May 26, 2003 - Kaimin Online: The Peace Corps sent Jason Gritzner to a remote village in the mountains of Cameroon as an agro-forestry agent

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Peace Corps Cameroon: The Peace Corps in Cameroon: May 26, 2003 - Kaimin Online: The Peace Corps sent Jason Gritzner to a remote village in the mountains of Cameroon as an agro-forestry agent

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, May 26, 2003 - 8:36 pm: Edit Post

The Peace Corps sent Jason Gritzner to a remote village in the mountains of Cameroon as an agro-forestry agent

The Peace Corps sent Jason Gritzner to a remote village in the mountains of Cameroon as an agro-forestry agent

Top News: Peace Corps shares experience with UM

Casey Temple
Montana Kaimin

Jason Gritzner grew up in Virginia hearing stories of his parents’ adventures as Peace Corps volunteers. Now Gritzner, the new UM Peace Corps representative, is telling UM students his own Peace Corps stories, as he tries to recruit them for the toughest job they’ll ever love.

In 1993 Gritzner graduated from the University of Puget Sound. Like many college graduates, he said, he wasn’t sure what to do with his life. He knew he wanted to travel and see the world, but didn’t have the money to do it. The Peace Corps appealed to Gritzner, because it would pay for his world travels without making him a tourist.

The Peace Corps sent Gritzner to a remote village in the mountains of Cameroon as an agro-forestry agent. Coincidentally, his mom had served in Cameroon, also.

“It’s crazy to wind up in your mom’s country doing what my dad did,” he said.
He lived in a mud-brick house with cement floors in a remote area, but he said the hardest part was getting used to the African concept of time.

“Here if you are five minutes late, people get stressed. Over there people would show up at 11 for an 8 o’clock meeting,” Gritzner said. “Being from America, I would be upset and ask why they were three hours late. They would say ‘Well, it’s still morning.’”
But Gritzner said his daily activities were “pretty cool.”

“Most days were waking up and drinking tea and then walking to a farm and doing whatever: building a nursery, planting trees or talking about their farm or their environment or different common day stuff,” he said. “Then I’d be sitting around eating and drinking with the family.”
Gritzner said he developed a common bond with the villagers.

“The best part was sitting around with older people, listening to stories of the old days. There was one man who was almost 100 and he would tell me stories about when the Germans came or pre-colonial stuff,” he said. “There was a lot of history from the folks I worked with.”
Gritzner’s projects helped local subsistence farmers with their farms. He was also involved in a project that provided area villages with water.

But Gritzner said his biggest accomplishment was securing funding from the U.S. embassy to build an elementary school. Many of the village children had to walk miles to the nearest school.
“It wasn’t a monument to myself or the Peace Corps, but something the community needed and could use,” he said. “The enrollment has doubled in the last few years and it’s not just a school, but community meetings are held there in the evenings.”

After finishing his work in Cameroon, Gritzner came to UM to do graduate work in forestry in the field of natural resource conservation. He knew that many Peace Corps volunteers recruit when they come back to the United States, so Gritzner checked to see if UM had a Peace Corps representative. It turned out that UM’s representative had left, so Gritzner was offered the job.

“I’m doing a lot to try to get the word out about the Peace Corps,” he said. “I’m setting up tables at the UC, putting on slide shows in the evening and have been giving some class talks.”

And so far, UM students are interested, he said.

“We’ve got interviews Wednesday and Thursday and have been over-booked, so we’re try to find open slots for Friday,” Gritzner said. “We have between 17-18 people signed up for interviews.”

The Peace Corps application process can be challenging, he added.

“Its not really competition against other people, more of a matter of figuring out what you are qualified for,” Gritzner said.

He sees people interested in the Peace Corps for many of the same reasons he was.

“They’re folks who want to see the world; folks that feel like they’ve been lucky or sheltered and want to go out and give something back in a Third World setting,” Gritzner said. “They’re also folks who see this as a professional move that gives them experience working abroad in a field. It really is great experience and employers and graduate schools look at it highly.”

Gritzner will again be able to do hands-on work for the Peace Corps thanks to the forestry schools Masters International Program.

“In the program you take classes for a year and then go into the Peace Corps,” he said. “You do your research, come back and write it up, and you get your master’s degree,” he said.

The regional recruiter, Tammy Bewitz, will be on campus Wednesday and Thursday. For more information, contact Jason Gritzner at 243-2839 or come to the Peace Corps recruitment office in the Forestry Building, room 111.

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Story Source: Kaimin Online

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; Agroforestry



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