June 10, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: The Beacon News: It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Solomon Islands: Peace Corps Solomon Islands : The Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands: June 10, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: The Beacon News: It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown

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It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown

It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown

In addition to his appreciation for diversity, Weisner also took away the ability to speak another language. "A lot of people in Aurora don't know I am bilingual," he said. "It's just unfortunate that I'm probably the only one in Illinois who speaks Birau."

It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown

Weisner honored for Peace Corps service
Learning experience: Volunteers say they took take away much more than they left behind

By Ed Fanselow
STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO It was early in 1980 when an idealistic young man named Tom Weisner and his wife, Marilyn, left their home in Aurora for Guadalcanal, a part of the Solomon Island chain more than 6,700 miles from their hometown.

Never having strayed far from home before then, it was to say the least a leap of faith for both of the Weisners, who soon found themselves living amongst the island's dark-skinned, betel-nut chewing natives, who dressed in loincloths made of tree bark.

Among young couple's first tasks was improving the area's sanitation system, which was virtually nonexistent before they arrived.

"I learned quickly that indoor plumbing is awfully nice," Weisner said. "but it is not essential."

It was one of the many lessons the man who later would become mayor of Aurora came to realize during his five years in the Peace Corps, the federally-funded volunteer organization formed by President John F. Kennedy.

Twenty-five years after leaving home, the new mayor was one of 10 prominent Illinois Peace Corps veterans honored this weekend at two separate ceremonies in downtown Chicago.

The events were held to commemorate last Saturday's celebration of Peace Corps Founders Day, which marks the date on June 4, 1961, when the first Peace Corps volunteers left on assignment to Ghana.

Among the others honored were Cook County Judge Patrick Murphy, who served in Somalia; Oak Park Mayor David Pope, who served in Thailand, Chicago Alderman Ed Smith, who served in India; and a host of other civic leaders from around the Chicago area.

"President Kennedy would be very proud of every one of these Peace Corps volunteers," said Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who hosted an event Friday at the James R. Thompson Center. "They are all a testament to the idea that one person truly can make a difference."

Weisner, whose five-year tenure overseas was the longest of any of those honored Friday, said his time in the Solomons taught him about "not judging too quickly and being open to other peoples' ideas."

"People who live in places that some like to dismiss as Third World countries have an abundant amount of wisdom to share with us, if we only have the ability to listen to them," he said. "Color and culture and religion and language are all irrelevant. We are all brothers and sisters and all equal in God's eyes."

He and the other honorees agreed the Peace Corps has never before been more relevant than it is today.

"If we've ever needed a program that improves our relationships with other countries, we need it now," said Smith, who represents a growing diverse part of Chicago's West Side on the City Council. "Because in a lot of other countries, our name is mud."

More than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers are spread across the world in more than 70 counties, where they now focus on AIDS education, business development and bridging the digital divide.

But for all the services they've provided, returned Peace Corps volunteers say they benefited far more than the Islanders, Africans, Asians and South Americans they've served over the years.

"What you contribute," Judge Murphy said, "is almost nothing compared to what you get in return."

In addition to his appreciation for diversity, Weisner also took away the ability to speak another language. "A lot of people in Aurora don't know I am bilingual," he said. "It's just unfortunate that I'm probably the only one in Illinois who speaks Birau."
6/10/05





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Story Source: The Beacon News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Solomon Islands; City Government

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