Peace Corps starts division in Belize that is focussed on placing volunteers with IT know-how

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, June 25, 2001 - 12:08 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps starts division in Belize that is focussed on placing volunteers with IT know-how

Peace Corps starts division in Belize that is focussed on placing volunteers with IT know-how

Peace Corps starts division in Belize that is focussed on placing volunteers with IT know-how

Peace Corps courts the latte set

Ashlee Vance, IDG News Service\San Francisco Bureau April 04, 2001, 22:47

For most Americans, the U.S. Peace Corps, a 7,000-member volunteer group working in developing nations around the world, conjures up images of long-haired youngsters leaving suburban homes for a tour of duty among thatched huts and muddied roads. Since its creation 40 years ago, more than 161,000 volunteers have spent up to two years offering their skills in distant lands, and finding adventure in the process.

The Peace Corps' San Francisco office has seen a trend recently in which countries are seeking help not only from the well-intentioned get-abouts of yesteryear but also from IT professionals with Internet knowhow. Luckily for them, a growing number of laid-off dot-commers and other tech-savvy folk are apparently ready to swap the double-mocha latte lifestyle for something more down to earth, such as teaching computer literacy in a developing country.

The number of applicants to the Peace Corps recruitment office here almost doubled in March compared with a year ago, according to Dennis McMahon, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. government-affiliated group's San Francisco office. Many of these prospective volunteers emerged from the expanding dot-com deadpool. Others said they are tired of Silicon's Valley's frenetic pace and want to do something more meaningful with their lives.

"I have hi-tech burnout," said Kelly Geyer, a 24 year-old public relations worker representing technology companies. "All of the dot-coms going out of business are definitely affecting our clients and what we do. It is kind of a good time to stop working."

Geyer, who is heading to a country in West Africa with the Peace Corps -- she doesn't know which one yet -- echoed feelings shared by many around the Bay Area. She is ready to give up pitches and press releases to try something different.

Local Peace Corps applicants contacted for this column ranged in age from their early 20s to their late 50s, with many working at tech-focused companies. From skilled software developers to accountants who know their way around a PC, they share a desire to escape the bustle of city life to bring Word and Excel skills to people less fortunate.

"We recognize that there are a lot of people that worked with hi-tech companies that may be looking for a change, and we want them to know the Peace Corps may be a suitable alternative," McMahon said.

The organization hopes to answer calls for IT skills from numerous countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where volunteers who can help connect the unconnected are increasingly in demand. In response to that heavy demand the Peace Corps started its first division in Belize last year that is focussed on placing volunteers with IT know-how.

The Peace Corps doesn't want to replace yesterday's long-haired hippies with long-haired Linux programmers. Rather, with PC skills fairly widespread in the U.S., it will consider any energetic person with a bent for technology, whether they run a Web site or punch computer keys in a mail room.

The outflow of talent from the U.S. marks an interesting reversal of a recent trend. Instead of workers with H-1B skilled-worker visas rushing to the U.S., these homegrown tech turncoats are working to make the World Wide Web live up to its name.

"I want to go to the poorest of the poor," said Sarah Khalili-Sabet, an accountant for a Bay Area technology firm, who also is waiting to learn which remote country she will be shipped off to. "I will be able to help them set up a computer, load some software and do many things they are unable to right now. I have experience they can use."

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Story Source: IDG

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Belize; Information Technology



By Matt Rosemeyer on Wednesday, February 05, 2003 - 8:57 am: Edit Post

Good morning!
My name is Matt and my wife and Ihave been living in OWT (teaching) for the past year. We recently met a peace corps volunteer in Belize City who mentioned there was a couple in OWT. Let me know if you would like to get together for dinner some night.

Let us know... Matt

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