March 8, 2004 - News & Review: Solomon Islands and Eritrea RPCV Justin Spence is a Peace Corps enthusiast

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Solomon Islands: Peace Corps Solomon Islands : The Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands: March 8, 2004 - News & Review: Solomon Islands and Eritrea RPCV Justin Spence is a Peace Corps enthusiast

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 6:21 pm: Edit Post

Solomon Islands and Eritrea RPCV Justin Spence is a Peace Corps enthusiast

Solomon Islands and Eritrea RPCV Justin Spence is a Peace Corps enthusiast

Esprit de Corps

By Robert Speer

Photo By Tom Angel
Justin Spence is a Peace Corps enthusiast. It's his job--he's the local recruiter for the agency--but it's also his passion. He has done two Peace Corps stints, the first in Eritrea, in North Africa, and the second on one of the Solomon Islands, in Micronesia. This is National Peace Corps Week, so Spence was eager to talk about the program that sends Americans all over the world to be of service. Spence, 30, lives with his wife Catalin Kaser, a teacher at Chico Junior High School. She joined him on both Peace Corps tours.

Why two tours?

Our stay in Eritrea was cut short after one year because of the border war with Ethiopia. We had to evacuate. We went from a small city in the high desert to a remote island in the Pacific with 400 inhabitants. We stayed there for the full two years.

What was your speciality?

I taught English. My wife did too. In both places, the government had requested English teachers.

What language do people speak in the Solomon Islands?

Pidgin English. It's the lingua franca. [He gives a demonstration; it's very sing-song, and I can pick out a few words.] There are also local languages.

What were your accommodations like?

In Eritrea we lived in a concrete-block house with a tin roof. It had electricity most of the time and a small kitchen and a sit-down toilet. In the Solomons we lived in a bamboo hut with a leaf roof. Of course, it was never cold. Anything below about 80 degrees was considered cool.

It must have helped to have your wife there.

It definitely helps to have a partner, especially in really isolated places like a small island.

Do volunteers have a choice on where to go?

They're placed based on their skills, mainly. If they have a preference, we try to accommodate. But they have to go where they're wanted. For example, no countries in Central or South America want English teachers. So if that's your skill, you can't go there.

How many volunteers are there?

At any given time, about 7,000. Which means we have to recruit 3,500 new ones every year.

Is there any remuneration?

You're given an allowance based on the local economy. In my experience, it was more than enough to live on. Health insurance is also provided. And when you return, you get a $6,075 readjustment allowance.

Who benefits more, the volunteers or those they serve?

That's a good question. Many volunteers say they got more from it than they gave. Of course, it's hard to measure the long-term value of, say, teaching English.

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Story Source: News & Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Eritrea; COS - Solomon Islands; Recruitment



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