February 22, 2004 - Times-Herald: Gale Metcalf has spent 30 years working with the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Philippines: Peace Corps Philippines: The Peace Corps in the Philippines: February 22, 2004 - Times-Herald: Gale Metcalf has spent 30 years working with the Peace Corps

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Gale Metcalf has spent 30 years working with the Peace Corps

Gale Metcalf has spent 30 years working with the Peace Corps

Three decades of devotion

By LERECIA DAVIS, Times-Herald staff writer
For 30 years, Gale Metcalf lived abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer. Those days are over for now, but Metcalf's quest to make a difference, where ever she is, remains still very much alive.

Metcalf began on a journey of what most would consider a normal life in her earlier years. A Vallejo native born at the Vallejo General Hospital, she went on to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where she majored in comparative literature and was headed toward a teaching career.

But the path finally taken by Metcalf, 56, may seem anything but normal to most people.

"People sometimes have trouble relating, so you learn to be selective of who you talk to or what you talk about," Metcalf said, "And every one once in a while you'll find that person who's really interested, and it's great to sit down and share."

During college, Metcalf went on a study trip to Mexico City, where she realized that a conventional career just wouldn't do for her.

She joined the Peace Corps 30 years ago and can literally call the world her home. She has lived mostly out of the country, in Malaysia, Egypt and Taiwan, though she returned to Vallejo about three times a year to visit her family.

She doesn't own a home here - or anywhere else, for that matter. "We kind of skipped past that stage called 'home ownership,' " Metcalf said with a laugh.

And it doesn't seem to bother her, her husband, Joel Wallakh, or her son, Josh, 24, one bit.

Metcalf met her husband, who is originally from New York, not long after joining the Peace Corps. He was departing and she was arriving for a project in Malaysia.

Metcalf said Josh, who was born in Malaysia, is accustomed to life outside the United States because "he lived abroad, so he grew up kind of assuming people spoke multiple languages and traveled, and that kind of thing."

Joel is currently in Sri Lanka, volunteering with Millennium Elephant Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists in taking care of disabled elephants. Josh, who has been with the Peace Corps a year, is in Guatemala, while Metcalf is in Vallejo until May, when she plans to leave with her husband for yet another destination.

"The problems we had to deal with (in other countries) were serious, but it is possible, especially in a small community, to make an impact, to make a difference," Metcalf said.

"That's become the theme of our lives - to make a difference."

According to its Web site, the Peace Corps was born around 1960, when then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., who was seeking the presidency, challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.

To commemorate the organization's 43rd anniversary, Peace Corps week will be held March 1-7.

Former volunteers are asked to go to classrooms, workplaces and community environments to share their experiences in other countries.

As Peace Corps volunteers, Metcalf and her husband were country co-directors in the Philippines and in East Africa. They also started a community counseling center in Malaysia.

Metcalf said her most recent Peace Corps duty was a seven-year stint that ended in 2002. Peace Corps rules prevent her from accepting another assignment for at least five years.

She said she networks to find new jobs or searches for them on the Internet, which is where her husband found his current assignment.

When asked what her most memorable moment was, she answered after taking a minute to "sort through the file." Finally, she said that "watching the young people and seeing the transformation of their lives, watching how they grew and matured in that two years as people, encountering all kinds of challenges," was the ultimate.

"That's an incredibly memorable experience. I feel privileged to be part of that process," she said.

As an only child, Metcalf said, no matter where she was, she made extra efforts to keep in touch with her parents and relatives; now her own family does the same.

"When you're out of the country, it becomes more important to keep in touch. I have friends who live outside the city their parents live in, and they don't see (their parents) as often as I see mine - and that's not at all uncommon," Metcalf said. "I think when you're gone a lot, you realize the bond of the relationships you have more."

Among the many roads Metcalf has traveled, she said one path she doesn't see herself on is retirement.

"We've been very privileged or blessed to be doing what we're doing," she said. "I think finding your passion is very important to being happy in life. I think we'll continue to look for ways to make a contribution in life no matter how small, probably doing the same sort of thing, perhaps not getting paid."

Metcalf said she doesn't think many people in her generation are planning an average retirement. But then again, Metcalf won't be an average retiree.

"We've had rich and productive lives and we want to continue to do the same things that have brought us that satisfaction," Metcalf said.

Find out about the Peace Corps by visiting www.peacecorps.gov.

E-mail Lerecia Davis at Lerecia@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6823

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Story Source: Times-Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Country Director - Philippines



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