2006.11.07: November 7, 2006: Headlines: COS - Namibia: Recruitment: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Mark S. Kampert Jr. heads to Namibia in Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Namibia: Peace Corps Namibia : The Peace Corps in Namibia: 2006.11.07: November 7, 2006: Headlines: COS - Namibia: Recruitment: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Mark S. Kampert Jr. heads to Namibia in Peace Corps

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-74-101.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Saturday, November 25, 2006 - 1:48 pm: Edit Post

Mark S. Kampert Jr. heads to Namibia in Peace Corps

Mark S. Kampert Jr. heads to Namibia in Peace Corps

His decision to join the Peace Corps grew out of his interest in pursuing graduate school in international relations or international business. Without a strong background in either field, it was recommended that he seek experience overseas. "They recommended both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps," Kampert said. "The Peace Corps appealed to me most because I was interested in foreign cultures and foreign languages and it could be a stepping stone to something afterwards. Plus, it's a chance to do some good and help some people."

Mark S. Kampert Jr. heads to Namibia in Peace Corps

Uniontown man departs for two-year Peace Corps assignment

By Brandon Szuminsky, Herald-Standard


At 22 years old, Mark S. Kampert Jr., probably should have spent Sunday keeping track of fantasy football statistics like many guys his age.

But instead of touchdowns and rushing yardage, Kampert was busy packing and saying his goodbyes on Sunday, getting things in order to leave Uniontown Monday for a two-year Peace Corps stint in Africa.

Kampert, the 2002 Uniontown Area High School valedictorian, reported for orientation in Washington, D.C., on Monday and is scheduled to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday. Once there, he will be stationed in the western coastal country of Namibia, where he will teach math, English and possibly science to high school aged students.

As he made final preparations on Saturday, he found the most frustrating thing was deciding what to take with him.

"My accommodations are very ambiguous at this time," he said. "I don't know if I'll have electricity or running water. I could have both, along with Internet access, or I could have none of them. It makes it difficult to pack because I don't know what to expect."

And it's not like he had a lot of time to do so either. After all, he only returned on Friday from a two-month trip to Italy.

"I got to credit my mom for a lot," Kampert said Saturday. "She helped me prepare a lot of things while I was in Rome."

Originally scheduled to leave for Africa in September, his departure was postponed so he decided to make a return trip to Rome, where on a separate trip he had spent eight months previously as a student.

"I did a study aboard experience and after getting a taste of what it's like to live and experience other cultures, I came back to school and wanted to try something different," the 2006 Bucknell University graduate said.

His decision to join the Peace Corps grew out of his interest in pursuing graduate school in international relations or international business. Without a strong background in either field, it was recommended that he seek experience overseas.

"They recommended both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps," Kampert said. "The Peace Corps appealed to me most because I was interested in foreign cultures and foreign languages and it could be a stepping stone to something afterwards. Plus, it's a chance to do some good and help some people."

Once his plane touches down in South Africa, he'll travel to neighboring Namibia, which is roughly half the size of Alaska. He'll spend the first two months in the capital city of Windhoek where he'll get a chance to learn about the country's culture and receive job training.

"Things should be pretty easy going (in Windhoek)," Kampert said. "It'll be an ice breaker for me."

Though he'll be living in a foreign land, he doesn't expect to contend with a language barrier. English is one of two official languages of Namibia and he expects that "mostly everyone" will have a basic understanding of English.

"I'm not too worried about it. I feel that I have two months in the capital city to kind of adjust," he said.

The two-month stay in Windhoek also will be when he has the most reliable access to mail, and he said that would come in handy if he discovers he forgot to pack something.

In January, he will be assessed and his skills evaluated to pair him with the community where he will be the best fit.

In other words, other than his first months in the capital city, as he prepares to leave the country, he has no idea where he'll be stationed in the former German colony.

"When I go to the site in January, that's when I'll find out what I have to work with," he said.

Dealing with ambiguity regarding where he'll spend the next two years isn't anything new to Kampert. He initially began considering the Peace Corps last winter and made a final decision to apply in mid-April. After passing several requirements and clearing physical and mental tests, he was approved by the Peace Corps in mid-July, but still did not know even which country he'd be stationed in.

He was tentatively scheduled to leave in September, but that was pushed back. It wasn't until the last week of September that he found that he would be leaving in November and that he would be going to Namibia.

"Once I got past the ambiguity and started getting some direct answers, I felt better because I know I'm going for a good cause and I know in the long run I'm going to do something to help a lot of people," he said. "And at the same time, it will be something that's going to change my life forever."

While he's spent 11 months in Italy on two separate occasions and three months in Athens, Greece, on an archeological dig, leaving for Africa was harder, he said.

"I said goodbye to my grandmother today," Kampert said. "She's not a young spring chicken anymore, and I realize that saying goodbye to her now that it might be very different in two years. She might be sick or not around anymore."

His parents, Mark and Mary Anges of Smithfield, are worried about his safety, but have encouraged him.

"They've grown used to the fact that I'm not going to be around too much," he said. "To them, Africa is just another stop on the trail."

While many people would scoff at the mere idea of leaving everything behind for two years to possibly live without electricity or running water, Kampert said he is looking forward to it.

"Honestly, I'm not ready to plant my roots. I'm not ready to really commit to anything for the rest of my life, career-wise," he said. "It's quite the opposite; I'll have two years to decide what I want to do and where I want to be."

He also plans on using his time to catch up on some of the reading he said he's been missing. Along with the dress clothes and bug spray, he's packed books like "Pride and Prejudice" and "Catch 22."

He is, however, not packing any preconceived notions or expectations about his trip.

"I'm trying to use the 'See What Happens' approach as I go," he said. "The Peace Corps asked what I expected and how this was going to change my life, but if I knew the answer to that, why the heck would I do this?

"I don't want to go in with any expectations that would influence what I do and what I take away from it," he added. "I'm going to get the real thing, the real experience, and not have it influenced by my expectations."

The one expectation he would allow was that he thinks the two years will fly by.

"I just got back from two months in Italy and it felt like I snapped my fingers and it was over," he said.

And as it turns out, it was just in time to grab his passport and head overseas again.

©The Herald Standard 2006

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Story Source: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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