February 23, 2003 - University of Northern Iowa: New Peace Corps Member assured safety in Moldova Assignment

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Moldova: Peace Corps Moldova : The Peace Corps in Moldova: February 23, 2003 - University of Northern Iowa: New Peace Corps Member assured safety in Moldova Assignment

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, February 23, 2003 - 9:12 am: Edit Post

New Peace Corps Member assured safety in Moldova Assignment

New Peace Corps Member assured safety in Moldova Assignment


CEDAR FALLS—“Call me Indiana Jones—I constantly need to seek out adventure,” says Matt Anderson, a graduate of Heelan High School, Sioux City. Anderson has just completed his master's degree from the University of Northern Iowa and has been hired by the Peace Corps to implement social services programs in Moldova, a newly independent country between Ukraine and Romania. With the current military conflict in nearby Serbia and Kosovo, Anderson's Peace Corps assignment has come under scrutiny.

According to Dana Topousis, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps, New York, the current Moldova Peace Corps program is not in jeopardy of closing. “While our Peace Corps program in Moldova is not affected by the crisis in Kosovo, we did close our program in Macedonia last month. After carefully reviewing the circumstances in Macedonia, it became clear that we could not ensure the safety of our volunteers there.”

Anderson graduated from UNI in 1996 with an undergraduate degree in sociology. He received a scholarship to continue his studies at UNI, completing his master's degree in December 1998 in leisure services program management. His thesis was titled “Delinquency and Free-time Perceptions Relationships,” examining delinquent behavior in children as a result of a lack of structure and activity in their lives.

Because of his degrees and his experience, Anderson was qualified to work for the Peace Corp's Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Development division. This division of the Peace Corps varies among countries, but focuses on non-profit social service organization at the grass roots level. He will join more than 85 Peace Corps volunteers already in Moldova, who are working in business development, education and health education.

“By serving in this part of the world,” says Topousis, “Peace Corps volunteers help promote cross-cultural understanding between the United States and people with whom there has historically been limited contact.” Currently, 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in nearly 80 countries.

“Joining the Peace Corps was one of my dreams in college, something I'd always wanted to do,” says Anderson. “As I finished my undergrad, I considered applying, but I decided to get my master's degree to increase my chances of getting into the program.”

Anderson will be a part of Moldova Seven, the seventh Peace Corps team to work in the area. His commitment is 24 months, including three months of pre-service training. During the training, the team will study the Romanian language four to six hours each day. A health orientation session acquaints the

team with specific regional health information. The most important training, Anderson said, includes the technical aspects of the mission, including determining how to accomplish the goals set for the team.

According to Anderson, he and his team members will live in the community before they begin working. “They give us suggestions for clothes to wear, to help us blend in and assimilate with the general population.” He agrees with the program's philosophy of total assimilation in the local community before trust and true effectiveness in programming can occur. “We're supposed to dig down deep like a tic,” he says, by adopting the local way of life and standard of living.

Much of Anderson's previous social service and programming experience are a result of his involvement in Camp Adventure ™, a program that recruits and trains college students to provide day camp programs to children of U.S. military personnel stationed around the globe. “Camp Adventure ™ is incredible,” says Anderson. “You have immediate rapport with people who have done the program. It has provided me with theoretical and practical experience. I've had experience working with for-profit and non-profit organizations, sports and development programming, and various software and offices. I've interacted with the staff as a student and as a teacher.”

During his four years with the program, Anderson worked at camps in Atsughi and Yokosuka, Japan; Taipei, Taiwan; and Bamburg, Germany. During weekends and the end of the summers, he traveled to a total of 19 other countries.

Anderson's interest in other cultures is perfectly suited to his new career in the Peace Corps. With his two year assignment in Moldova, he will have the chance to experience Moldovan culture in a very personal and in-depth way.

“I'm most excited for the opportunity to learn a new language, to sit down and have a conversation in Romanian,” he says. “This is going to be an intense experience. I'm still unsure what skills I'll develop, but I'm sure it will build my character, my personality and my professional background.

“One thing I'm apprehensive about is the time commitment. Two years sounds like a long time. My graduate advisor at UNI worked for the Peace Corps in the Philippines. He told me that the first year will be the hardest and the second year will be the best year of my life,” Anderson said. “I'm a little nervous, but this is going to be great.”

Community service runs deep in the Anderson family. Both his father, James, and his sister, Amy, are social workers (James is a family therapist in private practice) and his mother, Helen (UNI '68), is a first grade teacher at Bryant Elementary. (A strong connection to UNI also runs deep in the family: recently joining the UNI alumni ranks with Matt; his mother, Helen; and his maternal grandmother, Grace (Miller) Dolan, '25; is Matt's brother, Ryan Anderson, who graduated from UNI on May 8.)

Anderson is thankful for the strong family support backing his decision to enter the Peace Corps. “Social service and teaching are about working to secure the well being of others,” Anderson said. “You see someone that needs help and you help them.

“Besides, living two years in Moldova means I'll have more great stories I can tell my grandkids.”

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