2009.05.05: May 5, 2009: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Older Volunteers: Senior Times: In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village in Nepal that would become her home for the next 27 months.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : Peace Corps Nepal: New Stories: 2009.05.05: May 5, 2009: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Older Volunteers: Senior Times: In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village in Nepal that would become her home for the next 27 months.

By Admin1 (admin) (141.157.41.166) on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - 8:45 pm: Edit Post

In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village in Nepal that would become her home for the next 27 months.

In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village in Nepal that would become her home for the next 27 months.

The aim of Dayawon's group was to produce auxiliary midwives to care for other women in the villages. The mortality rate for women bearing children was about 25.8 percent in 1997, according to the Nation Master Web site. Dayawon said this was because the villagers lacked basic sanitation skills and, in turn, hindered the women's abilities to take care of the mothers and their children. "So if we educate these group of girls, they can go out in the village and let them know that they can do better with their care," she said. When she was not teaching, Dayawon helped put together health programs with city officials. The goal was to empower the women by teaching them how to earn a living and become midwives. She also started an infection control program to help the villagers dispose of used syringes. Dayawon had the opportunity to get to know her students. When they were not in class, she danced with them and wore their style of dress to blend in better. Sometimes she blended in too well. "They would always mistake me for one of them. I had to bring my passport in order to tell them, 'I am an American,'" she said, chuckling as she recalled the incident. Several of her female students took up nursing as a profession and went on to the university. She has received so many thank-you letters over the years that it is difficult for her to answer them all, she said. The letters made it easier to overlook the many nights spent sleeping on the floor under a mosquito net or the mistrusting glances from the male villagers. Before she left, the women gave her a ceremonial send-off presenting her with flowers and souvenirs. "I enjoyed my time with these girls because they relate to you and they are learning from your examples," she said. Besides all of the nursing skills, Dayawon said the students also learned they had the ability to become greater than their society told them to expect. "I don't think of the compensation, but just the idea that I am able to help somebody makes me happy," she said.

In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village in Nepal that would become her home for the next 27 months.

Peace Corps Volunteers
Going the Distance

Caption: Ursula Conrad, 70, Dana Chen, Dayawon, 59, and Margaret M., 67. The women were heading to a Peace Corps induction ceremony. After three months of training, they were official Peace Corps volunteers. Photo courtesy of Purita Dayawon.

By Allysen Kerr - May 2009

In 1997 Purita Dayawon, then 59, boarded a crowded, hot bus with animals and children alike. Three months of classes and training with the Peace Corps could not prepare her for the trip to the village that would become her home for the next 27 months. She chewed some Dramamine tablets to control her motion sickness and sat down for the journey.

She passed the Himalayan peaks, luscious green plains, deep valleys and golden temples -- this was Nepal. It was a place laden with more than two centuries of religious history and political unrest -- a country that seemed incapable of progression. But none of that stopped Dayawon from entering Kawasoti, a small western Nepalese village.
Her mission was to teach practical nursing skills to the women in the village.

The origins of the U.S. Peace Corps date back to a speech by Sen. John F. Kennedy at the University of Michigan in 1960. Kennedy challenged the students to service. More than 195,000 volunteers later, that call continues to be answered even by the eldest group of Americans.

Although older Americans make up only about 5 percent of the Peace Corps volunteer population, their contribution and experience is invaluable, Dayawon said. She was one of seven volunteers, out of the 30-member group, who was more than 50 years old. The eldest female volunteer was 70 years old.

"The best time to go the Peace Corps is when you're a little older because you have more experience to share," Dayawon said.

According to its Web site, the mission of the Peace Corps is three-fold: "Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; Helping [to] promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and Helping [to] promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans."

The Peace Corps trains Americans to become engaged and immersed in the needs of the host country. Serving for 27 months, volunteers have the opportunity to share their expertise and talents with nations all around the world. Volunteer opportunities exist in more than 139 countries.

Volunteers may teach English or computer skills in Africa, HIV/AIDS prevention in the Caribbean, develop agricultural technology in Eurasia or help villages in Asia construct a business plan.

Amy Panikowski, the UF Peace Corps campus recruiter, understands it may be difficult for older Americans to join the organization because of family, health concerns or financial obligations. But she believes Seniors bring a different perspective than younger volunteers.

"Our older volunteers bring life experience and have a wealth of knowledge from working," Panikowski said. "You have to have something to offer in the form of skill sets, and have the willingness to be open and learn."

The aim of Dayawon's group was to produce auxiliary midwives to care for other women in the villages. The mortality rate for women bearing children was about 25.8 percent in 1997, according to the Nation Master Web site. Dayawon said this was because the villagers lacked basic sanitation skills and, in turn, hindered the women's abilities to take care of the mothers and their children.

"So if we educate these group of girls, they can go out in the village and let them know that they can do better with their care," she said. When she was not teaching, Dayawon helped put together health programs with city officials. The goal was to empower the women by teaching them how to earn a living and become midwives. She also started an infection control program to help the villagers dispose of used syringes.

Dayawon had the opportunity to get to know her students. When they were not in class, she danced with them and wore their style of dress to blend in better. Sometimes she blended in too well.

"They would always mistake me for one of them. I had to bring my passport in order to tell them, 'I am an American,'" she said, chuckling as she recalled the incident.

Several of her female students took up nursing as a profession and went on to the university. She has received so many thank-you letters over the years that it is difficult for her to answer them all, she said.

The letters made it easier to overlook the many nights spent sleeping on the floor under a mosquito net or the mistrusting glances from the male villagers. Before she left, the women gave her a ceremonial send-off presenting her with flowers and souvenirs.

"I enjoyed my time with these girls because they relate to you and they are learning from your examples," she said. Besides all of the nursing skills, Dayawon said the students also learned they had the ability to become greater than their society told them to expect.

"I don't think of the compensation, but just the idea that I am able to help somebody makes me happy," she said.

To learn more about the Peace Corps, contact Jean Kern at 404-562-3470, jkern@peacecorps.gov or visit www.peacecorps.gov.

Allysen Kerr is an intern and student in UF's College of Journalism and Communications. She may be contacted at allysenrenee@gmail.com




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Headlines: May, 2009; Peace Corps Nepal; Directory of Nepal RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Nepal RPCVs; Older Volunteers





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Story Source: Senior Times

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

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