August 20, 2003 - Packet Online: The Topchiks have been inspired by the example of their eldest son, Michael, who served as a Peace Corps agricultural teacher in Paraguay

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: August 20, 2003 - Packet Online: The Topchiks have been inspired by the example of their eldest son, Michael, who served as a Peace Corps agricultural teacher in Paraguay

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, August 20, 2003 - 8:10 am: Edit Post

The Topchiks have been inspired by the example of their eldest son, Michael, who served as a Peace Corps agricultural teacher in Paraguay



The Topchiks have been inspired by the example of their eldest son, Michael, who served as a Peace Corps agricultural teacher in Paraguay

Finding peace in their 50s

Township residents Jack and Carol Topchik are leaving everything behind and joining a two-year Peace Corps mission in Haiti

By Michael Arges

Windsor-Hights Herald

Monday, July 23, 2001

Jack and Carol Topchik sit with their 18-month-old granddaughter, Lauren.

EAST WINDSOR Determined to keep learning and growing in their 50s, Jack and Carol Topchik are selling their house, putting their belongings in storage and spending the next two years as Peace Corps volunteers in Haiti.

The Topchiks leave Sept. 4 to begin language and other training in the Caribbean Island.

Pulling up their East Windsor roots is very difficult for the Topchiks, who have lived in East Windsor since 1972 and in their present home since 1977, admitted Mr. Topchik.

"Two weekends ago both of our sons were here in this house together for the last time," he said, "and that was hard."

But the Topchiks are eager to explore new directions for their lives.

"We were very concerned about reaching a certain age and just stagnating," said Mr. Topchik, who is taking a leave of absence after more than 30 years as an editor for The New York Times news service. "That was a greater fear than the risk of going into the Peace Corps."

"It will stretch and make us grow in ways that we probably aren't even aware of," Ms. Topchik said of their Peace Corps sojourn. "Everyone needs to keep moving and growing and challenging themselves."

Ms. Topchik recently retired as alumni director at The Peddie School.

No one should be surprised that they are undertaking this adventure at their age, the Topchiks insisted. In fact, people in their 50s are the fastest growing age group among the approximately 9,000 Peace Corps volunteers.

"They jokingly call us '60s kids whose kids are out of the house,'" Mr. Topchik said.

The Topchiks have been inspired by the example of their eldest son, Michael, who served as a Peace Corps agricultural teacher in Paraguay from 1992 to 1994, Mr. Topchik noted.

"We went down and visited him in the winter of '93, and we were just astonished by the camaraderie and enthusiasm that these people had," Mr. Topchik said.

Michael Topchik is now a teacher in Bedford, N.Y.

"He thinks it was probably the most rewarding experience of his life," Mr. Topchik noted.

The couple is grateful for their son's experience, because it means that they have a good idea of what they're getting into.

"It's a hard life. We will probably have no electricity; we will probably have no indoor plumbing," Mr. Topchik said.

"I didn't know what no electricity meant until I got to Paraguay." he added. "The nights are black. You go to bed at 8:30 because there's no light."

The Topchiks' first three months in Haiti will be training, including study of the Creole language, which Mr. Topchik describes as an essentially African language with a lot of French vocabulary. After the first week they will live with a Haitian family for about 11 weeks, primarily to work on their language skills.

After training the Topchiks will assist Haitian villagers with health education. This is crucial because, like several other Third World nations, Haiti is facing a deadly AIDS crisis.

Mr. Topchik suggested that one factor in the AIDS epidemic may be the extreme poverty of Haiti, which is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

"When you live in a culture where most people have no electricity, have no access to the diversions that we have, there's not much else left but sex," Mr. Topchik explained.

Mr. Topchik has noticed a change of emphasis by the Peace Corps since its early years. Rather than telling Third World people what to do, there is more of an emphasis on suggesting an alternative, possibly better, way.

For example, in Paraguay Michael Topchik taught farmers about new vegetables by growing them in his own garden.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Topchik expects to learn a lot from his interaction with the Haitian people. For example, he expects that, as an American, he will learn about community life from the Haitians.

"When you're there you see people with nothing, who will share that with you. That's not necessarily a common trait in this country," Mr. Topchik noted.

There is a far stronger sense of community in the Third World, he said. People in a village help each other.

Mr. Topchik encourages others to consider the Peace Corps as a possibility in their own lives. All too often people do not apply because they are afraid that they do not have anything to offer, he noted.

"The Peace Corps wants to discourage that perception," he said. "They will ask you what you've done your entire life and they'll find something that you're good at that you can pass on. They want your enthusiasm; they want your commitment. They'll find your talent."

For more stories from Windsor-Hights Herald, go to www.windsorhightsherald.com.



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Story Source: Packet Online

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; COS - Haiti; Older Volunteers

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