August 15, 2004: Headlines: PCVs in the Field: The Grand Island Independent: The Peace Corps is an organization that has left footprints all over the world

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Peace Corps Volunteers: August 15, 2004: Headlines: PCVs in the Field: The Grand Island Independent: The Peace Corps is an organization that has left footprints all over the world

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The Peace Corps is an organization that has left footprints all over the world

The Peace Corps is an organization that has left footprints all over the world

The Peace Corps is an organization that has left footprints all over the world

Peace Corps celebrates; community members remember
Some from G.I. serving now; several from community recall lessons learned in service years ago

By Mike Bockoven

Pat Rerucha thought she had prepared to visit her daughter, Krissy, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Gambia, two months ago.

It was after she had made friends with native children and Krissy asked her if she "wanted to know when they died," that she was convinced otherwise.

"I thought I knew what I was getting into, and what she was doing," Rerucha said. "I was wrong. I had no idea."

The Peace Corps, which celebrated 43 years of operation in March, is an organization that has left footprints all over the world, including Grand Island.

Colleen Babcock, a health educator with the Central District Health Department who went to Swaziland through the Peace Corps from 1977 to 1980, said she first heard about the organization through a speaker in junior high school. After years of serving and eventually becoming a recruiter for the organization, she has become versed in talking about her experiences.

"In total, I just loved it," Babcock said. "The weird stuff, it was weird. It's hard to get acclimated to a new environment, but the good stuff was very good."

Babcock said she had been interested in the Peace Corps, where she taught math and science and served as a school nurse, for years. Once she graduated from college, there was no reason she could think of not to do it.

"I wanted time but I didn't want to waste time," she said. "I wasn't in a position where I could say, 'I want to do this for the rest of my life,' but at the same time I wanted to do something worthwhile, and that's what I felt I did."

The other component of Babcock's experience was, being a Nebraska native, she didn't have much experience in urban centers, which her stint in the Peace Corp allowed her to have. Moreover, she got a first-person view of how Americans are seen throughout the world.

Jeanne Cronin, a French teacher at Grand Island Senior High, also served in the Peace Corps in the early '70s, and has been encouraging her students to give consideration to the program ever since. The good news, she said, is most semesters she has a student who expresses interest. The bad news is there are stipulations.

"They're looking for people in agriculture, teaching, the health fields," Cronin said. "It depends year to year what people need. There's a certain amount of idealism you need, certainly, but it's also a career starter for certain careers."

What she does tell her students is how the Peace Corps changed her perspective on her country of birth completely. She said the turning point for her was when she was serving in Ivory Coast, and had to wash her clothes by hand. She gained a newfound respect for modern conveniences.

"It was two of the most significant years of my life," she said. "It changed my life entirely. I used to complain like most Americans do about little things. I don't remember having complained once since I got back. Every day I live in the United States is like a day in heaven."

The attitude with which people lived was also very telling. Sometimes, when harvest was about to come in and food levels were depleted, people would eat one meal a day and be perfectly happy with it. Material possessions were not as important as family and community, she said.

The Rev. Jim Keyser from Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island also has a daughter, Alison, in the Peace Corps, serving in Kenya. He said the stories she sends back from the front lines of Third World development are powerful, and they have touched his life and the life of his congregation.

"It makes it nice for the church because they're fairly connected," Keyser said. "It was a humanitarian gesture she felt very strongly about, and a lot of us feel strongly about as well."

Rerucha said she also feels strongly about her daughter's work, especially after visiting. It's difficult for those serving and those left behind, but ultimately an important mission, she said.

"I said it 100 times: It's great that she's doing this, but does it have to be my kid?" she said. "It's hard to be away from her, but she's doing what she needs to do, and that's really important."

When this story was prepared, this was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: The Grand Island Independent

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; PCVs in the Field



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