2007.08.04: August 4, 2007: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Safety: INQ7.net: 57 New Peace Corps Volunteers in Philippines

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57 New Peace Corps Volunteers in Philippines

57 New Peace Corps Volunteers in Philippines

Just three months after US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell was killed, some 57 volunteers signed up for the mission she passionately pursued. They took their oath of service yesterday, vowing to serve in communities around the Philippines for two years. Gathered from at least 25 states in the United States, the 266th batch of Peace Corps volunteers set out for its tour of duty in the Philippines yesterday, continuing a 40-year-old tradition of reaching out to Filipino schools, environment organizations and youth centers. The new batch, tagged Group 266, was dispatched to various provinces from Northern Luzon to the Visayas although the memory of Campbell’s untimely demise was still fresh.

57 New Peace Corps Volunteers in Philippines

Julia’s death inspires 57 US volunteers

By Tarra Quismundo

Last updated 04:31am (Mla time) 08/04/2007

MANILA, Philippines—They have turned tragedy into inspiration.

Just three months after US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell was killed, some 57 volunteers signed up for the mission she passionately pursued. They took their oath of service yesterday, vowing to serve in communities around the Philippines for two years.

Gathered from at least 25 states in the United States, the 266th batch of Peace Corps volunteers set out for its tour of duty in the Philippines yesterday, continuing a 40-year-old tradition of reaching out to Filipino schools, environment organizations and youth centers.

The new batch, tagged Group 266, was dispatched to various provinces from Northern Luzon to the Visayas although the memory of Campbell’s untimely demise was still fresh.

There are 138 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the Philippines. Some 8,000 volunteers have come here since the program started in 1961.

For the new batch, the call to serve was stronger than the pain of loss.

“I don’t think what happened to Julia reflects the Filipino people at all. I don’t think anybody here has any apprehension about his safety,” said 23-year-old Grant Tse, an education volunteer.

Filipino hospitality

Initially, Michelle Moravec longed for home. But weeks of staying here had taught her that a second home could be found in the company of strangers who have become her friends.

“It’s difficult getting used to being away from home, but the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people have really overcome my fears... I’m going to see some of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m so excited,” said Moravec, in a briefing with media after her group was sworn in yesterday.

John Davidson would not have returned to the Philippines had he felt joining the Peace Corps would put him in harm’s way. The 62-year-old volunteer, who met Campbell back in 2005, looked unfazed and was determined to pursue a dream that had been put on hold since he was 18, when the Peace Corps was just starting out.

“I’ve always thought it was a good idea ... I come from a poor family and I was fortunate enough to do well in life. And now, I’ve finally reached a stage in life when I can do what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Davidson, who brought along his wife, Jean, for his two-year stay here.

Davidson’s better half was only too glad to be able to join him in the journey.

“We met, we married, finished college, had kids, and now, we are at a point in our lives when our children have grown. And so now, I can share in his dream,” said Jean.

Helping others

It was the goal to help troubled youth that prompted Nicole Woodcox to sign up with the Peace Corps.

“I want to be a future lawyer for juveniles, and being a volunteer in the Philippines will give me an opportunity to work with children from different backgrounds, from different cultures... Yes, there are fears because I’ve never been away from my family this long... but I like to volunteer, I like to help and just educate myself in different areas,” an enthusiastic Woodcox told reporters.

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney administered the oath of service to Group 266 at the historic Charles Parsons Ballroom of the US Embassy in Manila before an audience that included the volunteer’s host families, government officials and nongovernmental organizations who have partnered with the Peace Corps to pursue the volunteer mission.

Spirit of giving

“You are coming here filled with talent. You have very diverse backgrounds, but you bring extraordinary strength. You also bring great dedication, you bring the spirit of giving,” Kenney told the volunteers.

“You have been willing to leave behind your homes and your families and your jobs to come to a new and strange country because you’d like to make a difference. And you will,” she added.

The new batch of volunteers will stay with host families across the Philippines, including Northern Philippines, where Campbell was slain in April. Their places of assignment include Benguet, Baguio City, Vigan, Laguna, Tarlac, Pampanga, Zambales, Cavite, Palawan, the Bicol Region, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, Negros Oriental and Leyte among others.

Fifteen of the volunteers will serve under the Children, Youth and Families program, where they will engage in efforts to help disadvantaged children, including street kids, abused minors and children in conflict with the law.

A group of 25 will work with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to help improve English teaching programs in high schools, colleges and communities.

Rare opportunity

Some 17 volunteers will work under the Coastal Resources Management program, which aims to protect and preserve the Philippine coastline’s marine biodiversity, considered among the richest in the world.

Prior to pursuing their assignments, the volunteers trained for three months in language, culture and “technical aspects related to their chosen fields,” the US Embassy said. It included training in safety and security “because we are living in communities and working with people and making friends,” said Crisis Corps coordinator Kate Kochersberger.

Speaking in behalf of Group 266, four volunteers took turns in conveying their message to the audience: Davidson in English, Rebecca Lawrence-Gomez in Filipino, Moravec in Visayan and Zachary Florent in Ilocano.

It didn’t matter that they fumbled a few times. It was all about getting across the following message, read by Davidson in English:

“People tend to view service as a sacrifice, an act of nobility... But our time here is not a sacrifice. What few amenities we are leaving behind can’t outweigh the experiences we have to gain. We are privileged with a rare opportunity to serve the world as representatives of peace.”

Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Headlines: August, 2007; Peace Corps Philippines; Directory of Philippines RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Philippines RPCVs; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Peace Corps Bibliography; Peace Corps Directory; Peace Corps History; Bulletin Board; Peace Corps Headlines

When this story was posted in August 2007, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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