from The Pantagraph on Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher who now teaches future volunteers at:

Peace Corps marches on in changed world*

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

Peace Corps marches on in changed world

By Kelly Josephsen
Pantagraph staff

NORMAL -- Illinois State University teaches future Peace Corps volunteers to be flexible.

That's a good move, said Mike Kelleher. Rolling with the punches is one of the few things about Peace Corps service that hasn't changed since President Kennedy founded the organization 41 years ago.

Kelleher speaks from experience.

He often meets with past and future Peace Corps volunteers as director of the ISU Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development. But 17 years ago it was Kelleher who embarked on a three-year stint as a community economic developer in a rural, isolated Sierra Leone village.

Kelleher said volunteers' goals are the same -- "They all want to help people" -- but their faces aren't, and neither are their destinations.

In the 1960s, most volunteers were 20-somethings fresh out of college. Now, the median age is over 30, increased by retirees and people with work experience.

The Peace Corps "is much more diverse now," said Kelleher. "We operate in countries you wouldn't think of, like in Eastern Europe and Latin America, where the standard of living is actually quite high."

But the biggest change is the type of work being done. Early on, it was what people usually think of when they think Peace Corps: building bridges, planting crops, setting up hospitals, teaching English.

That still goes on, but volunteers don't stop at the basics -- the Corps now focuses on community and business development. Volunteers are as likely to help with computer technology, environmentally-safe logging or hotel management as they are with sanitation, health and agriculture.

Even education programs have shifted. The main objective for volunteers is to train their students to be teachers themselves.

Janet Deutsch, an ISU graduate student who served in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan from 1998-2000, taught English at a school for gifted children from poor families. The children were expected to spread their skills to other people in their villages and to further their education at universities, Deutsch said.

Jessica Bergstrom, another grad student who will start her service next December, said her classmate's experience shows how the Peace Corps' overall focus is helping others help themselves.

"Even though I'll be the community developer, it's their community," said Bergstrom, who hopes to be placed in Western Africa. "I might help them figure out what needs to be done, but they need to make the decisions and take ownership if anything is going to (be) sustainable."

Peace Corps trainers always told Deutsch and her colleagues to "work yourself out of a job."

That meant leading a forum to help 50 women start businesses and hosting a civics and democracy class to help 30 instructors teach about building a free society.

New attitudes, new volunteers

Dan Duffy, who served in the Solomon Islands -- a South Pacific nation -- from 1999-2000 and graduated from ISU in May, thinks the new attitude opens the corps to more volunteers.

"It was always teachers and people who could help build bridges," he said. "Now they're getting into computers and people who can teach computers, set up computers. They're reaching out."

Duffy is an example of that, as suggested by his Peace Corps job title: "agriforester."

He monitored sustainable cutting in tropical forests and was a middleman to buyers in Australia or New Zealand. "We taught them to treat the forests like a bank account -- only take out a little bit, so there will be some there in the future," he said.

Duffy's experience hints at why the Corps has changed. Forces outside the organization -- in his case a global focus on the environment -- play a major role.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Kelleher said, Eastern European nations privatized what was once state-run health care, education and media. That created a need to build free markets and free societies.

He said ISU's program has responded to the Peace Corps' changing needs.

At the start of 2002, the growing program took a new name (it was formerly called the Unit for Community and Economic Development) to reflect its mission of training volunteers to help develop low-income communities.

"The basic principles have not changed," Duffy said. "What President Kennedy wanted us to do was go overseas and live and work with people in Third World nations."

In the process, U.S. foreign policy gets a much-needed boost, said Kelleher.

While in Sierra Leone, he was struck by how well-received the Peace Corps was.

"Every village I went to -- and there are thousands with just a few houses -- had contact with a volunteer. They told about how someone helped build a latrine or just shared a cola or a meal."

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Top Stories and Discussion on PCOL
Peace Corps Volunteers Safe in Ivory CoastA Profile of Gaddi Vasquez
Sargent Shriver and the Politics of Life911:  A Different America
USA Freedom Corps - "paved with good intentions"PCV hostage rescued from terrorists
GAO reports on Volunteer Safety and SecurityPeace Corps out of Russia?
Help the New Peace Corps Bill pass CongressUSA Freedom Cops TIPS Program

Top Stories and Discussion on PCOL
Senior Staff Appointments at Peace Corps HeadquartersFor the Peace Corps Fallen
Senator Dodd holds Hearings on New Peace Corps LegislationThe Debate over the Peace Corps Fund
Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalThe Peace Corps 40th plus one
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceThe Controversy over Lariam
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?Peace Corps Cartoons

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; Service; Education; COS - Sierra Leone



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.