January 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bahrain: COS - Moldova: Country directors - Moldova: The Seattle Times: Bahrain RPCV Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bahrain: The Peace Corps in Bahrain: January 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bahrain: COS - Moldova: Country directors - Moldova: The Seattle Times: Bahrain RPCV Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps

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Bahrain RPCV Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps

Bahrain RPCV Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps

Bahrain RPCV Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps

2nd go-round in Peace Corps

By Christopher Schwarzen

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Caption: Jeff Kelley-Clarke and his wife, Paula, are packing for a move to Moldova, where he will oversee about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the Peace Corps. The couple met in the corps while volunteering in Bahrain in the 1970s. JIM BATES / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Two years in the Peace Corps might be enough for most people, but Jeff Kelley-Clarke, a Snohomish County employee for 25 years, decided to give it another go.

In the late 1970s, he volunteered in the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain, where he met a volunteer named Paula who later became his wife.

This time, he and his wife are going to Moldova, a tiny East European country in need of agricultural business acumen, which the Peace Corps believes Kelley-Clarke can provide.

The fact he has been through the service once is a bonus, Peace Corps officials say. Combined with his government experience as a director he leaves behind his management position in the county's Solid Waste Division he is the preferred Peace Corps employee.

In Moldova, Kelley-Clarke, 49, will serve as country director, overseeing about 40 paid staffers and 135 volunteers for the duration of his 2½-year contract.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said as he sat at his kitchen table last week. Stacks of dishes, collectibles and other household goods waiting to be packed were evidence of the imminent move awaiting him and his wife.

Thumbing through a Peace Corps book on culture, language and living in Moldova, he said: "We learned early on in the process that Moldova was a really good post. All together, this is good timing."

With two grown children and most of the solid-waste projects he started mostly completed, it was the right time to take a chance on a new job. Kelley-Clarke said he hasn't doubted his decision. Neither has his wife.

"Quite frankly, neither of us thought it would happen because the competition for these positions is fierce," said Paula Kelley-Clarke, 55. "We're very excited to blow the cobwebs out of our lives and have a chance to re-evaluate who we are."

Some people might say the move looks like a midlife crisis, but not Geoff Gese, a 50-year-old from Everett who returned from the Philippines in September after completing his second tour with the Peace Corps.

"Not a lot of people are willing to take that step, thinking that the Peace Corps is for the young," Gese said last week. "But there were people older than me, and they were really enjoying themselves."

The Peace Corps' structure requires that two-year volunteers leave the service for at least two years before returning. Directors work under 2½-year contracts with the possibility of a 2½-year extension, but after that they must sit out at least five years before reapplying.

The idea, said Peace Corps spokeswoman Jennifer Borgan, is to keep new people and fresh ideas coming. Since the service was created in 1961 under President Kennedy, more than 178,000 people have served in 138 countries.

Of that total, about 7,200 have come from Washington state. There are about 340 volunteers from Washington now working in 72 countries under three goals:

To help countries train men and women for their work force.

To promote a better understanding of Americans through their service in foreign countries.

To help Americans understand and appreciate foreign peoples and their cultures.

"They want you to be very dedicated to the Peace Corps when you go in," Jeff Kelley-Clarke said. "It wasn't until they offered me the job that I knew where my post would be."

Kelley-Clarke said he had learned of the opening through a newsletter the Peace Corps sends to former volunteers. The couple discussed the opportunity, remembered fondly their previous service and considered giving it another chance.

"There's something invigorating about moving to a foreign land and culture," Paula Kelley-Clarke said.

About two years after Gese had returned from creating small-business seminars for prospective owners in Mongolia, he was ready to rejoin. This time, the Peace Corps sent him to the Philippines to create youth volunteer programs.

"I'd do it again," he said. "I used to own my own business, but I got burned out."

Jeff Kelley-Clarke has joined about a dozen other future country directors in Washington, D.C., for several weeks of training, including trying to learn a little of the local language.

Paula Kelley-Clarke will join him in February for their flight to Moldova. The two will live in the country's capital, Chisinau, population 700,000.

Though Paula can't work for the Peace Corps during her husband's tenure there, she said there will be plenty of other volunteer opportunities for her.

Together, they'll have time to visit the countryside and countries surrounding Moldova, which is between Romania and Ukraine. But most important, they'll help a country move forward economically after years of communist control.

"One of the big tasks is going from a centralized government to a free market," Jeff Kelley-Clarke said. "I find it all fascinating."

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company





When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Seattle Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bahrain; COS - Moldova; Country directors - Moldova

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