October 21, 2005: Headlines: Speaking Out: Arizona Republic: Peace Corps finds renewed passion in volunteerism

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Peace Corps finds renewed passion in volunteerism

Peace Corps finds renewed passion in volunteerism

Many high schools now have a community service program that ensures student involvement. "The more you are exposed to volunteerism as a young person, the more likely you are to do something like the Peace Corps," Cole said. "I've had a lot of people who have referenced a high school teacher who put the idea of volunteerism in their head."

Peace Corps finds renewed passion in volunteerism

Peace Corps finds renewed passion in volunteerism

John Faherty
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 21, 2005 12:00 AM

The graphic images of people suffering in the wake of last year's tsunami and the rising casualties from the AIDS epidemic in Africa are spurring young people to get involved.

Today, the Peace Corps has more volunteers in the field than any time in the past 30 years. Of the 7,810 volunteers, 136 are from Arizona.

Joining means going to a developing country for 27 months to help locals live a better life.

The reasons for the renewed spirit of volunteerism are many and include:

• Increased global awareness after 9/11.

• Institutionalized volunteerism at many high schools.

• Support from the Bush administration to promote volunteerism, including active support of the Peace Corps.

"The world gets smaller and smaller all the time," said Sarah Daniels of Tucson.

Daniels spent two years in the Peace Corps in Namibia in Southwest Africa.

"I wanted to do something to help people, and this was a good way to do it," said Daniels, 28, who is now in her last year of medical school at the University of Arizona.

And there are many more people like her.

"People are caring more about things going on around the world," said David Briery, who works for the Peace Corps' Western region, which includes Arizona and Southern California. "I have a renewed faith in young people and what they seem to care about."

Desire to help

Steven Cole is the Peace Corps recruiter at UA as well as an anthropology doctoral student. Last year, UA had 49 alumni serving in the corps.

He served two years in Zambia working with local people in agriculture and health programs. The experience was so rewarding he decided to serve another two years.

When he talks to people who are thinking about joining, he tries to make sure they understand the commitment.

"The first thing is a global awareness," Cole said. "And a zeal, a passion, to understand another culture. If you don't have that, it doesn't matter how rugged you are, how much you want to help."

Cole knows it is a cliche about planting a seed of helping others when people are young, but it works.

Many high schools now have a community service program that ensures student involvement.

"The more you are exposed to volunteerism as a young person, the more likely you are to do something like the Peace Corps," Cole said. "I've had a lot of people who have referenced a high school teacher who put the idea of volunteerism in their head."

Peace Corp volunteers are provided with an allowance that lets them live similarly to the people in their community.

At the end of service, they receive $6,075 to help transition back to home.

Jacob Dang, 25, grew up in Mesa and is thinking about joining, despite his career as an engineer.

The time commitment, more than two years, is giving him pause, but he still feels a desire to serve.

Dang is interested in "helping the unfortunate" and getting to see the world.

He is motivated, in part, by the fact that he knows he grew up more comfortably than most people.

His parents knew hardship before they emigrated from Vietnam. "I feel very fortunate, helping would be good," he said.

Eric Chase, 29, has been in Kenya for three months with the Peace Corps. He will work as a teacher.

His mother, Gail Chase of Phoenix, has been able to speak with him just once since he left.

"I am extremely proud of him," Gail said. "I'm happy for him, too, because this is such an adventure."

Gail said her son, a graduate of Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, has always been aware of a bigger world beyond the borders of the United States.

"He has a social streak in him," she said. "He truly wants to make an impact on the world. Make things a little bit better, even if it is just in one village in Kenya."

Diversifying volunteers

The face of the Peace Corp volunteer is changing. The average volunteer is now 28, and 6 percent of all volunteers are over 50.

The Peace Corps has also made a concerted effort to increase minority involvement, and now nearly one in six volunteers is a minority.

Briery says some people may be joining because of the president's encouragement.

"There has been a push with this administration for volunteerism in general. And for more Peace Corps volunteers," Briery said.

Gail Chase worried about her son when he first went to Kenya. "At first I was really concerned. Concerned about him getting sick, about all the cultural differences. . . . But he is doing great."

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years Date: October 22 2005 No: 745 Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years
Congratulations to the Peace Corps for the highest number of volunteers in 30 years with 7,810 volunteers serving in 71 posts across the globe. Of course, the President's proposal to double the Peace Corps to 15,000 volunteers made in his State of the Union Address in 2002 is now a long forgotten dream. With deficits in federal spending stretching far off into the future, any substantive increase in the number of volunteers will have to wait for new approaches to funding and for a new administration. Choose your candidate and start working for him or her now.

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Military Option sparks concerns Date: September 13 2005 No: 731 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read the results of our poll among RPCVs. Latest: Congressman John Kline introduces legislation to alter the program to remove the Peace Corps as an option for completing an individual’s military enlistment requirement.

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

'Celebration of Service' a major success Date: October 10 2005 No: 730 'Celebration of Service' a major success
The Peace Corps Fund's 'Celebration of Service' on September 29 in New York City was a major success raising approximately $100,000 for third goal activities. In the photo are Maureen Orth (Colombia); John Coyne (Ethiopia) Co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund; Caroline Kennedy; Barbara Anne Ferris (Morocco) Co-founder; Former Senator Harris Wofford, member of the Advisory Board. Read the story here.

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The District Commissioner for the Kasama District in Zambia issued a statement banning Peace Corps activities for ‘grave’ social misconduct and unruly behavior for an incident that occurred on September 24 involving 13 PCVs. Peace Corps said that some of the information put out about the incident was "inflammatory and false." On October 12, Country Director Davy Morris met with community leaders and apologized for the incident. All PCVs involved have been reprimanded, three are returning home, and a ban in the district has since been lifted.

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Report of PCV Misconduct in Zambia 7 Oct
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Mike Honda speaks out on Katrina 5 Oct
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John McCain's call to service 3 Oct
Joshua Berman wins Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award 2 Oct
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Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina Date: September 12 2005 No: 729 Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina
First and foremost, Give. Then volunteer with the Crisis Corps. Carol Bellamy says "In situations such as this one, money is needed the most" and added that Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans is comparable to last year's tsunami. Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe's Direct Relief International has committed an initial $250,000 in cash to assist hurricane victims. Mayor Tom Murphy (RPCV Paraguay) says Pittsburgh is ready to embrace refugees from devastated areas. Brazil RPCV Robert Backus is among the first Vermont doctors to volunteer to travel to Louisiana to treat victims. Latest: FEMA requests RPCVs to assist in recovery efforts through the Crisis Corps and the Peace Corps hopes to send 400 RPCVs to the Gulf Coast for short term assignments to assist victims with their applications for federal aid.

The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

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170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

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Story Source: Arizona Republic

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