2007.07.08: July 8, 2007: Headlines: COS - China: Older Volunteers: GreenvilleOnline.com: Carol Preston is packing her bags to serve in the Peace Corps in China for two years

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Peace Corps China : Peace Corps China: Newest Stories: 2007.07.08: July 8, 2007: Headlines: COS - China: Older Volunteers: GreenvilleOnline.com: Carol Preston is packing her bags to serve in the Peace Corps in China for two years

By Admin1 (admin) (adsl-70-233-231-57.dsl.okcyok.sbcglobal.net - on Friday, September 07, 2007 - 11:34 am: Edit Post

Carol Preston is packing her bags to serve in the Peace Corps in China for two years

Carol Preston is packing her bags to serve in the Peace Corps in China for two years

The 75-year-old mother and grandmother left yesterday for what some may consider a rather crazy endeavor. She will spend her 76th and 77th years serving in the Peace Corps in Chengdu, a city in the Sichuan Province of China. It is a journey that, three weeks before she leaves, Preston discusses with a very matter of fact tone. “I just look forward to maybe doing without a few things,” she says. “And learning to give up a few of the comforts and luxuries we have here. I think it’ll be good for me. And possibly good for me to tell people when I come back.” As she considers the experience, the small woman with soft features and a sharp wit is, if not in complete control, very calm.

Carol Preston is packing her bags to serve in the Peace Corps in China for two years

Her time to serve

Older Peace Corps volunteer offers life’s lessons to a needy world

Published: Sunday, July 8, 2007 - 2:00 am

By Lillia Callum-Penso

What's your view? Click here to add your comment to this story.

Carol Preston’s house has the lived-in feel that only the presence of a family can bring. There is an odd, universal familiarity to the Keowee Key home, from the dated, comfy furniture to the collage of photos on the refrigerator.

The home is warm, inviting and comfortable, which is part of the reason Preston has decided to leave it, to live a more “ascetic life,” as she says.

The 75-year-old mother and grandmother left yesterday for what some may consider a rather crazy endeavor. She will spend her 76th and 77th years serving in the Peace Corps in Chengdu, a city in the Sichuan Province of China.

It is a journey that, three weeks before she leaves, Preston discusses with a very matter of fact tone.

“I just look forward to maybe doing without a few things,” she says. “And learning to give up a few of the comforts and luxuries we have here. I think it’ll be good for me. And possibly good for me to tell people when I come back.”

As she considers the experience, the small woman with soft features and a sharp wit is, if not in complete control, very calm.

Preston’s present journey began out of another. In January of 2006, her husband of more than 50 years, Ron, passed away. The months immediately following, Preston says, were a blur of depression, sadness, loss and eventually, a need for purpose.

When she talks about that time now, her smile fades and her eyes grow more distant.

It was a little over a year ago when his dad died, says Carol’s oldest son, Ron Preston. “Now, her best friend is gone. I thought maybe she’d sell her house and relocate in Columbia near my brother and friends.”

But Ron says the path chosen by his mother — a longtime volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, various literacy organizations and with her church — didn’t surprise him.

“It’s just who she is.”

Preston knew it was up to her to find fulfillment, and so she sought purpose. She found inspiration one day while reading the AARP Bulletin. An article on the Peace Corps after 50 resonated with her, and she kept it. Preston has read the story so many times in the past year that now, the magazine opens to it automatically.

As a longtime admirer of the Peace Corps and Lillian Carter, who joined at 69, Preston has been intrigued by the international service organization since John F. Kennedy formed it in 1961. But when Carter joined, Preston herself was only in her 30s and the mother of three young children. The Peace Corps was so far removed from her life.

But reading the AARP article renewed the interest she once had in the service organization, and at this point in her life, after 17 years of teaching and years as a wife and mother, she actually had the time.

Exactly, says Debbie Curley, the Peace Corps recruiter in the Southeastern Regional office who initially interviewed Preston. The Peace Corps, like many other volunteer and service-based organizations, is tapping into what it sees as a wide-open market.

In today’s world, 50 no longer means retired, and retired doesn’t mean doing nothing.

Under the newest director, Ron Tschetter, the Peace Corps launched a new initiative in May aimed at attracting those 50 and older, and so far, the response has been tremendous, says Curley. At a recent information session in Greenville, Curley spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 60. The average age of those attending was around 55.

“After you’ve left work,” Curley says. “When you’re interested in doing something different, when you have the energy and the enthusiasm for it, that’s a really popular time to join Peace Corps.”

Preston says she was happy to find the Peace Corps could still use her and that she “wasn’t too old.”

So she applied.

She got as far as Curley, but Peace Corps policy says those who have suffered the loss of a spouse must wait a year before joining.

“It makes sense,” Preston says, clearly thinking about her husband. “He would have been surprised,” Preston says. “It wouldn’t have been his thing at all. A wonderful guy, but he just loved his home.”

In January, Preston called Curley again. This time the application went through.

After almost three months of medical tests, vaccinations and more tests (all showing her to be in impeccable health), Preston received her official country and duty assignment. The retired English teacher was assigned to coach instructors who teach English, a job that requires more experience. It is one of the advantages of having a pool of older applicants.

“Younger people bring a lot to communities,” Curley says. “But when you’re older, you’ve obviously got a lifetime of experience. Communities value that a lot. Most of the places we serve, they are very respectful of their elders so they are honored to have older volunteers to serve.”

A few people thought Preston was joking when she sent out the e-mail letting friends and family know of her Peace Corps assignment, but she says the overwhelming response has been support and respect.

“So many of my friends say, ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that, I would love to do that,’” Preston says. “But their health, they know, would prohibit them from going. I am so fortunate to be 75 and to be as healthy as I am.”

Preston is proud to say she takes no medications and she is fully ready to cart her suitcases around on her own.

“It’s not a travel resort trip,” she smiles. “You’ve got to be able to handle your own luggage.”

The printed country assignment now sits with the rest of her file labeled “Peace Corps,” neatly stacked on her dining room table. It looks pretty non-assuming, with simple type and only the Peace Corps logo, and Preston admits that, even so soon before her departure, sometimes the whole experience seems unreal.

As the madness of everything she has had to accomplish in the last year dissipates and the reality of her journey sets in, Preston admits she is feeling a bit nervous.

Being gone two years entails a certain amount of preparation that goes way beyond packing. For instance, Preston hopes to rent her house (with furniture) and has hired a rental agent. How do you explain to your grandchild that Grandma is going away for two years? And how do you rekindle a relationship after that time has passed?

“There are times when I say, what in the world have I done, are you out of your mind?” she says. “But that’s just in stressful moments. Mostly I just feel like this was meant for me to do.”

In her house at Keowee Key, Preston rummages through her papers on China, explaining the details of her fast-approaching adventure. She speaks confidently and humbly at the same time, at once exuding a certain spirit of adventure and a sense of all she must learn.

She knows she does not really look like a Peace Corps volunteer. With her white hair, neat attire and impeccably clean home, she seems to lack the rough and tough look of someone ready for life in a developing country where running water, clean bathrooms and electricity are all uncertainties. She knows she may look more likely to run a church mission trip than to run off for a two-year stint in China. But looks can be deceiving, and so can assumptions.

It is a lesson, that at 75, she keeps at the forefront of her mind. Misassumption is part of why she feels drawn to a place so different from her home.

“I think it’s just a matter of, we’ve got to understand and have an interest in and love for other cultures,” Preston says. “We are so involved in our own little world.

In her handbook, Preston has starred and underlined a sentence.

“The Peace Corps aims to promote world peace and friendship,” she reads.

Preston looks up, and speaks with certainty.

“To me that’s the most important thing in the world.”

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: July, 2007; Peace Corps China; Directory of China RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for China RPCVs; Older Volunteers

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

Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings Date: July 25 2007 No: 1178 Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings
Read PCOL's executive summary of Senator Chris Dodd's hearings on July 25 on the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act and why Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter does not believe the bill would contribute to an improved Peace Corps while four other RPCV witnesses do. Highlights of the hearings included Dodd's questioning of Tschetter on political meetings at Peace Corps Headquarters and the Inspector General's testimony on the re-opening of the Walter Poirier III investigation.

Peace Corps News Peace Corps Library Peace corps History RPCV Directory Sign Up

Paul Theroux: Peace Corps Writer Date: August 15 2007 No: 1185 Paul Theroux: Peace Corps Writer
Paul Theroux began by writing about the life he knew in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His first first three novels are set in Africa and two of his later novels recast his Peace Corps tour as fiction. Read about how Theroux involved himself with rebel politicians, was expelled from Malawi, and how the Peace Corps tried to ruin him financially in John Coyne's analysis and appreciation of one of the greatest American writers of his generation (who also happens to be an RPCV).

August 4, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: August 5 2007 No: 1182 August 4, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
Peace Corps reopens Guinea Program 19 Jul
China beating US in public diplomacy 4 Aug
Shalala continues fight for wounded soldiers 4 Aug
Sue Hilderbrand's goal is stopping funding for Iraq war 3 Aug
Matthew Barison went from Uzbekistan to Romania 2 Aug
Peter Chilson writes "Disturbance-Loving Species" 31 Jul
An RPCV remembers Texas Tower Tragedy 29 Jul
Daniel Balluff films documentaries on Niger 28 Jul
Renewing the Bond of Trust with PCVs 27 Jul
Carol Bellamy to chair Fair Labor Foundation 25 Jul
Delay in Julia Campbell trial 24 Jul
PCV Brian writes: Secondary Projects - First Priority 23 Jul
Dodd says no easy election for Democrats in 2008 22 Jul
John Smart writes: Bush's palace in Iraq 20 Jul
Bill Moyers eulogizes Lady Bird Johnson 15 Jul
Social Justice ranks high on Dan Weinberg’s agenda 15 Jul
PCV Tait writes: Good-bye to my village 14 Jul
Amy Smith organizes Development Design Summit 13 Jul
Cameron Quinn to head PC Third Goal Office 11 Jul
Josh Yardley brought Red Sox to Burkina Faso 11 Jul
James Rupert writes: Islamabad's Red Mosque 11 Jul
Sarah Chayes writes: NATO didn't lose Afghanistan 10 Jul

Dodd issues call for National Service Date: June 26 2007 No: 1164 Dodd issues call for National Service
Standing on the steps of the Nashua City Hall where JFK kicked off his campaign in 1960, Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd issued a call for National Service. "Like thousands of others, I heard President Kennedy's words and a short time later joined the Peace Corps." Dodd said his goal is to see 40 million people volunteering in some form or another by 2020. "We have an appetite for service. We like to be asked to roll up our sleeves and make a contribution," he said. "We haven't been asked in a long time."

July 9, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: July 10 2007 No: 1172 July 9, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
O'Hanlon says "soft partition" occurring in Iraq 9 Jul
Eric R. Green writes on coming oil crisis 8 Jul
Why Dodd joined the Peace Corps 5 Jul
Jim Doyle positioned for third term 5 Jul
Michael Adlerstein to direct UN Master Plan 3 Jul
Shalala says Veterans report will be solution driven 1 Jul
Blackwill says: No process will make up for stupidity 30 Jun
Allan Reed creates a Diaspora Skills Transfer Program 29 Jun
State Dept apology ends hold on Green nomination 28 Jun
Call for stories to celebrate PC 50th Anniversary 25 Jun
Michael Shereikis is singer and guitarist for Chopteeth 25 Jun
Christopher R. Hill Visits North Korea 22 Jun
Tschetter at JFK Bust Unveiling Ceremony 21 Jun
Kiribati too risky for PCVs 17 Jun
James Rupert writes: US calls for free Pakistani elections 17 Jun
Colin Cowherd says PCVs are losers 7 Jun
Tony Hall Warns of Food Shortages in North Korea 7 Jun
Youth Theatre performs Spencer Smith's "Voices from Chernobyl" 7 Jun
Ifugao names forest park after Julia Campbell 6 Jun
Anissa Paulsen assembles "The Many Colors of Islam" 5 Jun
Obituary for Nepal RPCV Loret Miller Ruppe 2 Jun
Forty PCVS to arrive in Ethiopia 2 Jun

Public diplomacy rests on sound public policy Date: June 10 2007 No: 1153 Public diplomacy rests on sound public policy
When President Kennedy spoke of "a long twilight struggle," and challenged the country to "ask not," he signaled that the Cold War was the challenge and framework defining US foreign policy. The current challenge is not a struggle against a totalitarian foe. It is not a battle against an enemy called "Islamofascism." From these false assumptions flow false choices, including the false choice between law enforcement and war. Instead, law enforcement and military force both must be essential instruments, along with diplomacy, including public diplomacy. But public diplomacy rests on policy, and to begin with, the policy must be sound. Read more.

Ambassador revokes clearance for PC Director Date: June 27 2007 No: 1166 Ambassador revokes clearance for PC Director
A post made on PCOL from volunteers in Tanzania alleges that Ambassador Retzer has acted improperly in revoking the country clearance of Country Director Christine Djondo. A statement from Peace Corps' Press Office says that the Peace Corps strongly disagrees with the ambassador’s decision. On June 8 the White House announced that Retzer is being replaced as Ambassador. Latest: Senator Dodd has placed a hold on Mark Green's nomination to be Ambassador to Tanzania.

June 1, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: June 1 2007 No: 1141 June 1, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
Returned Volunteers and Staff honor Warren Wiggins 15 May
Tom Seligman curates "Art of Being Tuareg" 26 May
PCV Marilyn Foss dies in China 25 May
Poet Susan Rich writes: The Women of Kismayo 22 May
Christopher Hill considers visit to North Korea 18 May
Peter Hessler talks about time in Fuling as PCV 18 May
Murder charges filed in death of PCV Julia Campbell 17 May
David Pitts claims JFK offered PC to Lem Billings 16 May
Niki Tsongas announces candidacy for Congress 16 May
James Rupert writes: Pakistanis talk of Musharraf's departure 16 May
Chris Matthews writes: Jerry Falwell's Political Legacy 15 May
Ron Tschetter visits volunteers in Botswana 14 May
Which assignment to take? Africa, Europe, or Central Asia 14 May
Willy Volk writes: New way to keep mosquitoes at bay 14 May
Jim Walsh takes special interest in Nepal 13 May
NPCA offers podcasts of social entrepreneurs 10 May
Gaddi Vasquez showcases food aid work in Central America 10 May
Donna Tabor dreamed up Cafe Chavalos 8 May
Tom Bissell writing book about Jesus' 13 Apostles 8 May
Jody Olsen praises PCV blogging 7 May
PC responds to missing volunteers in 2001 and 2007 2 May

Peace Corps Funnies Date: May 25 2007 No: 1135 Peace Corps Funnies
A PCV writing home? Our editor hard at work? Take a look at our Peace Corps Funnies and Peace Corps Cartoons and see why Peace Corps Volunteers say that sometimes a touch of levity can be one of the best ways of dealing with frustrations in the field. Read what RPCVs say about the lighter side of life in the Peace Corps and see why irreverent observations can often contain more than a grain of truth. We'll supply the photos. You supply the captions.

PCOL serves half million Date: May 1 2007 No: 1120 PCOL serves half million
PCOL's readership for April exceeded 525,000 visitors - a 50% increase over last year. This year also saw the advent of a new web site: Peace Corps News that together with the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps serve 17,000 RPCVs, Staff, and Friends of the Peace Corps every day. Thanks for making PCOL your source of news for the Peace Corps community. Read more.

Suspect confesses in murder of PCV Date: April 27 2007 No: 1109 Suspect confesses in murder of PCV
Search parties in the Philippines discovered the body of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell near Barangay Batad, Banaue town on April 17. Director Tschetter expressed his sorrow at learning the news. “Julia was a proud member of the Peace Corps family, and she contributed greatly to the lives of Filipino citizens in Donsol, Sorsogon, where she served,” he said. Latest: Suspect Juan Duntugan admits to killing Campbell. Leave your thoughts and condolences .

Warren Wiggins: Architect of the Peace Corps Date: April 15 2007 No: 1095 Warren Wiggins: Architect of the Peace Corps
Warren Wiggins, who died at 84 on April 13, became one of the architects of the Peace Corps in 1961 when his paper, "A Towering Task," landed in the lap of Sargent Shriver, just as Shriver was trying to figure out how to turn the Peace Corps into a working federal department. Shriver was electrified by the treatise, which urged the agency to act boldly. Read Mr. Wiggins' obituary and biography, take an opportunity to read the original document that shaped the Peace Corps' mission, and read John Coyne's special issue commemorating "A Towering Task."

The Peace Corps Library Date: July 11 2006 No: 923 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory or leave a message on our Bulletin Board. New: Sign up to receive our free Monthly Magazine by email, research the History of the Peace Corps, or sign up for a daily news summary of Peace Corps stories. FAQ: Visit our FAQ for more information about PCOL.

He served with honor Date: September 12 2006 No: 983 He served with honor
One year ago, Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul (RPCV Kenya) carried on an ongoing dialog on this website on the military and the peace corps and his role as a member of a Civil Affairs Team in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have just received a report that Sargeant Paul has been killed by a car bomb in Kabul. Words cannot express our feeling of loss for this tremendous injury to the entire RPCV community. Most of us didn't know him personally but we knew him from his words. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was one of ours and he served with honor.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: GreenvilleOnline.com

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; Older Volunteers


Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.