2007.03.22: March 22, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Huron Daily Tribune: RPCV David Jaroch cherishes the time he spent in Ghana in the 1960's

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : Peace Corps Ghana: Newest Stories: 2007.03.22: March 22, 2007: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Huron Daily Tribune: RPCV David Jaroch cherishes the time he spent in Ghana in the 1960's

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RPCV David Jaroch cherishes the time he spent in Ghana in the 1960's

RPCV David Jaroch cherishes the time he spent in Ghana in the 1960's

Jaroch spent two years in Ghana, West Africa, teaching math at a secondary school in a large city called Tamale. The decision to serve in the corps started with seeing a recruitment display at Ferris. “The economy wasn’t good (at the time I was graduating), and I was wondering what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. The Peace Corps looked like a very viable option and he began the application process. “I believe everyone should serve their country somehow,” he said. “My brother Victor went through the military, serving in the Air Force and making it to colonel. I preferred the Peace Corps.” He said his father, Lambert, served in the Army and was a World War II veteran. The military just didn’t seem like the right place for Jaroch, though. He liked the idea behind the Peace Corps. “The Peace Corps offered a way to be an ambassador for the U.S. in a non-threatening way,” he said. “The Peace Corps carries the good will of the United States.”

RPCV David Jaroch cherishes the time he spent in Ghana in the 1960's

Ubly teacher cherishes time in the Peace Corps

TRACI L. WEISENBACH, The Huron Daily Tribune


UBLY — Upon graduating from Ferris State University in 1974, Ubly native David Jaroch stood on the doorstep of a new chapter in his life. Many choices were before him: where to go, what to do, when to do it. While his fellow graduates sought job opportunities, Jaroch took the path less traveled and sought out the toughest job he ever loved — serving in the Peace Corps.

Jaroch, a 1969 Ubly High School graduate, spent two years in Ghana, West Africa, teaching math at a secondary school in a large city called Tamale. The decision to serve in the corps started with seeing a recruitment display at Ferris.

“The economy wasn’t good (at the time I was graduating), and I was wondering what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

The Peace Corps looked like a very viable option and he began the application process.

“I believe everyone should serve their country somehow,” he said. “My brother Victor went through the military, serving in the Air Force and making it to colonel. I preferred the Peace Corps.”

He said his father, Lambert, served in the Army and was a World War II veteran. The military just didn’t seem like the right place for Jaroch, though. He liked the idea behind the Peace Corps.

“The Peace Corps offered a way to be an ambassador for the U.S. in a non-threatening way,” he said. “The Peace Corps carries the good will of the United States.”

On his application, Jaroch said he wanted to serve “anywhere warm” because he was tired of cold Michigan winters. When he found out he was going to Ghana, he thought to himself, “OK, here we go.”

A Peace Corps volunteer stays in his/her designated location for two years. For the first year, Jaroch lived with another volunteer in a 1,400 square foot colonial home with two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, back kitchen and garage. The second year, he lived there alone. The home had electricity and sometimes had running water. He said the house was better than other housing in the area.

Jaroch said upon arriving in Ghana, he was supposed to stay in a secure compound for training. He wanted more of an adventure. He traveled the countryside with two different people from Ghana — one was involved with the Corps’ initial training and another was from Jaroch’s host country national family (all Peace Corps volunteers have such a family at their designated site). Jaroch said while the Peace Corps wasn’t thrilled about him doing the traveling, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. He said he learned so much about the culture through his travels.

At Jaroch’s job assignment, he taught 30 students who all wore uniforms. He said most of the students were boys because not many girls received an education in Ghana.

“Women were considered second-class citizens,” he said.

At his school, he said students were very well behaved and discipline was virtually nonexistent.

“I never had anyone speak out of turn,” he said. “My students’ only priority was learning. In the U.S. I sometimes feel education is a necessary distraction to other interests.”

He said his students were very motivated to be in school. The school system in Ghana is based on the British education system of six years primary, four years middle, five years secondary, two years college prep, then college. Students test at every level, and those who fail the tests do not go on. Therefore, getting into secondary school is quite an accomplishment.

The school operated from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“By (1 p.m.), it was unbearably hot,” Jaroch said.

The afternoons would be spent taking a nap or doing anything to escape the heat. He also spent time making friends from all over the world.

“We, including myself and other Peace Corps volunteers, would have dinner parties with locals, Germans, Norwegians, British, Canadians, and anyone else we could invite,” he said.

He said he really enjoyed being with such a diverse group of people.

“I learned all different kinds of cultures and languages,” he said.

The Peace Corps provides volunteers with a living allowance that enables them to live in a manner similar to the local people in their community. Jaroch said he was paid $5 a day, which he mostly spent on food. He said food wasn’t exactly easy to come by. Meals mostly consisted of tomatoes, beans and rice. Meat was quite a rarity. Because there was no refrigeration and the weather was so hot, meat couldn’t be stored long, he said.

“I ate a snake once,” he said. “It was somewhat of a let down. It did not taste much different than other types of ordinary meat. Now, the wild antelope was delicious and very distinctly flavorful. I would have loved to have it again if it was not an endangered animal.”

He said food is rarely wasted in Ghana because food is so hard to come by. He said it still bothers him to see people in the U.S. throw food away.

Water also was hard to come by. He would take five gallons of water a day with him, and that water would be used for everything from drinking to cleaning and showering. He would often use the same water twice or more for various uses. He would get the water from a water plant in the town close to where he lived. In his second year in Ghana, Jaroch taught and helped operate a school store that provided basic commodities to students and community members. He said he had experience in operating a store because of his family’s grocery store in Ubly.

Jaroch said living in Ghana never was boring. Things that would normally be commonplace proved to be quite impelling, even going to the market.

“Everything was an event,” he said.

He said unlike the U.S., pricing on products in Ghana was based on how well one could bargain.

“I became really good at bargaining,” he said.

Jaroch said because he wanted to be able to travel faster, he bought a Suzuki motorcycle in Ghana. “It could go 40 miles per hour,” he said.

He traveled with friends on long trips around Ghana, including traveling 300 miles to get some ice cream. Before he left Ghana, the motorcycle was sold. He said he never felt his safety was threatened while he was traveling the country.

“People were so friendly,” he said.

Jaroch smiled as he remembered how lovely the country was.

“It’s beautiful there. The air is so clean because there’s no pollution, no factories. It’s so quiet,” he said.

He said experiencing the Ghana culture was the most significant aspect of his experience.

“At night, everyone is out,” he said. “People had fires going. The sky was so clear, you could see all the stars. You could hear drums (playing softly). It was so serene.”

He said he came to respect Ghana’s system of living, which is very different from the U.S. He said people in Ghana would spend their days just doing what they could to survive. They truly appreciated the most basic things in life. “Their system is harsh, but it works. If you don’t produce, you die,” he said. “You learn so much about how to survive (by living there). You change physically and mentally.”

He said like many people who serve in Ghana, he became sick with dysentery, which causes severe diarrhea. The Peace Corps does provide medical treatment for its volunteers.

Over a summer break, Jaroch said he took a break from Ghana and spent seven weeks in England. This is where he met the woman who would become his wife, Marie.

Jaroch said while he never once thought about cutting his volunteer experience short, there is a high burnout rate among Peace Corps volunteers. Many end up going home early because they have such a difficult time adjusting to a different way of living.

Jaroch’s Ghana experience changed him for the rest of his life. It even changed his appearance. He said when he arrived at the MBS International Airport to wait for family members to pick him up, he stood there while his family walked right past him.

“They didn’t recognize me. I’d lost 40 pounds,” he said.

Jaroch said while there’s some culture shock involved when going to a country so different from the U.S., “the culture shock is worse coming back.” He said it was tough getting used to the way of life in the U.S. as many things bothered him, especially the waste he saw.

The Peace Corps gives its volunteers money to help with the transition to life back home. Jaroch said the money he received bought him a used car for about $2,000.

Jaroch said his Ghana experience “was far and away much more than I could have ever dreamed it would be. There is no way to express to anyone what serving in the Peace Corps will signify to an individual. For a small town boy from Ubly, it was a life-changing event.

“How can you equal that experience? You can’t.”

He said the experience helped him become a better teacher because he’s able to bring into the classroom a world view.

“I continue to read and learn about events from around the world,” he said. “When I speak on issues, I can relate directly on how U.S. decisions affect individuals in other cultures and countries. I’m better able to point our students toward a world outside of our protected little segment of the world. The Peace Corps has taught me how to accept and delight in the alternative viewpoints of others.”

Jaroch has served 28 years in education, most of those years at Ubly. He teaches high school business and math.

He said his daughter, Marjo, has talked about going into the Peace Corps. She’s currently a student at Michigan Technological University. He said his son, David, probably won’t serve in the Corps. He’s also a student at Michigan Tech and will soon go to Purdue University on a scholarship.

Jaroch said while he’s not sure if he’ll ever serve in the Peace Corps again, he certainly thinks about it.

“I would like to serve in a Soviet Union country,” he said.

For information on the Peace Corps, visit the official website www.peacecorps.gov.

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Story Source: Huron Daily Tribune

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