October 28, 1998 - The Orion: Chico grad one of first Peace Corps volunteers to enter war-torn nation of Mozambique

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mozambique: Peace Corps Mozambique : The Peace Corps in Mozambique: October 28, 1998 - The Orion: Chico grad one of first Peace Corps volunteers to enter war-torn nation of Mozambique

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Chico grad one of first Peace Corps volunteers to enter war-torn nation of Mozambique

Chico grad one of first Peace Corps volunteers to enter war-torn nation of Mozambique

Chico grad makes history
Chico grad one of first Peace Corps volunteers to enter war-torn nation of Mozambique

Deanna Cordano
Staff Writer

A Chico State University alumnus and former Theta Chi fraternity member is making history as part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers ever to serve in the southern African country of Mozambique.

Joel Dizon, a 1998 graduate with a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, said he is one of 24 volunteers who will be working to help improve the quality of English taught in grade-levels eight through 10 and will also focus on community development.

A send-off event and reception was held Oct. 21 for the volunteers at the Denver Public Library, said Heidi Thoren, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan, Mozambique Ambassador Marcos Namashulua and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb were all there to wish the volunteers good luck as they prepared to leave the following day for the capital of Mozambique, Thoren said. There, the volunteers will begin their service with three months of intensive technical, language, and cross-cultural training,

"I'm really excited to go," Dizon said. "There is so much more to see and experience. I'm ready to just do more."

Only a couple of months ago, Dizon thought he wasn't going to "just do" anything with the Peace Corps.

Dizon said he was assigned initially to go to Mongolia to teach English in June 1998, but situations arose and his trip to Mongolia was canceled.

After his trip fell through, Dizon said he was in limbo because he didn't know whether the Peace Corps was going to reassign him, so he decided to accept a job offer and worked during the rest of the summer. Then in August, Dizon received the news that he was going to Mozambique.

Mozambique represents the 133rd country the Peace Corps has entered during its 37-year existence.

Previously, Mozambique was involved in civil war and was deemed an unstable environment for a Peace Corps program, Thoren said.

"Safety and security for volunteers is our No.1 priority," she said.

At the end of 1994, Mozambique held its first peaceful election. Soon after the Mozambican government invited the Peace Corps to set up a program, Thoren said.

"We are not a relief agency. We pull volunteers where war is going on. But in September of 1996 we thought it was safe and stable enough for a volunteer program," Thoren said.

Thoren said the main reason it took so long to decide whether the area was safe was because the corps didn't feel comfortable enough about the presence of land mines until then.

After deciding on entering Mozambique, it took the corps two years to establish a program. Thoren said they needed to send in a team of staff members to work with the government and evaluate the community and set up the internal framework.

"Sending in our first group of 24 to teach English takes very careful consideration," Thoren said.

Although Dizon didn't graduate with a bachelor's degree in English, he said his work as an adult-literacy volunteer through Community Action Volunteers in Education helped him get his position in the Peace Corps.

With his interest in health and nutrition, Dizon said when he applied for the Peace Corps in the previous year, he had originally requested a position in the health field. But he was denied, because he didn't have enough background.

Dizon said that he still would be able to use his knowledge of health and nutrition through the community development part of the program. He said that he might start a sports program or do a project on water sanitation, but he first wants to see what is needed in the community.

Although he is a little sad he won't be with friends and family when the ball drops on the year 2000, Dizon said he is not reluctant on embarking on this historic adventure.

"I've heard a million and one horrifying stories about the Peace Corps, and a million and one good," he said. "I'm about to find out for myself."

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