March 10, 2003 - Seacoastonline: Paraguay RPCV Susanne Delaney talks to students about life in Paraguay for Peace Corps Day

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Paraguay RPCV Susanne Delaney talks to students about life in Paraguay for Peace Corps Day

Read and comment on this story from Seacoastonline about Peace Corps Recruiter Susanne Delaney who talked to students about her life in Paraguay for Peace Corps Day at:

‘Breaking barriers,’ class by class*

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‘Breaking barriers,’ class by class

By Sara Newbury

PORTSMOUTH - In contrast to the current climate of global unrest and potential war, a group of Portsmouth High School students spent an afternoon last week learning about peace.

In celebration of its 42nd anniversary, the Peace Corps is sending more than 6,000 returned volunteers to schools nationwide to talk about their experiences.

Susanne Delaney, a Portsmouth resident and Peace Corps recruitment officer, joined one PHS geography class on Thursday to share photos and stories from her two years abroad with the corps.

Restless at the idea of a guest speaker, the students shifted in their chairs and spoke loudly without being called on for the first 10 minutes of class. But when Delaney began talking about time spent in Paraguay, South America, the room grew quiet and hands shot up.

They wanted to know what she ate, where she lived; was she scared?; was she safe?

"What movies did you watch?" one student asked.

"None," was Delaney’s answer.

For months, she lived in a rural village without electricity.

Seven thousand Peace Corps volunteers are currently serving in 70 countries, aiding communities in six different areas: education, health, environment, business, information technology and community development.

Volunteers make a two-year commitment to leave the comforts of home to help others, Delaney explained to the class. They undergo three months of training in language, culture and safety - and in the skills they’ll need in their new communities.

"When you go overseas, you open your eyes to a whole new world - to different ways of living," she said. "The reason there is as much unrest in the world as there is, is because we don’t understand each other. And we don’t understand each other because we haven’t experienced each other’s countries."

Delaney’s audience watched a video of Peace Corps volunteers working all over the world, but was particularly fascinated with the South American tea that she brought with her. Held in a small, wooden cup called a "guampa," the tea, or "yerba mate," is sucked through a metal straw called a "bambilla." Delaney explained that, in Paraguay, the tea is more than a beverage - it’s a ritual. The people in her community drank it day and night. They sat in a circle and passed it around - never touching the bambilla (it’s bad luck) and always offering the first sip to God.

"This is perfect for this class, because we are talking about being culture-sensitive," said Nancy Geoffrion, a teaching intern in the social studies department. "A lot of the students, when I told them about this yesterday, didn’t know what the Peace Corps was. Now they will at least have it in their heads that it’s an option."

Delaney, who has an office in Boston but recruits at colleges in New Hampshire and Vermont, said she’s trying to create a greater Peace Corps presence on the Seacoast.

Though high school visits are unique to the anniversary of the Peace Corps, Delaney said it’s a good age to expose people to the idea of volunteerism. She also gave a presentation at Dover High School on Thursday morning.

"I hope they can think about it and realize that we are all very much the same in the world," she said. "Our cultures are different, but we’re all human beings."

Volunteers must be 18 and have a bachelor’s degree or significant work experience, Delaney told students, adding that the application process takes six to nine months.

Delaney, who lived in Paraguay from 1994 to 1996, said 165,000 people have volunteered in the Peace Corps since President John F. Kennedy started the government organization 42 years ago. She said President Bush is working to double the number of people currently volunteering by 2005.

In a room-full of students, four raised their hands at the end of the presentation, when Delaney asked, "who thinks they’d want to join the Peace Corps?"

But almost everyone wanted to know where to get the yerba mate that she’d passed around for the students to try.

"The tea was cool," said junior Andrew Thorne. "It made me want to buy some."

Thorne was one student who’d raised his hand.

He said, "Personally, after she talked about it, I want to join. I like to help people."

That’s what it’s about, according to Delaney.

"The message I am really trying to get across is, Peace Corps volunteers are trying to break down barriers around the world."

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; Recruitment; PC Day



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