February 12, 2004 - Intake Weekly: Mindy Ballinger says she hopes to work with animals in the rural villages of the South American nation

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : The Peace Corps in Ecuador: February 12, 2004 - Intake Weekly: Mindy Ballinger says she hopes to work with animals in the rural villages of the South American nation

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Mindy Ballinger says she hopes to work with animals in the rural villages of the South American nation

Mindy Ballinger says she hopes to work with animals in the rural villages of the South American nation

Giving peace a chance
Some recent graduates yearn to find fulfillment and help others during time in the Peace Corps.
By Darnell Morris-Compton

Inside many Americans lies a spirit that yearns to step beyond this comfy country, to leap past Western culture, to immerse themselves in a language, culture and environment far from home.

The roots of that spirit vary. Whether it is about finding meaning in life, losing one's self in another culture or helping people in a small community, people are finding the Peace Corps as an external means toward an intrinsic end.

There are more than 7,500 volunteers and trainees serving in 137 countries around the world. Among those include Mindy Ballinger, who wants to see the world while helping others; or Catherine Magill, who yearns to see life on a more basic level; and Ti Lavers, who wanted to travel while exposing herself to jobs overseas.

Hang on, Slurpy

Mindy Ballinger, 24, said she will miss her family in Marion, but more importantly, she will miss Cassidy, Mosie and Slurpy, her mutt, calico stray cat and thoroughbred jumper.

"I know I won't be talking to them," said the pre-vet Purdue University graduate.

Slurpy will go to a friend while Ballinger is in Ecuador, but after her two-year stint, she plans to get her horse back.

"I am sure it's going to hit me more once I am on the plane and I am leaving," said Ballinger, who left Feb. 11.

Admittedly, she has no idea what she's getting herself into.

"I guess I am trying to stay open to all possibilities, 'cause I don't know what kind of animals I will be working with," she said. "I don't know what part of the country I'll be in. I don't know what the climate is like."

What she is expecting are the challenges of interacting with another culture, living with another family and immersing herself in Spanish.

"It seemed like something really meaningful to do," Ballinger said. "It would be something really hands-on."

After talking to Peace Corps recruiters at a business fair in Purdue, she became hooked on the idea.

"When I was getting ready to graduate, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go right into vet school."

And, with experience working with animals in the rural villages of Ecuador, she believes she will have her pick of vet schools.

"I wanted to do something more important that will give me the hands-on experience that I wanted."

Change is inevitable

Catherine Magill chose Senegal to increase her French skills; she chose Peace Corps to gain a better perspective of a another culture.

"I wanted to get to know what life was like on the most basic level in a developing country, and I thought Peace Corps was the best way to do that," Magill said.

Magill, 23, graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in linguistics and pre-med. Born and raised on the Southside of Indianapolis, she will depart for Senegal in March and serve there for two years.

"I hope it changes me and, as a result, changes other people," Magill said. "It's going to be really different."

Magill loves to travel and recently returned from a trip that took her throughout Europe. She's fluent in German and is learning to speak French, but Magill wants to be absorbed into the culture, not just learn the language.

"My goal in going is not trying to change me," Magill said. "Inevitably, it will. There's not a doubt in my mind. When in Europe, when you live in and develop relations with other people who are different than you, you are constantly confronted with ideas and thoughts and ways of living. You have to think about it and learn how to deal with it, especially when you are confused or upset."

She planned on a master's in public health degree before joining the Peace Corps, but decided on enlisting first, so she would not have any preconceived notions of helping others.

"You can't expect to go in there and change a culture," Magill said.

Deep down, her reasons are more intrinsic than external. She simply wants to learn and experience a different perspective on her own culture.

"Nothing will really prepare me for what I will experience, learn and have to face. The relationships I develop will be above and beyond anything I've ever experienced in my whole life."

Finding the right path

Ti-Patrice, or Ti (pronounced "tie") Lavers, 22, from Bristol, Ind. (near Elkhart), graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington in May 2003 with a degree in environmental management. She said she previously had thought about joining the Peace Corps but didn't decide to serve until she had difficulty finding a job after graduation.

She also wanted some volunteer experience at an international level, so she's heading to Senegal in March to become an environmental education and agroforestry volunteer.

Lavers speaks French well and studied a year in France, but she knows Peace Corps doesn't compare.

"I think it will be different from Europe because it won't be in a developed setting," Lavers said. "It will be more rural, less of the services we expect in developed countries."

She said she can't wait to meet people from around the world and to learn about different human lifestyles, but she hasn't prepared for the stressful part yet.

"I haven't started packing," Lavers said. "I am going to Mexico for a month before I leave. My boyfriend is taking me on a brief tour of the country before I go."

She said she and her boyfriend won't break up when she leaves; they simply will be on individual paths separated by land and sea.

"I am sure I'll miss him, but we have our things to do and we both recognize that," Lavers said. "We're not going to push the issue and make it harder while we are apart."

Speaking of apart, Lavers' mother, Christy Lavers, routinely expresses her concerns.

"Every morning, my mother has a new natural disaster that hits Senegal, telling me not to go," Lavers said. "Yesterday it was a glacier. I just shake my head because every day it's a new one."

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Story Source: Intake Weekly

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



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