March 4, 2004 - Lamar Daily News: Jennifer Weimer found herself in the small country of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, near the Chinese border

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kyrgyzstan: Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan : The Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan: March 4, 2004 - Lamar Daily News: Jennifer Weimer found herself in the small country of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, near the Chinese border

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-13-23.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.13.23) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 6:17 pm: Edit Post

Jennifer Weimer found herself in the small country of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, near the Chinese border



Jennifer Weimer found herself in the small country of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, near the Chinese border

Peace Corps offers challenge and satisfaction to volunteers

By Cindy Buxton

When Jennifer Weimer was a young girl, she always dreamed of helping people.

She had seen a commercial for the Peace Corps and said the idea had always stuck in her head. When she finished graduate school, she says she questioned her contribution to society and decided it was "now or never."

So she decided to leave everything behind for two years in exchange for the adventure of travel and the satisfaction of helping others. The first 10 weeks were spent learning the language and culture to prepare for her experiences in an unknown foreign country.

She left her destination entirely up to the Peace Corps, and found herself in the small country of Kyrgyzstan in central Asia, near the Chinese border. Kyrgyzstan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, was a predominantly Islamic country that was "just coming back to the roots of its Muslim religion" when she arrived there in the summer of 2000. About the size of South Dakota, Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country, about 90 percent mountainous, with 80 different ethnic groups represented. Weimer lived with a host family while there.

Weimer's masters degree was in Psychology, but in Kyrgyzstan she taught conversational English and British and American studies to university students there. Most of her students were planning to become English teachers.

The biggest challenge of her experience in the Peace Corps, she says, was learning patience. She said the concept of time was different there. However, adapting to the new culture was less challenging than she had anticipated. She says the people were "incredibly hospitable," and, "They accepted me for who I was." She literally became a member of the family and they called her sister and daughter. She is still in touch with family members in Kyrgyzstan and also communicates with many of her former students.

She says the most difficult part of her adventure was having to leave early, after only 15 months, when the program was suspended after 9/11. Since Kyrgyzstan is located fairly close to Iraq, all the volunteers there were called home immediately following 9/11.

Weimer says she gained many invaluable experiences while on her Peace Corps adventure, including learning another language. She also says, "You learn to trust yourself. You find out what you're capable of." She says those experiences help her now to draw on challenges, be creative and patient, and to rely on herself. She says she also learned to rely on others because her life in Kyrgyzstan depended on learning to give and take.

She feels she was able to help people in need during her Peace Corps time, but also feels those people taught her many things. She says rather than simply teaching the people of Kyrgyzstan, she participated in an exchange of knowledge. She says the important thing is not what a person can teach others, but how everyone can work together to share their knowledge and make needed improvements.

Weimer says that, like most people in the Peace Corps, the main attraction for her was the idealism of helping others and wanting to contribute to society. But she says she walked away from the experience feeling "almost guilty" because she felt she received much more than she gave during her time in Kyrgyzstan.

She advises anyone interested in joining the Peace Corps to do their research and wait until they're absolutely certain before making the decision to volunteer. She says that although it is extremely gratifying, it can also be stressful and frustrating, and urges prospective volunteers to "be passionate about it or don't do it."

She stresses that her time in the Peace Corps, although cut short at only 15 months, was the "experience of a lifetime" and "the best decision I've ever made."

Weimer is a graduate of Trinidad High School and returned to Trinidad after her time in the Peace Corps. She says she is a firm believer in the community college system and has always wanted to work at a community college. When Lamar Community College needed a transfer coordinator last spring she seized the opportunity and came on board at the college in May.

Anyone wanting more information about Weimer's time in the Peace Corps can contact her at Lamar Community College, 336-1592.




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Story Source: Lamar Daily News

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

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