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Peace Corps beckons Darren Sullivan
Peace Corps beckons Darren Sullivan
Peace Corps beckons Nassau man
By: KRISTIN SHAW 01/13/2004
NASSAU--A desire to help people and to have an adventure abroad are the reasons Darren Sullivan joined the Peace Corps.
"In so many ways it's an amazing opportunity," said Mr. Sullivan. "I'm so looking forward to learning about another culture."
The 21-year-old George Washington University senior leaves for "somewhere in central or eastern Asia" upon graduating in June.
"I'll find out where I'm going in March," he said. "It could be in Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, the Philippines, China or somewhere else. It doesn't really matter."
Mr. Sullivan expects to teach English wherever it is he goes.
"A lot of countries want that and I have some experience," he said, noting he has taught SAT preparation classes, been a tutor, and worked in a day-care associated with Questar III where he introduced children to "progressive education experiences."
Joining the Peace Corps wasn't a spur of the moment decision for the Columbia High School graduate.
"It was something I thought about on and off throughout college," he said. "There was no one moment when I decided. Last August, I applied. I only got medical clearance a week ago."
During the past five months, Mr. Sullivan filled out lots of paperwork, was fingerprinted, and was interviewed to determine his skills. A background check was conducted and he went multiple times to his doctor and dentist.
"I'm going someplace where there isn't a strong health-care system," said Mr. Sullivan. "They don't want to have to fly us out if we get sick from something that could have been prevented."
Mr. Sullivan is now awaiting an invitation to serve. After that he will be sent videos and books about the country he is assigned.
He is hoping to work in a city or at least a large town. "I think I'd learn more in a larger area, but a lot of people end up in tiny communities," he said.
Majoring in both philosophy and political science, Mr. Sullivan is looking forward talking to the Asian people about those subjects.
He noted that before his two-year stint begins, he will train somewhere in Asia for three months. "The two years of service starts after the training," he explained, noting the pay for 24 months is $7,000.
Workers receive a living stipend which allows them to live at the same level as people in the community.
"It is really very much a volunteer effort," he said.
Mr. Sullivan said he will miss some amenities, such as his access now to newspapers, and listening to his favorite tunes.
"I don't need to blow-dry my hair, but I will miss voting in the next presidential election," he said. "I'm sure I'll be bugging my brother to send me batteries for my Walkman."
He expects to miss his parents, Sandy Birnbaum and John Sullivan, but noted that the Peace Corps encourages family members to visit overseas.
After his two years, Mr. Sullivan expects to go back to school.
"Perhaps I'll go to law school or continue with my studies in philosophy, although there isn't much call for philosophers," he said. "Whatever I'm going to do will require more education."
Mr. Sullivan said being in the Peace Corps makes it is easier to obtain a government job and is helpful when applying for graduate school.
In 1960, then-Senator John Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.
Three goals comprise the Peace Corps mission:
+Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
+Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
+Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans
Since its inception, more than 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers have been invited by 137 host countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Collaborating with community members, volunteers work in areas like education, youth outreach, community development, environmental preservation, and information technology. Volunteers have taught and mentored children, helped farmers grow crops, worked with small businesses to market products, and shown women how to care for their babies.
More recently, they've helped schools develop computer skills, and educated entire communities about the threat of HIV/AIDS.
Volunteers range in age from college students to retirees. Currently there are 7,533 volunteers and trainees, the oldest being 84 years old.
©The Independent 2004