February 13, 2004 - Eagle Publications: As part of the Peace Corps, Jason Walker was teaching English to natives of Madagascar

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Madagascar: Peace Corps Madagascar : The Peace Corps in Madagascar: February 13, 2004 - Eagle Publications: As part of the Peace Corps, Jason Walker was teaching English to natives of Madagascar

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-42-145.balt.east.verizon.net - on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 8:39 pm: Edit Post

As part of the Peace Corps, Jason Walker was teaching English to natives of Madagascar

As part of the Peace Corps, Jason Walker was teaching English to natives of Madagascar

'Volunteer Now' ready to launch: Not-for-profit organization names Jason Walker coordinator


Eagle Staff Writer

Jason Walker is no stranger to volunteering. In fact, his charitable efforts to help others have been so complex that the WIU graduate student has been faced with a rare situation for the average volunteer – wondering if he was ever going to get out of Madagascar.

“There was a big political situation there – it was elections and we ended up with two presidents and two governments and two militaries, and they ended up kind of fighting with each other,” Walker said. “I didn’t get mail and there wasn’t any transportation for like three months.”

So, just what was Walker doing as a volunteer in a third-world African island located in the Indian Ocean? As part of the Peace Corps, he was teaching English to natives of the country. But little did he expect he would be in the midst of the dilemma he was in, which would result in him being being emergency evacuated to Kenya and ultimately cutting short his two-year term with the Peace Corps.

Now that Walker, 25, is back in America, he can take on volunteer ventures that can safely be said are, well, safer – at least in the life-or-death sense of the word. And he is doing just that as the recently named coordinator of the Macomb area’s "Volunteer Now" project. The not-for-profit organization is getting off the ground after just under a year of planning, and apparently Walker is the right man for overseeing the project, given his previous volunteer credentials. When he wasn’t busy avoiding third-world turmoil in order to teach English, Walker could be found starting a learning service program, through AmeriCorps Vista, at his alma mater of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa (where he received degrees in international relations and French).

After a year as learning service coordinator at Morningside, Walker decided to go back to school for a masters at WIU. This time he sought a degree in political science (with an emphasis on public administration). The Emmetsburg, Iowa native came to the university as a Peace Corps Fellow and became involved in the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs’ VOLTS (Volunteer, Training and Support) program. Naturally, he was a solid candidate for Volunteer Now coordinator, which will also serve as his 11-month internship required for being a part of the Peace Corps Fellows.

That just leaves the question of what Volunteer Now is. The organization's by-laws state that, “The purpose of (Volunteer Now) is to mobilize Macomb-area volunteer resources to enhance the spirit and quality of community life.” That does not mean it is a service providing volunteers, but rather, as one by-law objective states, a service to connect people with opportunity services. Other objectives of Volunteer Now include the following: enhance and build capacity for local volunteering, promote volunteering and participate in strategic initiatives.

“There’s just not a lot of ways you can just go and find these opportunities (to serve),” Walker said. “It’s hodgepodges – a little blurb in the paper here or it’s a flier that’s circulating there or this one group knows about it, but no one else does.

“So, (Volunteer Now) is just trying to be a clearinghouse where it’s a one-stop shop to know what all the opportunities are (for volunteering) in the community and then being able to match them up quickly with the people who want to volunteer.”

In order to make those matches, Volunteer Now will be utilizing a Web site where groups wanting to volunteer or those needing volunteers can register with the organization. That site (www.volunteernow.info) is not yet up and running, but Walker said the basic template – borrowed from the Champaign-Urbana site – is all but ready. In the meantime, Walker can be contacted at his office on the second floor of Macomb City Hall at 836-3754. The office space was donated by the city (whom Walker said has been very supportive thus far) and remains bare bones at the present. However, the city will also be adding a computer and Internet access to the room soon enough.

In order to raise more funds, Volunteer Now will be holding a fundraiser dinner from

5-9 p.m. March 2 at Magnolia’s. The “family style” fried chicken dinner will cost $10 for adults and $6 for youths and will feature local celebrity servers, raffles and auctions. For reservations call 833-2725.

Aside from needing more funds, Volunteer Now board member Gerry Carlson is pleased with how the organization has come together so well.

“I guess I’m relieved that we’re this far, but I’m also amazed. We started out with a relatively simple concept that has grown a good deal beyond that,” he said. “There’s more dimensions to it than what we originally thought of.

“There’s a great deal of emphasis nationally and on the state level right now on volunteerism,” he added. “I hope we’re here at the right time.”

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Story Source: Eagle Publications

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Madagascar; Service; NGOs



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