July 14, 2003 - The Flyer Group: Volunteer Zach Oles uses magic to teach in Haiti

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Peace Corps Haiti : The Peace Corps in Haiti: July 14, 2003 - The Flyer Group: Volunteer Zach Oles uses magic to teach in Haiti

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 9:44 am: Edit Post

Volunteer Zach Oles uses magic to teach in Haiti

Volunteer Zach Oles uses magic to teach in Haiti

Helping Haiti

By Gus Pearcy

Flyer Staff Writer

BROWNSBURG, INDIANA -- Here, Zach Oles is a 1998 graduate of Brownsburg High School and a 2002 Indiana University graduate with a major in environmental management. In Haiti, Oles is the "magic man."

Last October, Oles arrived in Haiti for a 27-month stint in the Peace Corps as an agricultural volunteer. He is helping the northern village of Plaisance establish some long-term programs that will yield either food or cash for residents.

Village children are fond of his trick of removing a finger from his hand. He's received so many requests that he tells the children he can only do it once a day in the hot sun.

He wears contacts, something new to his neighbors who spent the first few weeks marveling at the plastic discs he places in his eyes.

Those are just some of the adventures he has described to family and friends during a vacation over the Fourth of July weekend.

On his $200-a-month stipend, Oles is able to purchase housing, food and travel. The money makes him one of the richest men in the village. So rich he is able to hire help for everyday chores.

"Cooking and cleaning there is a full-time job," Oles said. "You have to go to the markets often because you have no refrigeration."

Oles' primary project is a tree nursery growing oak, mango, avocado and coffee trees.

Originally, Oles said he wanted to travel and experience diversity. The Peace Corps motto, "The toughest job you'll ever love," rings true in Oles' case. He is stationed alone in Plaisance with no running water, no electricity and no phones. The closest telephone is two and half hours from his home.

Haiti's native language is Kreyol, a mix of mostly French with some African languages. It's something Oles had to learn while he was there.

"Not using English at all, made Kreyol learning and speaking easier," Oles said.

The poverty and despair that are part of everyday life in Haiti was a shock, Oles said. Seeing starvation first hand was difficult to deal with, he said.

He said he heard someone accurately describe the small country of 14 million inhabitants as pathetic and fascinating. He says he's seen many funerals in the last 10 months.

Still he says it is a great experience.

"Like most things in life, it's not what you expect," Oles said. "But you deal with it."

He won't be home again until Christmas. Then he has almost another year of service.

There have been benefits. Oles says he will look at life differently after his Peace Corps experience. For one, he said he will be more active in community and world affairs.


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Story Source: The Flyer Group

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; PCVs in the Field - Haiti; Magic



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