October 4, 2003 - Durango Herald: Jonah and Natalie Panther may be headed for Paraguay in Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: October 4, 2003 - Durango Herald: Jonah and Natalie Panther may be headed for Paraguay in Peace Corps

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Jonah and Natalie Panther may be headed for Paraguay in Peace Corps

Jonah and Natalie Panther may be headed for Paraguay in Peace Corps

Newlyweds prepare for South American adventure

By Mary Ann Lopez
Herald Staff Writer
Natalie and Jonah Panther sit in their Durango home on Friday. Married inDecember, the couple began talking about joining the Peace Corps this spring. "It seemed like a pipe dream. But the more we talked about it, the more interested we were," Jonah Panther said.

Jonah and Natalie Panther are excited to leave their fast-paced modern lives behind.

The pair soon will move to a remote locale in South America and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. But living without toilet paper could be a problem.

Come January, the Durangoans expect to be living somewhere in South America as Peace Corps volunteers. All that stands in the way now is passing their required medical exams and making sure they are in decent physical shape.

Married Dec. 28, 2002, the Panthers began talking about joining the Peace Corps in the spring. "It seemed like a pipe-dream," Mr. Panther, 29, said. "But the more we looked into it, the more interested we were."

In the past, Mr. Panther considered joining the Peace Corps, but he thought going alone would be difficult. Taking on the challenge of living, working and helping another community, he said, should be easier with his wife along.

Mrs. Panther, 26, spoke with several professors and a friend who served, and she grew more inspired.

Both are enrolled at Fort Lewis College. He graduated with a degree in French and returned to earn his teaching certificate, and he's a student teacher at Ignacio Elementary School. She is studying psychology and plans to attend graduate school. Both enjoy traveling, and they decided to volunteer now, before children complicate things, she said.

Peace Corps programs

Programs include agriculture, business development, information technology, education, youth and community development, environment, health and HIV/AIDS education. Volunteers may have a range of experience from those without a college background to those with advanced degrees.

For more information about the Peace Corps, visit the Web site at www.peacecorps.gov, or call Joe Zucchini at (303) 844-7015 or (800) 424-8580.

Most volunteers are single. Joining as a couple, they will be in the minority, the Panthers said.

The first three months, they will live separately, training for their individual jobs. She will be a health worker; he will be a teacher trainer. "It will be hard (to be apart), but it will be good," she said. "We will grow and meet other people and learn the language."

The Panthers hope to be assigned to a village in Paraguay, but they will not know where they'll be until they complete their medical application.

Originally from Tulsa, Okla., the couple said their siblings and friends think the experience will be exciting. Their mothers, on the other hand, are nervous.

But not much is worrying the pair. Mrs. Panther's biggest concern is that the couple might encounter anti-American sentiments. Leaving behind some of the niceties of modern life, like toilet paper, are concerns. She is planning to pack as much toilet paper as possible.

"My biggest concern is missing my family and friends," Mr. Panther said. "There may not be an opportunity to come home."

Volunteers sign on for a two-year commitment. During that time they have 48 days of vacation time. But, Mr. Panther said, because they will be earning small salaries, flying home may be impossible.

Joe Zucchini, a recruitment representative for the Peace Corps' Denver office, said applications have increased about 20 percent since Sept. 11, 2001.

At least 11 Fort Lewis College graduates now serve in the Peace Corps. Since 1961, 86 graduates from the college have served in 46 different countries. Zucchini was recruiting last week at Fort Lewis.

"Since 9-11 there are more people interested in doing volunteer work," Zucchini said.

The Panthers know that the work may not be easy, and producing results may be difficult. But they are not dissuaded.

"It will be such a good learning experience," Mrs. Panther said.

Her husband concurred. "The chance to help is great," he said. "But the opportunity to learn myself will be worth it."

Reach Staff WriterMary Ann Lopez at maryann@durangoherald.com .

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Story Source: Durango Herald

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



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