March 19, 2002 - Maimi Herald: Recruits going to Haiti get send-off

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Peace Corps Haiti : The Peace Corps in Haiti: March 19, 2002 - Maimi Herald: Recruits going to Haiti get send-off

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 12:15 pm: Edit Post

Recruits going to Haiti get send-off

Recruits going to Haiti get send-off

Recruits going to Haiti get send-off


Reliving memories of when she lived in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala gave a sentimental send-off Monday to 32 new volunteers headed for Haiti.

The Peace Corps -- one of the surviving relics of the Camelot era of President John F. Kennedy -- is celebrating its 41st anniversary this month.

Shalala said serving in Iran in the early '60s was a ''high point'' in her life and made her realize she was a ``citizen of the world.''

''I was envious,'' she told the group, who are from around the nation. ``I was envious to have that sense of adventure again -- to go off to a different country to make a contribution.''

UM hosted a going-away party for the new volunteers, who will spend two years in rural areas of Haiti helping farmers, small business owners and youth groups.

Shalala, who was in Iran from 1962 to 1964, urged the volunteers to be open to new cultures and different ways of doing things.

She said she empathizes with the mixed sense of anxiety and excitement that many of the volunteers were feeling on the eve of their two-year commitments abroad.

''I understand that feeling at the pit of their stomachs,'' she said. ``Forty years ago, I had that same feeling.''

Farley Ferrante, president of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Association of South Florida, told the volunteers that the experience would change their lives.

Members of the Louines Louinis Haitian Dance Theater from Pembroke Pines, dressed in colorful traditional clothing, closed out the ceremony by performing Haitian dances to the spirited rhythms of drums.

''I think most of the fear has been squashed, but there is still some anxiety,'' said Jennifer LeMahieu of Grand Rapids, Mich. ``But it's a great group of people and we're all in the same boat. That helps a lot.''

LeMahieu, a recent graduate from Valparaiso University in Indiana with degrees in international economics and French, said she joined the corps because she loves to travel and wants to ''experience how the rest of the world lives. ``I know America is not a good representation of what the rest of the world is like,'' she said.

Another volunteer, 35-year-old Tracy Pollert, also from Grand Rapids, said it was something she had been wanting to do for years, but work and personal relationships had always given her reason to put it off.

The marketing expert finally sold her condo and her car and said teary goodbyes recently to her mom and two nieces and a nephew, ages 2, 4 and 6, in Michigan.

''They were so happy that I was finally doing it,'' she said.

Pollert doesn't speak French or Creole but is confident the initial three-month technical, cultural and language training offered by the Peace Corps will prepare her for the job.

''There are other ways to communicate than just words,'' she said. ``It's just going to be a hoot and a half.''

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Story Source: Maimi Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Haiti; Recruitment



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