2007.04.19: April 19, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Staff: Deputy Directors - Olsen: Older Volunteers: News & Observer: The Peace Corps wants folks with life experience, says Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, at the Durham Center for Senior Life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tunisia: Special Report: Peace Corps Deputy Director Jody Olsen: 2007.04.19: April 19, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Staff: Deputy Directors - Olsen: Older Volunteers: News & Observer: The Peace Corps wants folks with life experience, says Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, at the Durham Center for Senior Life

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-116-115.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.116.115) on Saturday, April 28, 2007 - 5:22 pm: Edit Post

The Peace Corps wants folks with life experience, says Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, at the Durham Center for Senior Life

The Peace Corps wants folks with life experience, says Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, at the Durham Center for Senior Life

There are some hurdles for older volunteers. The older you get, the harder it can be to master a new language, Olsen conceded. And the corps is careful to send volunteers to places that won't exacerbate health problems, like asthma. But Olsen stressed that physical limitations are mitigated by the skills older volunteers bring. In fact, the Wolfes say one of the strengths they would bring is their lack of idealism. If they do enter the Peace Corps, they won't expect to change the world, Doug Wolfe said. "We're more realistic. We're not going to save everybody in some country from starving in two years," he said. "But maybe we can help in some small way."

The Peace Corps wants folks with life experience, says Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, at the Durham Center for Senior Life

Peace Corps appeals to older volunteers
New emphasis on the 'experienced'

Eric Ferreri, Staff Writer
DURHAM - In their 20s, Doug and Jane Wolfe might have done some significant volunteer work had life not gotten in the way.

But then they had children, which meant soccer games and PTA meetings and church and work.

Three decades later, the two have retired and caught their breath. They drove three hours from their Morehead City home Wednesday to learn about the Peace Corps -- that itch they have yet to scratch.

"We're children of the '60s," said Jane Wolfe, who, like her husband, is 53. "You do whatever you can to help whoever you can. I think this is something we've thought about our whole lives."

For Peace Corps officials, who are putting a new emphasis on recruiting older volunteers, the Wolfes represent a jackpot.

The corps wants folks with life experience, particularly with backgrounds in agriculture, education and small business, Jody Olsen, the group's deputy director, said Wednesday at the Durham Center for Senior Life. Only about 5 percent of the corps' 7,700 current volunteers are 50 or older.

Founded in 1961 by newly-elected President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps recruits volunteers to spend two years living and working in developing nations. It has largely relied on the young, wide-eyed idealist. Of it's 7,700 current volunteers, 85 percent are in their 20s, three-quarters are white and 90 percent are single. The average age of a volunteer is 27.

But with a generation of successful, educated people nearing retirement age, the corps is now targeting folks in their 50s. Speaking Wednesday, Olsen thumped the volunteerism drum, stressing that the Peace Corps opportunity is still there, no matter your age.

Peace Corps volunteers routinely work on small infrastructure projects -- like the creation of a small business -- that require the sort of savvy, technical know-how and big-picture thinking that life experience brings, Olsen said. Older volunteers often bring a soothing calm to projects because they've encountered obstacles before, she said.

The corps does a lot of teaching, a task at which older volunteers excel, she said.

"I've seen how they teach English in the classroom," Olsen said. "They reach out to children like it's their own children."

Connie Cohn, 66, of Chapel Hill, enlisted in the corps in 2003 because she wanted to experience a new culture and learn a new language. She was placed in Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, where she spent two years teaching college-level English.

She learned Uzbek and Russian and used texts on economics, U.S. government and civics to challenge her students. For one class assignment, she divided students into U.S. senators and congressional representatives and had them propose and vote on bills.

"The longer I was there, the more fun it got because I got more creative," she said. "It was wonderful to see what they made laws about."

Cohn joked Wednesday that she had it easy living in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, because she "had heat and hot water and a toilet that flushed."

There are some hurdles for older volunteers. The older you get, the harder it can be to master a new language, Olsen conceded. And the corps is careful to send volunteers to places that won't exacerbate health problems, like asthma.

But Olsen stressed that physical limitations are mitigated by the skills older volunteers bring.

In fact, the Wolfes say one of the strengths they would bring is their lack of idealism. If they do enter the Peace Corps, they won't expect to change the world, Doug Wolfe said.

"We're more realistic. We're not going to save everybody in some country from starving in two years," he said. "But maybe we can help in some small way."


Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: April, 2007; RPCV Jody Olsen (Tunisia); Figures; Peace Corps Tunisia; Directory of Tunisia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Tunisia RPCVs; Staff; Older Volunteers; North Carolina





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Story Source: News & Observer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Tunisia; Staff; Deputy Directors - Olsen; Older Volunteers

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