July 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: NGO's: Fargo Pioneer: Matthew Morrison worked working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Uzbekistan: Peace Corps Uzbekistan : The Peace Corps in Uzbekistan: July 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: NGO's: Fargo Pioneer: Matthew Morrison worked working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International

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Matthew Morrison worked working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International

Matthew Morrison worked working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International

"The Peace Corps was one of the greatest times in my life and I would highly recommend it to everyone," said Morrison. He felt the culture shock of being stationed in Uzbekistan wasn't too bad, considering that he was on the other side of the world from his native West Fargo. "The food was probably the toughest thing to get used to," he added, "But other than that, I was fairly comfortable right away."

Matthew Morrison worked working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International

Making a difference in Uzbekistan

By Matthew Jacob
Fargo Pioneer
Fargo, N.D.
July 15, 2005

Matthew Morrison always wanted to see the world. He dreamed about studying abroad even before he entered St. John's University in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the rigors of being on the wrestling team at the university did not allow him the opportunity to study in another country, as many students do. Nearly a decade later, Morrison has fulfilled his dream, spending nearly all of his time since graduating, working in the far reaches of Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps worker and more recently for CHF International.

Morrison is a 1994 graduate of West Fargo High School and a 1998 graduate of St. John's University with a Business Management degree and a minor in Biology.

While in High School, he participated in Freestyle and Greco Roman wresting where he was a multiple state champion and was a member of the wrestling team where he placed in state two years in a row. During his senior year, he was elected to the all state soccer team.

He is the son of Greg and Suzanne Morrison, who made their home in West Fargo for over 20 years before moving to Fargo two years ago. He also has two sisters, Megan and Sarah, both West Fargo grads.

Ironically the entire Morrison family has something in common - their desire to travel and see the world and assist wherever they can to help make it a better place in which to live. Megan studied in South Africa for one semester and was an exchange student in Germany, she has also served in Peace Corps, just returning last November from Turkmenistan, located south of Uzbekistan. She is presently employed by Dakota hospital recruiting new doctors.

Sara studied for one semester in London and visited her sister in Turkey. She currently lives in Minneapolis where she is employed by a financial company and attending law school.

Greg and Suzanne have also traveled extensively throughout the years and have been to Uzbekistan twice to visit their son. As a legal librarian for the federal courts, Suzanne just returned this week from the West Bank where she has been conducting law schools. Greg is employed by Property Resource Group, Fargo.

Matthew also found the time to visit several other countries during his time overseas, including backpacking through Laos and Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, England, France, and Germany and has been to Moscow several times.

"He really loves what he's doing and he's been able to help a lot of people," Greg said proudly. "Everyone like shim and treats him with a great deal of respect. He's very social and he loves the adventure and the travel so much, we don't know if we'll ever get him back."

Currently a Program manager for CHF International in Uzbekistan, Matthew has been working all over the country for nearly seven years. Morrison's adventure began after graduating, when he volunteered for the Peace Corps, an organization that supports the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.

He had the choice of traveling to Uzbekistan, the Dominican Republic and Uganda and chose Uzbekistan because it was a new country and no one knew where it was located. "The Dominican Republic is so close to the United States and would not be that difference and Uganda was about to break into civil war so I thought I made the right choice," Morrison said. Uzbekistan is a former Soviet Republic located north of Afghanistan.

"The Peace Corps was one of the greatest times in my life and I would highly recommend it to everyone," said Morrison. He felt the culture shock of being stationed in Uzbekistan wasn't too bad, considering that he was on the other side of the world from his native West Fargo. "The food was probably the toughest thing to get used to," he added, "But other than that, I was fairly comfortable right away."

As a Business Development Officer for the Peace Corps, Morrison organized the first Women's leadership Conference in Uzbekistan, which was attended by seventy people throughout the country including representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He also organized several Junior Achievement Economic Conferences in Uzbekistan that celebrated the accomplishments and skills of local, at-risk youth.

Getting to know the people of this foreign land is one of the highlights of his experience in the Peace Corps. "We are all the same, we all care about our family, we all want to do our best," said Morrison. Another of his prized accomplishments is a project he developed and participated in, an arduous 300-km mountain hike and 200-km bicycle trip throughout Uzbekistan. Not only did the event raise over $45,000 for orphanages in Uzbekistan, but by gaining major coverage in the local news, it also heightened awareness of needy children in the country.

When his Peace Corps commitment finished, Morrison returned to the United States determined to utilize the skills that became second-nature to him in Uzbekistan. CHF International, a development and humanitarian assistance organization that is commited to addressing worldwide poverty and and the ensuing hopelessness that often leads to violence or conflict, has a mission Morrison knew he wanted to be part of. In April of 2001, Morrison was hired as a program Officer for CHF International at their headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. In this position, Morrison crafted program development strategies for new and existing country programs in the CFH network.

"It was nice to be involved in so many different areas at headquarters," says Morrison. His duties also included proposal development and writing, budgeting, field research, program design, and monitoring and evaluating plans. Morrison's eyes lit up when asked about his favorite project that he worked on at CHF headquarters. He served as the team leader for the design and development of a food monetization project that is still being used for CHF's Latin America programs.
A few months into his stint working at headquarters, fate intervened. A program position opened up at the CHF office in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Fluent in Uzbek and Russian, Morrison immediately jumped at the opportunity to go back to the country that showed him his first view of the other side of the world. When I get back with CHF I was on the border of Afghanistan and in the capital so a totally different area than I was located before.

"It was a perfect fit," says CHF International Nice-president of External Relations John Chromy. "We knew Matthew was the perfect person for that position and he ahs not let us down. He is an integral part of our programs in Uzbekistan."

As part of the new position, Morrison jumped right in and with the help of other CHF employees, established six Business and Labor Information Centers (BLICs) in southern Uzbekistan. These centers provide information on potential jobs, employment rights, and also provide vocational trainings and business services. "Jobs are very hard to find here," Morrison said. "So we do our best to create employment opportunities by creating LLC's giving training and providing grants.

He is so comfortable in Uzbekistan that he opened the "Grand Restaurant" in Termez, over a year ago. Morrison remodeled and opened the restaurant with the help of some local residents. He is the owners and is responsible for all marketing and events at "Grand Restaurant."

On a recent trip back to the United States, Morrison said he ahs loved every minute of his time abroad. "I am really proud of what I and CHF have been able to accomplish in Uzbekistan. They have worked really hard with us to improve the quality of life for everyone there."

He likes to travel back to the United States every year or so to reconnect with family and friends. "My best friends are still from West Fargo and I keep in very close contact with them."

He said he is unsure where his future endeavors will leave him, but there is no doubt that if the next seven years are as fulfilling as the previous seven, Morrison will be a happy man.





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Story Source: Fargo Pioneer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Uzbekistan; NGO's

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