October 23, 2002 - Southern Windows: Ella Lacey served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Malawi: Peace Corps Malawi : The Peace Corps in Malawi: October 23, 2002 - Southern Windows: Ella Lacey served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 01, 2003 - 5:23 pm: Edit Post

Ella Lacey served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi

Ella Lacey served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi

The Retirees

Ella Lacey

Many people retire and devote their time to volunteer efforts but few are more dedicated than Ella Lacey.
Ella Lacey
Lacey retired from the University in December 1995 as associate professor of behavioral and social science after 22 years. Now she spends her days involved in nonprofit organizations. Shortly after retiring, Ella Lacey joined the Peace Corps, becoming one of the few retired volunteers willing to travel across the globe to lend a helping hand.

"I enjoy doing volunteer work," she said. "I would not consider accepting another paid job unless I financially needed it."

After her retirement Lacey said that her four adult children became concerned about what their mother was going to do to occupy the long days. Lacey was intrigued by advertisements for the Peace Corps and thought, "what if"? Thinking that her family might be opposed to the idea, she sprung the idea on them the next time they confronted her with, "What are you going to do now that you are retired?"

To Lacey's surprise, her kids thought that joining the Peace Corps would be a great idea and even agreed to visit her. Lacey began to take the idea more seriously and started to research the Peace Corps. Soon she submitted her application. Lacey said that the process for joining Peace Corps is extensive, and it lasts about 18 months.
Ella Lacey, left, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, chats with Thom Khanje, a journalist from Malawi who was on campus recently.Photo provided/William A. Rice

"The Peace Corps runs numerous health tests, they verify that you are financially stable, and that you will be a positive representative willing to help," she said. She was assigned to the health sector because of her medical background.

Lacey's first venture was to central Africa where she lived for 2 1/2 years. The first 10 weeks of the trip Lacey lived with a family in Malawi.

"The family was great, but our only problem was they didn't speak English and I didn't speak Chichewa (their official language)," she said. "By the end of the 10 weeks we were able to somewhat communicate."

Lacey was assigned to a district health office in Malawi and spent the majority of her time in the maternal and child unit, participating in all the immunization programs. Lacey's first effort to help eradicate polio was in 1996. She coordinated a polio inoculation campaign, which led to the immunization of 87,000 children in just a couple of days. Lacey worked hand in hand with the regional and National Health Service to assist with the training in Malawi.

Peace Corps workers can accumulate vacation days to explore their new surroundings. Travel back to the United States is allowed, but travel within their area is encouraged. Lacey has taken full advantage of her vacation days by visiting Malawi, France, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.

"Being a member of Peace Corps allows you to be a more independent person, you tend to favor traveling alone or with a colleague," said Lacey.

In 2000 Lacey traveled to Nagoya, Japan, with the Chautauqua Seniors for three months. The group worked at the University's campus in Japan assisting the people with their English skills. Sometimes they taught in classrooms, but the majority of the time the people in Japan wanted to learn in casual settings, such as playing baseball, tennis, frisbee on the beach or just having a cookout. "That was a great way to teach English," said Lacey. While in Japan she also traveled to Kyoto and Tokyo.

"The people were very warm, friendly and embracing. Throw any preconceived thoughts you may have out the window; I highly recommend this trip," said Lacey.

During her stay, Lacey was selected to be part of a group called Stop the Transmission of Polio, a worldwide effort to eradicate polio. When the program started in 1988, there were about 360,000 polio cases a year, and now there are fewer than 1,000 a year.

Lacey's group consists of about 40 people recruited worldwide by the Centers for Disease Control. The group meets in Atlanta for a one-week orientation and then groups of four or five members each are assigned to different countries. Once they reach their assigned country, they stay in the capital city for one week interacting with colleagues. After the one week is complete each of the four to five members are sent to either the World Health Organization or the United Nation's International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Lacey worked in Northern India for two three-month stints and in Ghana for three months.

"While in these countries you are given a budget, and the first thing you do is find a translator and driver," said Lacey. In India, Lacey worked to set up 3,000 booths for immunization, which resulted in 750,000 children under the age of 5 years old being immunized over a two-day period. By the time she left the number was up to 900,000.

"On an average I spend about six months home in Carbondale and six months on the road," said Lacey.

Lacey went on a one-month tour of Italy, and just this year, she and her 16-year-old granddaughter traveled to Costa Rica. The two of them formed a great team in Costa Rica: Lacey did the driving, and her granddaughter spoke Spanish. "Anytime a grandparent can take a grandchild on a trip and get along, it is very rewarding."

While she is home in Carbondale she also remains busy. Four days a week she volunteers at the "I Can Read" program at the Eurma C. Hayes Center. Lacey also volunteers at the afterschool program at the Carbondale Middle School and works at the GED program for adolescent mothers. "Never a dull moment," she said. "I don't look forward to a life of sitting around." Lacey also remains visible in the community as a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

"I will continue to live at this pace as long as my health permits," said Lacey. Before Lacey left for her next mission to Egypt for three months, she left these parting words: " If you can affect the life of a child early, there are so many years of success you can see from it."

Lacey is trying to affect as many people as possible, worldwide.

-- Khalid Hannah

October 23, 2002

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malawi; Special Interests - Older Volunteers



By Peace Corp (poseidon.sears.com - on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 10:43 am: Edit Post

That's great that she decided to devote her time to helping others. This was a well written article where can I find more like this?

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