2008.03.04: March 4, 2008: Headlines: COS - Thailand: Older Volunteers: Lancaster Newspapers: Thailand RPCVs Sarah and Tom Murphy are among a growing group of older Peace Corps volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Thailand: Peace Corps Thailand: Peace Corps Thailand: Newest Stories: 2008.03.04: March 4, 2008: Headlines: COS - Thailand: Older Volunteers: Lancaster Newspapers: Thailand RPCVs Sarah and Tom Murphy are among a growing group of older Peace Corps volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career

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Thailand RPCVs Sarah and Tom Murphy are among a growing group of older Peace Corps volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career

Thailand RPCVs Sarah and Tom Murphy are among a growing group of older Peace Corps volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career

The Murphys, who were looking for a way to "give back" in retirement, signed up. In fall 2000, they were accepted for a two-year assignment teaching English in Thailand. They sold their house and car and put their possessions into storage. In January 2001, just a month after Sarah Murphy had left her job and Tom Murphy had retired as a middle school principal, they were on a plane to Bangkok. The Murphys were assigned to Nan, a city of about 20,000 north of Bangkok where they taught English in a tessaban, a school that educates "the poorest of the poor," Tom Murphy said. Despite the oppressive summer heat (110 degrees and high humidity), the heavy rains and the ever-present mosquitoes, geckos and wild dogs, the Murphys adjusted quickly to their new environment. Their host family had a Western-style flush toilet (a rarity), Thai food agreed with them, and the students and teachers they worked with were eager to learn American teaching methods. "The children there were very, very receptive. That was a blessing," Sarah Murphy said. "And the teachers were too." "It took them a while," Tom Murphy said. "I think our first year was the toughest." Initially, the Thais viewed the couple as "know-it-alls," Tom Murphy said. "So we had to convince them that we didn't know everything and we were there to help them to look at things in a different way. "It took about a year, but we finally got them on our side."

Thailand RPCVs Sarah and Tom Murphy are among a growing group of older Peace Corps volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career

Peace Corps seeks older volunteers
Intelligencer Journal

Published: Mar 04, 2008
02:00 EST

By BRIAN WALLACE, Staff

Caption: Sarah and Tom Murphy show items they collected during a Peace Corps assignment in Thailand.

Sarah Murphy, 65, had wanted to travel when she retired from her job as a medical/surgical nurse at Easton Hospital.

But she probably never imagined herself pedaling a bicycle down the narrow, congested streets of Nan, Thailand, in a downpour while fighting off a wild dog snapping at her heels.

But there she and her husband, Tom, 66, were in 2001, headed for a teaching assignment during one of their many travel "adventures" as Peace Corps volunteers.

The Murphys, who operate Walnut Lawn Bed & Breakfast in West Lampeter Township, are among a growing group of older volunteers who have served with the organization, which has historically appealed to young college graduates eager to experience the world before committing to a career.

Now the Peace Corps wants more volunteers like the Murphys, people who have completed their careers and are seeking an alternative retirement experience.

Recruiting older volunteers is a top priority of Peace Corps director Ron Tschetter, who hopes to swell the ranks of baby boomers serving overseas from 5 percent to 15 percent in two years.

The Peace Corps has streamlined the medical application process for older applicants and has implemented "Peace Corps 50+," which promotes service through the AARP, a Web site and presentations by older volunteers and 50+ recruiters.

The Murphys will speak at a 50+ program at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Rodney Park Community Center, where the Happy Hearts Club, a social group for active people age 50 and older, meets.


It will be the first such talk for the couple, who decided to join the Peace Corps after a chance encounter with an older couple in 2000.

Tom Murphy was selling a sailboat that year, and the couple who purchased it, both in their late 60s, had just returned from Peace Corps service in Lithuania. They talked about their experiences, and the Murphys were intrigued.

"It struck us then that maybe the Peace Corps wasn't just for younger people," Tom Murphy recalled.

The Murphys, who were looking for a way to "give back" in retirement, signed up. In fall 2000, they were accepted for a two-year assignment teaching English in Thailand.

They sold their house and car and put their possessions into storage. In January 2001, just a month after Sarah Murphy had left her job and Tom Murphy had retired as a middle school principal, they were on a plane to Bangkok.

The Murphys were assigned to Nan, a city of about 20,000 north of Bangkok where they taught English in a tessaban, a school that educates "the poorest of the poor," Tom Murphy said.

Despite the oppressive summer heat (110 degrees and high humidity), the heavy rains and the ever-present mosquitoes, geckos and wild dogs, the Murphys adjusted quickly to their new environment.

Their host family had a Western-style flush toilet (a rarity), Thai food agreed with them, and the students and teachers they worked with were eager to learn American teaching methods.

"The children there were very, very receptive. That was a blessing," Sarah Murphy said. "And the teachers were too."

"It took them a while," Tom Murphy said. "I think our first year was the toughest."

Initially, the Thais viewed the couple as "know-it-alls," Tom Murphy said. "So we had to convince them that we didn't know everything and we were there to help them to look at things in a different way.

"It took about a year, but we finally got them on our side."

After a few semesters, the Murphys took their English curriculum, which utilized games, songs and group activities a stark contrast to the Thai school's 1950s rote-style teaching methods to other tessaban schools in a 25-mile radius.

They also conducted numerous workshops on teaching methods for rural teachers.

Learning the Thai language was the Murphys' biggest challenge, they said. Because their hosts were more eager to learn English than to teach them Thai, the Murphys didn't learn to speak as well as they would have liked.

"We managed to be able to communicate, get food, order tickets, things like that," Sarah Murphy said. "I have to say, though, the younger (volunteers) were better at it than we were.

"But it was OK. I think they understood us."

Tom Murphy kept a daily journal of the couple's experiences, filling 16 notebooks with his entries.

"I wanted to remember every minute," he said.

The Murphys' service was so positive, they decided to stay on for an extra year, until May 2004.

The couple wholeheartedly recommends the Peace Corps experience for other older adults.

"I think older people need to know that, hey, it's not just for college students, for kids who don't know what to do when they get out of college," Sarah Murphy said.

"You learn about people, you learn about cultures, and they learn from you. To me that's very, very important."

Tom Murphy said he hopes the couple was able to do more than just help the Thais improve their teaching methods.

"We wanted them to see there's a human side to the people back here," he said.

"Hopefully, we were able to show them the good part that we're a giving society, a caring society."

E-mail: bwallace@lnpnews.com




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: March, 2008; Peace Corps Thailand; Directory of Thailand RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Thailand RPCVs; Older Volunteers





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Story Source: Lancaster Newspapers

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