May 15, 2003 - The South Reporter: Kenya RPCV Megan Sweeney leaves for Nepal to marry Chad RPCV Steve FitzGerald

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: May 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: May 15, 2003 - The South Reporter: Kenya RPCV Megan Sweeney leaves for Nepal to marry Chad RPCV Steve FitzGerald

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Kenya RPCV Megan Sweeney leaves for Nepal to marry Chad RPCV Steve FitzGerald

Read and comment on this story from The South Reporter on Kenya RPCV Megan Sweeney who is leaving for Nepal to marry Chad RPCV Steve FitzGerald at:

WESCO manager leaves for Peace Corps in Nepal*

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WESCO manager leaves for Peace Corps in Nepal

By: Sue Watson, Staff Writer May 15, 2003

Megan Sweeney, distribution manager with WESCO in Byhalia, is leaving the company with mixed feelings to serve as associate peace director with the Peace Corps in Nepal.

Friday, May 2, was her last day to work. She is leaving the plant in the good hands of Don Gilmore who will take over management.

"It is hard to leave Byhalia and WESCO," Sweeney said with tears in her eyes. "This has been truly the best job I have ever had. I've watched people develop; people enjoy coming to work."

Sweeney, 37, will also be marrying a friend and former Peace Corp volunteer, Steve FitzGerald, from Kansas City, before they leave for Nepal.

She was a Peace Corp volunteer in Kenya from 1989 to 1991. Her fiance', also 37, served in the Corps in Chad in 1993 where he worked in water well drilling and community development.

They met in Memphis through the Return Peace Corps groups Sweeney started in Memphis for those who have served, their families and for those who are interested in joining the Corps. There are about 80 returned volunteers in the Memphis area, she said.

FitzGerald, a well driller and sales rep for Lane Christian, became interested while helping drill wells in Chad. He also studied drilling in McComb.

He will do other community volunteer work in Nepal, including learning the language, while she works for the Corps.

"He's got the good end of the stick," she said. "This time we decided to serve together with an organization we love. I am fortunate to be working for them as associate peace director in Nepal."

Not only will Sweeney be working in one of the most beautiful and spiritually elevated Buddhist centers in the world, she will also be surrounded by beautiful mountains, the Himalayas and near the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.

The couple will live in Katmandu while she fulfills a two-year assignment. Sweeney said she could work for the Corps for up to six years, but assignments come in two year increments.

"The Peace Corps is interesting. They like to have a lot of change in management. So, a person cannot work for them for more than six years," she said.

Sweeney was born in Minnesota and was attending the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul when she was recruited by the Peace Corps in her senior year. She was recruited by WESCO from Chicago and sent to Pittsburgh and a year later transferred to the Victoria facility to serve as distribution center manager. The center has 150,000 square feet of space and employs 30 workers.

But it was her work perhaps in Kenya where she was a small business advisor and taught at a technical training school where tailors, carpenters, masons and farmers were trained, that helped her understand management and overcome certain fears.

"It was absolutely the best thing I've ever done," Sweeney said. "I traveled, met other cultures, learned another language and felt a sense of community."

It was both scary and adventurous, she said.

"It made me appreciate what I have and what people in other countries have," she said of her Kenyan experience. "It helped me conquer fear of the unknown and travel with a very safe organization. They pick your site, your housing and give you enough money to cover your needs. So it is a very safe organization to be adventurous in."

Sweeney said there are many reasons to want to serve as a volunteer for the Corps.

A desire to help and to make an impact on the lives of others is often a motivating force. It is more a two-way educational process for both the community and individuals within a community and the volunteer.

"I all the more think it is relationships we (as nations) build in these environments that will sustain us," Sweeney said. "The one-on-one gives an up front, personal knowledge of people and it changes your attitude."

Megan is the sixth child of Joe and Nancy Sweeney, parents of 11. Her mother kept house and her dad was a school teacher. After her stint with the Corps, her youngest sister joined the Peace Corps and served in Romania. Her youngest brother became a volunteer teacher in the South American country of Belize.

"I think I influenced them. It's kind of the thing to do now," she said.

FitzGerald is also from a large family, of eight children.

Sweeney said she is a goal oriented person who likes to plan ahead in a methodical way, but her upcoming trip to Nepal is teaching her once again to be less dependent on having to know everything from a personal point of view.

"It's definitely about my own personal spiritual development," she said. "I was raised Catholic and was raised out of a tradition where you do things out of a calling or devotion rather than for the money.

"The bonus is you get to be more involved in helping people. The worst thing that can happen is that you just know somebody. "So, it's about personal challenges and overcoming fears."

Sweeney said the productivity, moral quality of life and customer satisfaction have all improved since she came to the Byhalia facility.

"It has been amazing," she said. "The personal growth of the employees here has been phenomenal. I've always been impressed with people's ability to accomplish tasks. They have always exceeded my expectations. It builds my confidence."

Sweeney said the company also participates in the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce which has helped immensely at WESCO.

"The fact we are here is because of them," she said.

"I have seen how people help others during crisis or tragedy. I have seen the benefit of networking with other businesses and sharing. I hope WESCO helps Byhalia."

Don Gilmore, who is taking Sweeney's position as manager, said she will be missed.

"We are going to miss her both personally and her business judgement," he said.

©The South Reporter, Inc. 2003

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