May 17, 2003 - Minneapolis Star Tribune: Rosalyn and Joseph Riss work in Lesotho

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: May 17, 2003 - Minneapolis Star Tribune: Rosalyn and Joseph Riss work in Lesotho

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 5:45 pm: Edit Post

Rosalyn and Joseph Riss work in Lesotho

Rosalyn and Joseph Riss work in Lesotho

Helping out: From South Dakota to southern Africa

Karen Gail Jostad, Star Tribune

Published May 17, 2003

"It's a big world, and I want to see more of it," said Rosalyn Riss of Rapid City, S.D.

Riss, 55, and her husband, Joseph, 58, joined the Peace Corps last year. In less than a month they'll be in Lesotho, the mountainous nation surrounded by South Africa, helping establish a vocational institute 180 miles southeast of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Risses will set up programs, handle budgeting and raise money for the initiative. A secondary objective may be HIV/AIDS education and awareness. They are Red Cross-certified AIDS awareness instructors.

"The getting is more than the giving," Rosalyn Riss said. "Just the experience of living in another culture. I can't give up the opportunity. It'll be a great memory-builder."

Although excited about going, the Risses worry about missing family. They're leaving behind three grown children, seven grandchildren and "one on the way." Among the few possessions they're taking is a laptop computer.

"We're hoping to get some kind of Internet service," Rosalyn Riss said. "That's going to be a huge advantage if we can keep up with people."

Curiosity and wanderlust have made the couple seasoned travelers. They retired in 1999 from 60-hour weeks in the hospitality furniture and gambling accessories industry and traveled to Greece, Turkey, South Carolina and Florida. Their interest in other cultures led them to open their home to foreign students.

Still, Rosalyn Riss wanted to see and do more. She considered a stint with Habitat for Humanity, but preferred a longer-term commitment, possibly outside the United States. After researching the Peace Corps and talking with a former volunteer, she discussed it with her husband.

They applied to the Peace Corps in January 2002. They interviewed a month later and in April were accepted for service, not knowing where they would be going or when.

"We had a preliminary appointment to [Namibia] to work in AIDS awareness," Joseph Riss said. "Then they changed our assignment." They were notified of the Lesotho post three months ago.

"We've done a lot of Internet sourcing just to learn about the environment and culture," he said. "We've picked up on their language, but we haven't learned it yet."

Gary Lore, public affairs specialist for the Minneapolis Region of the Peace Corps, met the Risses briefly last year and was impressed that they wanted to serve others after retiring.

"Most people want to sit back. They [the Risses] want to give back," he said.

Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. Citizens and at least 18 years old. Assignments are for two years. More than 168,000 volunteers have served the organization in 136 countries since it was established in 1961 by Congress and President John F. Kennedy.

No matter the challenge -- they might be without running water and electricity -- the Risses said they will keep their two-year commitment. They sold their home in February, bunked with her mother,Babe Weidner, and have lived out of their car as they've traversed the country saying goodbye to family and friends.

Joseph Riss said they are "trying to get used to doing things without."

Doing without in Lesotho may mean no refrigerator. And the closest full-service medical facility is in Johannesburg. Seriously ill patients are air-lifted there. Others are treated at the hospital inMaseru, Lesotho's capital, and in secondary clinics.

The Risses say they are more concerned with staying warm than with getting sick on assignment.

"[Lesotho is] very high, so they don't have mosquitoes," Joseph Riss said. "It's very cold. They don't have central heat in any of the places."

They have packed their long johns, coats, sweaters and mittens. "We're preparing to be chilly, not what you'd expect of Africa," Rosalyn Riss said.

Before they fly to Africa June 6, the Risses will spend two days in Philadelphia learning about safety, security and expectations upon arrival. They will meet the 34 other trainees and be vaccinated.

When they arrive in Lesotho the group will embark on a 12-week training program and live with families to learn the culture and language. After passing competency tests, they will be sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. Each will receive a stipend of $225 a month for housing and necessities.

"They don't expect you to live beyond the average means of the people who are there," Joseph Riss said.

After completing their two-year assignments, each volunteer will receive a "readjustment allowance" of $6,075, "to help them get started back in the States again," said Barbara Daly, Peace Corps press secretary.

The Risses expect six months to pass before they will be acclimated to their new surroundings.

"It takes a while to find out their needs," Joseph Riss said. "You gotta kind of gain respect in the community. You can't just walk in there and start doing something.

"They don't want us to push the Western ways on people there," he added. "We're really there to learn their culture and improve on what they have."

Added Rosalyn Riss: "We're going as guests of their country. As far as trying to convert them to the American way of life, that's not our job."

For more information about the Peace Corps, go to 1-800-424-8580.

If you know an outstanding volunteer you'd like to see featured in this column, please write to Helping out, Faith & Values, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.

Karen Gail Jostad is at

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Story Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lesotho; Married Couples



By karen gail jostad on Wednesday, June 25, 2003 - 3:45 pm: Edit Post

Please correct the spelling of Joseph at the top of my story on Joseph and Rosalyn Riss. The spelling error is not mine. Thank you.

karen gail jostad
star tribune
minneapolis, minnesota

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 25, 2003 - 10:26 pm: Edit Post



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