2009.05.15: May 15, 2009: Headlines: COS - Malawi: Galesburg Register-Mail: Matt Fornoff's two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Malawi: Peace Corps Malawi : Peace Corps Malawi: Newest Stories: 2009.05.15: May 15, 2009: Headlines: COS - Malawi: Galesburg Register-Mail: Matt Fornoff's two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country

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Matt Fornoff's two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country

Matt Fornoff's two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country

For the past two years, he has worked and played in subtropical Malawi, teaching people in his rural village to make soap, acquiring equipment to allow farmers to get oil out of peanuts, and working on the construction of a dam. Fornoff made his home in a brick house with an iron-sheet roof surrounded by friendly neighbors. Over time, he came to grips with rural Malawi’s relatively primitive lifestyle. He became accustomed to hauling his water from a bore hole 60 yards away. He learned to fend off the termites that crawled through a crack in his concrete floor, wiggled into a wicker basket and made themselves at home in his clothing. And when villagers presented him with a huge snake they had killed, he skinned it, gutted it and cooked it up. “It’s a lot like fish, though slightly chewy,” he wrote. “Not too bad fried up with an onion and some seasoning.” A Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi must be a self-starter to take on tasks that can benefit the residents of the area, who seemed to be on the passive side, Fornoff said. “If a volunteer wants to get tangible results in two years … that person can’t sit and wait for the community to come to them,” he wrote. “I know I can make a difference here, and there are people who want to help and will work. But they know I’m here. Why won’t they use me?”

Matt Fornoff's two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country

Peace Corps member looks to continue adventures in Africa

By Art Drake
GateHouse News Service

Posted May 15, 2009 @ 01:33 PM
Last update May 15, 2009 @ 01:39 PM
PEKIN, Ill. —

Two years of adventure in Africa weren’t enough for Matt Fornoff.

The Manito-area native’s two-year enlistment in the Peace Corps ended on April 24, but he decided to look for work in Malawi or in a nearby African country. If nothing turns up, he expects to travel and eventually head back to the U.S.

But somehow, the adventure will continue.

“Most of my friends think I’m pretty crazy not having a definite plan…” he wrote in an e-mail. “But I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK. It’s scary, but exciting too.”

Uncertain prospects in an impoverished African country would frighten most Americans accustomed to quick trips to the supermarket and convenient and reliable supplies of water and electricity. But during his two years in Malawi, Fornoff learned a lot about coping.

On Feb. 25, 2007, Fornoff said goodbye to his parents, Ken and Kathie Fornoff, and left the family farm two miles north of Manito to start his trek to Malawi. A graduate of Midwest Central High School and the University of Illinois, Fornoff was 25 years old, single and working as a manager for the Washington and Perry County Farm Bureau when he decided it was time for a change.

For the past two years, he has worked and played in subtropical Malawi, teaching people in his rural village to make soap, acquiring equipment to allow farmers to get oil out of peanuts, and working on the construction of a dam.

Fornoff made his home in a brick house with an iron-sheet roof surrounded by friendly neighbors. Over time, he came to grips with rural Malawi’s relatively primitive lifestyle. He became accustomed to hauling his water from a bore hole 60 yards away. He learned to fend off the termites that crawled through a crack in his concrete floor, wiggled into a wicker basket and made themselves at home in his clothing.

And when villagers presented him with a huge snake they had killed, he skinned it, gutted it and cooked it up.

“It’s a lot like fish, though slightly chewy,” he wrote. “Not too bad fried up with an onion and some seasoning.”

A Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi must be a self-starter to take on tasks that can benefit the residents of the area, who seemed to be on the passive side, Fornoff said.

“If a volunteer wants to get tangible results in two years … that person can’t sit and wait for the community to come to them,” he wrote. “I know I can make a difference here, and there are people who want to help and will work. But they know I’m here. Why won’t they use me?”

Fornoff asked his friends to donate $1,000 toward the dam project, and they came up with about $5,000. The extra money went to local schools and irrigation projects. That experience convinced Fornoff that a donation to a Peace Corps volunteer is an effective and economical way to help people.

“If you give me $20 to go toward a dam or a school or HIV/AIDS project, I’m going to spend $20,” he said. “There’s no red tape bureaucracy, no staff or shipping fees.”

Obtaining the money for the dam was the easy part, it turned out. Fornoff waited 2 1/2 months for one hardware store to deliver supplies for the project. He gave up and tried a different store, which delivered the goods in a week.

And in between his Peace Corps work, he grabbed the chance to travel in Malawi and neighboring countries. He glimpsed the occasional leopard or baboon and soaked in some of the most magnificent scenery on Earth.

A highlight of Fornoff’s stay in Africa was the November visit from his father and his sister, Theresa.

“Some volunteers go more than two years without seeing any familiar face from America,” he wrote.

Another pleasure of Fornoff’s Peace Corps mission was the opportunity to share his experience with family and friends at home. Terri Heinhorst’s geography class at Midwest Central High School sent a pile of questions along with a care package full of goodies.

In response, Fornoff wrote that Malawi is a peaceful country with little tourism compared to its neighbors, a description that might run counter to media portrayals of a violent Africa.

“Remember, Africa is a big continent, and what you see in the movies or on the news happens in relatively small areas,” he wrote to the class. “Yes, most of the continent suffers from poverty, and almost every country is classified as ‘developing.’ But that doesn’t mean everyone in every country is shooting and killing.”

Malawians have their share of misconceptions about America too, Fornoff added. The two economies are so different that it’s tough to explain one culture to another, he said.

As his days in the Peace Corps wound down, Fornoff realized that he’ll miss some aspects of life in his small village: the quiet lifestyle, the scenery, the neighbor kids on his front porch.

“Even though I’m not sad to be ending this experience, I have fallen in love with Africa and hope to spend more time here in my life,” he wrote. “It’s been a crazy two years, and I’ve loved it! I have almost no regrets about doing this and I’d recommend it to EVERYONE!”

Pekin Times





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Story Source: Galesburg Register-Mail

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malawi

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