Kent Smith, UNH Peace Corps recruiting officer, volunteered in Bolivia from 1991 to1993

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Kent Smith, UNH Peace Corps recruiting officer, volunteered in Bolivia from 1991 to 1993

Kent Smith, UNH Peace Corps recruiting officer, volunteered in Bolivia from 1991 to 1993

Kent Smith, UNH Peace Corps recruiting officer, volunteered in Bolivia from 1991 to 1993


Peace Corps volunteers receive final advice


One person can change a village.

There was a man volunteering for the Peace Corps in an underdeveloped African country. The village had an abandoned post office. The mail no longer came through and the post office was empty except for some goats and chickens. This man got control of the post office and got the resources to open a maternity wing, a surgical wing and a public access wing that still service six villages.

A woman volunteer from the Peace Corps was stationed on the Ivory Coast. She volunteered for the public health program and educated women on infant mortality. The mothers were mixing formula with contaminated water and the babies were dying of malnourishment. The midwives were delivering babies without gloves or forceps. By educating these mothers and midwives she saved a whole generation by working long hours.

Charles Baquet, deputy director of the Peace Corps, shared these stories at the Peace Corps send-off Wednesday night.

"Push the envelope to the limit, break out, fly like an eagle," Baquet said to students traveling to countries for 27 months of volunteer work for the Peace Corps.

After graduation, the new Peace Corps volunteers will leave to work on problems like the deforestation of rain forests, and research the outbreak of diseases like HIV and AIDS and the Guinea Worm sickness.

Senior Stacey Farnum leaves in June to help improve environmental conservation and protection in Togo, West Africa. Farnum said it was the philosophy of peace and good will that made her want to join the Peace Corps.

"I hope to make it better for one person while I'm there," she said. "When I return home, I hope to be aware of the differences."

According to Rae Mims, the Peace Corps public affairs officer, UNH has 181 alumni volunteers, 36 student volunteers who are currently serving and 18 prospective student nominees. The invited members will be volunteering in Poland, Sri Lanka, Niger, Benin, Ukraine, Morocco and Alberia, among other countries.

UNH is ranked fourth in New England for Peace Corps recruitment, and ranked No. 42 out of 200 universities and colleges across the country. Because of the number of people UNH recruits, it is one of the few universities that has its own recruiting officer.

Kent Smith, UNH Peace Corps recruiting officer, volunteered in Bolivia from 1991 to1993. He said the attitude of the students is what has made UNH recruitment such a success.

Lillian Leclerc, a returning Peace Corps volunteer, joined Baquet to give advice to the new recruits from her own experiences.

"The best that you can do while you're there is to teach and improve what they have," said Leclerc, who joined the Peace Corps when she was 48 years old.

"I felt I needed something different," she said. "It ended up changing my whole life."

Leclerc was stationed in Zaire from 1983 to 1985 in a village of 13,000 people. Her goal was to improve health and sanitation conditions. Leclerc weighed babies and recorded weights on health cards at six different centers. Before she left, health and sanitation were improved from 40 percent to 92 percent.

She said it was because of her Peace Corps work that she was able to start a community volunteer corps in Manchester.

"I think the experience in Zaire gave me the courage to do that," Leclerc said.

Bringing back the knowledge learned from the Peace Corps experience is one of the organization's goals. The two other Peace Corps goals are to give technical assistance and exchange cultures.

The Peace Corps is a national volunteer organization started by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The Corps fills 4,000 volunteer assignments in 90 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Mims said anyone who volunteers for the program must fill out an application and then go through a two to three hour interview with a recruit coordinator. A background check and a medical screening is done on the applicant. The recruit officer looks for leadership qualities and volunteer work. If the applicant is accepted, an invitation is sent out and the invited recruit must reply back.

"The mission of the organization is world peace and friendship," said Baquet.

Baquet shared his own experiences from his 29 years with the Peace Corps.

"I felt very good about what I contributed and accomplished, but I always had the sense that it was somewhat incomplete," he said.

Baquet said he felt this way until he was approached one day by a village. "He said to me 'We know that you would dig to the bottom for us. You made a difference. Thank you.'"

Baquet congratulated both old and new volunteers.

Before the end of the send-off, the returning volunteers formed a "Circle of Wisdom" around the recruits. Each member of the circle took a turn to share their wisdom with the new volunteers.

The final thought was, "It's the toughest job you'll ever love."

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