May 072006
 
Authors: Emily Lance

Peace Corps officials urged Brooke Harless not to take monkeys as pets.

In the dense forests of Guyana, the primates run rampant and are often abducted as pets by Peace Corps volunteers.

Harless will be leaving for Guyana on the northern tip of South America at the end of this month to begin her volunteer work for the Peace Corps. Harless, a CSU graduate, said most of the villages in Guyana are only accessible by boat because of the marshy plains.

The two-month long training process will begin in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, to teach volunteers language, job skills and health education.

She will be teaching and concentrating on community health outreach in the village.

Harless will be placed in a remote village in the jungle or somewhere along the coast.

“I will live off the land,” Harless said. “I won’t be able to catch a cab or check into a hotel if things get rough.”

Peace Corps officials do weekly check-ups on volunteers, but Harless says the hardest part will be the loneliness.

“The culture is made up of warm people. I will be a person of trust to look to for health education,” Harless said. “But this will use every part of me.”

Burkina Faso

On June 4, Joel Turner will land in a land-locked country South of Mali called Burkina Faso.

Turner, a CSU graduate, applied for the Peace Corps in June of 2005 and received an invitation in March.

In a new program for a community outreach group, Turner will be placed as a mediator in a Burkina Faso village to help establish a Girls Empowerment Education program.

“The country has one of the lowest female literacy rates,” Turner said. “The program was set up to attempt to counter stereotypes that women are only child bearers and have no place in the work force.”

Before entering the village, Turner will be training for 11 weeks with the host family in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagodougou. In addition to the language, job and cross-cultural training, he will also be taught in malaria, HIV and AIDS awareness.

As a result of the increased spread of the HIV and AIDS virus in Africa, the Peace Corps has strengthened its training in addressing the multiple health, social and economic problems related to the epidemic. All volunteers in Africa, regardless of their primary project, will be equipped to educate their community about the virus.

Turner will be training four to six hours a day in French, the regional language in Burkina Faso. More than 40 languages are spoken within the separate villages.

“An exciting thing will be learning all the intricacies of Africa,” Turner said.

One cultural difference that came as a surprise to Turner is that using the left hand or giving an object with the left is “one of the biggest culture taboos.”

Turner is left-handed.

How to join

Generally, volunteers need a college degree or seven years experience in the field they will be applying for. Additional volunteer work is also encouraged.

“Find out as much information as possible. Web sites and blogs from Peace Corps volunteers are a great resource,” Turner said.

To begin, potential volunteers fill out an online application with general history questions about work, volunteer and study experience. Essay questions addressing a personal motivation statement and cross-cultural experience are requested.

An interview is then set up with the local representative. Christy Eylar is CSU’s campus recruiter and representative. The recruiter will determine whether the applicant will qualify for an interview with the regional representative in Denver.

After the regional interview, the representative will analyze qualifications and, if a job is available to meet the applicant’s experience, all of the documents will be sent to federal headquarters to finish final processing.

“The job placement is vague,” said Eylar, a graduate student studying anthropology. Until an invitation is sent, the applicant will not be notified to which host country they will work in.

Medical clearance and an FBI background check are assessed, which takes two to five months and then the application is sent to a placement office.

“The application process is so long, it weeds out a lot of applicants,” Turner said. “It is normally an eight-month process.”

Once the candidate finally receives the invitation, plans are made for training before the volunteer begins the assigned work. The entire service is 27 months and three of those months are set aside for training. The volunteer lives with the host family during that time.

The Peace Corps is completely paid for by the government. Volunteers are given 48 days that they can spend doing as they please. The program also covers any plane tickets purchased to fly to the United States.

“Who wouldn’t want to do this?” Turner said. “It is the only volunteer program that I know of that pays for everything.”

After returning, many students work to continue their education. With a submission of a 30-page testimony of a volunteer’s time in the Peace Corps, some universities will count two semesters of credits toward a graduate degree.

Eylar volunteered for the Peace Corps in 2001. She traveled to Boliva where she helped children build vegetable gardens and worked to raise money to build latrines in the area.

“(The Peace Corps) is a life adventure and could help mold your future,” Eylar said.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps aims to help the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women and promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served.

Informational, on-campus meetings are held nearly every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Laurel Hall. More information is available at www.peacecorps.gov.

Emily Lance can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Peace Corps Stats By the Numbers

Peace Corps officially established:

March 1, 1961

Total number of volunteers and trainees to date:

182,000

Total number of countries served:

138

Volunteers

Current number of volunteers and trainees:

7,810

Gender:

58% female, 42% male

Marital Status:

91% single, 9% married

People of Color:

16% of Peace Corps volunteers

Average age:

28 years old

Volunteers over age 50:

6% (oldest Volunteer is 79)

Education:

96% have at least an undergraduate degree, 13% have graduate studies or degrees

Current number of countries served:

70 posts serving 76 countries

Volunteers by Work Area: Education (34%), Health and HIV/AIDS (20%), Environment (16%), Business Development (16%), Agriculture (6%), Youth (3%), Other (6%)

Source: www.peacecorps.gov

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