September 1, 2003 - Swathmore University: Sara Edmundson Wu was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kazakstan : Peace Corps Kazakhstan : The Peace Corps in Kazakstan: September 1, 2003 - Swathmore University: Sara Edmundson Wu was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan

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Sara Edmundson Wu was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan

Sara Edmundson Wu was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan

Sara Edmundson Wu ’63
Kazakhstan, 1996–1998
Retired physician

Work focus and Swarthmore influence: “I was in the Health and Environment Program, which did not have a particular focus. I worked with a USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] contractor, which was trying to help change the health care system from being centered in polyclinics to being private family practices. I also worked on education about childbirth, birth control, AIDS, and acute respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases of children. Although I was based for a while in the health department and studied their monitoring of diseases and environmental hazards, I never felt that I contributed significantly. I did help with an English club and an environment and health camp for children.

“Swarthmore gave me an introduction to Russian, although I still did not do well in the language. It was a long time from the time that I graduated, so that the direct impact is hard to pin down. Most significantly, Swarthmore promoted my global orientation and gave me a broader understanding of the diversity of American people.”

Challenges and rewards: “My biggest challenge was finding ways to be helpful. There was a lot of resistance to new ideas, so it was difficult to develop real communication to promote problem solving. This frustration of not knowing what to do and having expertise that might have been helpful, if we could really discuss issues, made me feel useless and invasive much of the time. The rewards were in a fantastic time of personal growth. Each day brought new challenges—no ruts allowed!”

Impact of PC experience: “Living in another country gave me more perspective on America and our patterns of living. Living so simply emphasizes to me the overextravagance of American living and the power we exert on the world to maintain our opulence. It does make it hard to relate to other people who have not had this dramatic an experience. It has put me in a very questioning mode about how to be a useful global citizen. I continue to try other volunteer opportunities but find that I question their validity. This leads to a certain immobility. I quite happily live in a cabin in the [Portland, Ore.] woods and commune with nature!”

PC choice for others: “I think that PC is a great experience. I believe that it has primarily done a great job in developing Americans, much more than developing programs abroad. Of course, there are many good programs in PC, but many volunteers feel the frustration that I did, that our talents are not appreciated and are often resented. I think that PC’s greatest contribution is to the young people abroad. Many are inspired to set their sights higher than they could originally imagine.

“Unfortunately, this often brings them to America rather than developing their own countries. I recommend PC to those who want a fantastic adventure and are not goal directed either for themselves or others.”

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Story Source: Swathmore University

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



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