June 26, 2003 - Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Older Volunteers joining Peace Corps

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Older Volunteers joining Peace Corps

Read and comment on this story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on older volunteers who are venturing to far-flung villages and jungles in remote parts of the world, not as tourists but as members of the Peace Corps at:

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Finding Peace later in life


Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When many senior citizens are thinking about retiring or taking a cruise, some are venturing to far-flung villages and jungles in remote parts of the world, not as tourists but as members of the Peace Corps.

Lillian Carter, who went to India as a health volunteer at age 68, is perhaps the most famous senior Peace Corps volunteer, but she was one of many. Of the 6,000 volunteers now serving, 7 percent are 50 or older; the oldest is 84.

"There was just something magic about it" to Barbara Murray, 63, of Decatur, who joined after teaching French for 25 years in Atlanta public schools. "Ever since I was inspired by President Kennedy, I never did let go of the idea of joining."

With the encouragement of her family, she spent two years in a little village in Armenia, teaching a range of things from poetry to knitting. She still corresponds with friends she made during her stay.

In 1999, Ken Sweet of Marietta was working as an engineer in the nuclear power industry when, again with a little nudge from memories of JFK and a touch of midlife crisis (his kids had graduated from college), he sold everything and joined. He spent two years in Latvia, working on community projects.

"The experience changed my life," he said. "If you think of the Peace Corps as just dropping you off in the wilderness, that's the wrong impression. They are wonderfully organized and supportive, and I recommend it for anybody." Since his tour ended he has been back twice and is planning a trip this summer. He is even thinking about joining up for a second go-round.

On June 26, former President Jimmy Carter will present the Lillian Carter Award to an outstanding returned senior Peace Corps volunteer at a 4 p.m. ceremony at the Carter Center. The award recognizes a volunteer whose commitment helped bring about a better understanding of Americans by other peoples of the world.

Carter will be joined at the ceremony by his grandson, Jason, who served in South Africa. Soweto Street Beat Dance Theatre, a renowned South African troupe, also will be featured.

The ceremony is free and the public is invited. For reservations, call 404-562-3454.

For information about the Peace Corps: 1-800-424-8580, www.peacecorps.gov.


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