May 20, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: Recruitment: Narragansett Times: Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Benin for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : The Peace Corps in Benin: May 20, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: Recruitment: Narragansett Times: Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Benin for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - 2:31 pm: Edit Post

Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Benin for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.

Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Benin for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.

Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Benin for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps volunteer: From Brickley's to Benin

By: Aimee Couture


Caption:Photo: Ernest A. Brown/ URI senior Erin Sillin graduates and is off to Africa for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. She's pictured on-the-job at Brickley's Ice Cream in Wakefield.
WAKEFIELD - For Erin Sillin, it's not what she brings in in a backpack for her two-year adventure in Benin, Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, it's what she knows that will help the people there.

A senior at the University of Rhode Island, she will graduate with a degree in nutrition this Sunday.

"I wanted to use my education while it was fresh," she said before her shift at Brickley's Ice Cream in Wakefield began on Tuesday. "I also think that I'm so lucky to have been raised the way I have been, and there's nothing tying me down right now, so why not help? If I can help one person it will make this experience worth it."

Yesterday, after a whirlwind of exams, packing, work and saying farewell to friends, she headed back to her home state of Arizona.

In the past several days she has sold her car, donated most of her clothes to the Jonnycake Center and decided to leave the furniture she's collected in her Wakefield apartment behind.

In the midst of the week-long frenzy, she took a half hour to chat with a reporter. But even in the lull at the ice cream shop, the poised and down-to-earth Sillin couldn't seem to sit still.

She had lots of things on her mind: her last final at 8 am the next morning, a lunch planned with friends at Crazy Burger, more packing.

While she's good at leaving material things behind, the hard part is leaving the friends she's made over the past two years.

The youngest of 12 children, Sillin has always been encouraged to be an independent spirit, to try new experiences and to take some risks.

As a sophomore at Northern Arizona University she decided to spend her junior year in a different part of the country by participating in the National Student Exchange.

She wanted to learn, hike, run, be outdoors and do all of the other things she loves in another part of the country.

That's how she ended up in Wakefield, where people recognize her at Brickley's as "the girl that's always running up and down Main Street."

For the past two summers she's been scooping and serving ice cream there, where she also found her "second family" in the Brophys.

"They're amazing people," she said of owners Steve and Chris Brophy.

Last summer, a commercial about the Peace Corps planted a seed. The organization that began with John F. Kennedy's challenge to students to serve their country by living and working in developing countries appeals to her sense of adventure.

She filled out an on-line application and waited for an interview.

After the two hour "get-to-know you" conversation, she was nominated to be a volunteer, but that didn't mean she was fully accepted.

She still had to pass medical and legal tests.

"It's stressful," she said. "You wonder if they are holding your forms for a reason or if they are just still under review. It took a long time to get through each of the steps.

"The hard part has been making myself sleep and making sure I filled out all of the forms correctly."

Sillin will be one of the 178,000 Peace Corps volunteers working in areas like health, AIDS education, information technology, and environmental preservation in a developing country.

On July 5 she will formally commit herself to the Peace Corps, receive vaccinations, and meet the group of 30 or so with whom she'll be working.

Two days later they'll fly to Africa, where they will participate in a three month immersion program, living with host families and learning French, the official language of Benin, one of the world's most impoverished countries.

Sillin will then begin teaching about prenatal care, infant and children's health up to age 5, and creating HIV/AIDS awareness.

"I will be making up the projects myself, with no known resources," she said. "I will see what the needs of the people in the village are when I arrive. It's all a big surprise, rather than a concrete plan."

What she's learned so far about Benin doesn't intimidate her. She wants to fully immerse herself in the new culture.

"It's exciting," she said. "It's exciting to know I'll be living in a hut made of mud bricks, with a thatch or tin roof, that has no electricity or running water. That's the stuff they told me in the welcome packet. The latrine and shower are outside and the water comes from an open-well where the water has to be boiled before it's used. It's exciting to know that I can rough it for a while."

She has already learned that access to western food will be nonexistent. Vegetables and fruits will only be available seasonably.

"I'll have to get used to eating pilaf and rice," she said. "I'm encouraged to adopt a new culture and to try as hard as I can to eat the way they do and live the way they do.

"I'm looking forward to learning new hobbies and outdoor activities from the people there."

She plans to have most of her clothing made there.

The backpack will contain a camera, journal, shortwave radio and non-stick frying pan. The last two, she learned from a Peace Corps on-line message board, are important.

"I know I'm not going to change the world in two years, but I want to help," she said.

For more information about the Peace Corps go to www.

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

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RPCVs: Post your stories or press releases here for inclusion next week.

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170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

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Story Source: Narragansett Times

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



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