May 1, 2000 - University of Miami: Iran RPCV Shalala addresses Peace Corps Volunteers leaving for Haiti

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: May 1, 2000 - University of Miami: Iran RPCV Shalala addresses Peace Corps Volunteers leaving for Haiti

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Iran RPCV Shalala addresses Peace Corps Volunteers leaving for Haiti

Iran RPCV Shalala addresses Peace Corps Volunteers leaving for Haiti

Shalala addresses Peace Corps Volunteers leaving for Haiti

She was a Peace Corps Volunteer during the agency’s infancy. Her assignment: Southern Iran, where she taught English and lived in a mud village from 1962 to 1964.

Some 41 years later, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala addressed a new generation of Peace Corps Volunteers—32 Americans headed to Haiti—during a ceremonial send-off for the group at the School of Business Administration’s Storer Auditorium.

“If you’re feeling queasy right now, that’s exactly the way I felt,” Shalala told the group, the 13th training class to go to Haiti since the Peace Corps returned to that island nation in 1996 after political unrest and a military coup prompted the agency to withdraw its volunteers.

The new Haiti training class will spend two years in the country working in rural areas with local farmers, cooperatives, small business owners, and youth groups to help develop and strengthen their business practices. Seven of the 32 will work specifically on health education projects, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition, child survival, water resource protection, and waste management.

At the send-off ceremony, Shalala told the group that the Peace Corps tested her resilience and creativity and taught her how to listen. “The Peace Corps made me sensitive in a way that I would not have been if I had remained in the United States and gone immediately to graduate school,” she said. “It gave me an ear and a set of eyes to really listen and to see. In my whole career, there is nothing that shaped me more than the two years I spent in the Peace Corps.”

Shalala also gave the group some advice, telling them not to get involved in the politics of the country, to be patient and use their organizational skills, and to seize every opportunity to learn something new. “Every time there was an opportunity to take a trip or to go to someone’s house for dinner, I took advantage of it,” Shalala told the group about her experiences in Iran. “I learned about the culture, the poetry, the music. It was, for me, the most exciting time of my life.”

It was the most exciting time of Sherri Porcelain’s life as well. Porcelain, an adjunct professor of international studies who attended the send-off ceremony, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia from 1979 to 1980.

“The Peace Corps changed my life. I probably got more out of the experience than I was able to leave behind,” said Porcelain, adding that she often encourages her students to consider becoming Peace Corps Volunteers.

Twelve of the current 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in 70 countries are University of Miami graduates, while the total number of current and former UM Peace Corps Volunteers stands at 296.

Erin Seiler, a graduate student in international studies and the University’s Peace Corps campus recruiter, is helping to educate the UM community about volunteer service in the agency, conducting informational sessions in classrooms and for student organizations.

Seiler served in the West African nation of Mali as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1994 to 1996. She often shares with students her experiences of working in one of Mali’s rural villages, where she performed agricultural extension projects such as community gardening and chicken raising.

“I came back from the Peace Corps thinking that every American needed to do this,” said Seiler.

For information on the Peace Corps, which was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, visit the agency’s Web site at, call the University’s Peace Corps recruiting office at 284-5398, or e-mail

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Story Source: University of Miami

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; COS - Haiti



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