Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold

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Heather Mangan, center, served in Peace Corps Lesotho, from 2011-13.

I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I had student loans. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because it would break my mother’s heart to leave for two years. I couldn’t do Peace Corps because I was on a career path and volunteering would certainly disrupt my professional climb.

These are all reasons I justified not applying to the Peace Corps when I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2007. Instead, I took a reporting job at a small daily newspaper and began living the typical American life with bills, a time card, and not enough vacation time.

The whim to join the Peace Corps, which came to me one night while procrastinating on my French homework, didn’t perish after I entered the work force. Rather, it bloomed into a full life goal. All those reasons I had used to convince myself that Peace Corps wasn’t for me could no longer overcome this picture I had in my head of being at the end of my life and not having experienced the Peace Corps. That imagined regret motivated me to apply. Continue reading “Why serving in the Peace Corps isn’t putting your career on hold”

Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures

Like most Peace Corps volunteers, Kera Halvorson knew little about the local culture and couldn’t speak the language when she began her service as a maternal and family health volunteer in Turkmenistan in 2010. Soon, though, she was immersed in a new culture and formed close bonds with people in her community. Gujemal Mammentmyradova was a friend to Kera who eventually became like family. During Kera’s two years in Turkmenistan, the two watched movies and ate sunflower seeds. Kera helped Gujemal translate English songs, and Gujemal invited Kera to weddings and updated her wardrobe to include local attire.

After Kera completed her service and returned home, the two kept in touch, and Gujemal told Kera about her lifelong dream of studying in the U.S. With Kera’s guidance, Gujemal earned a scholarship and in the fall of 2015 began studying elementary education at South Dakota State University.

Before starting school she stopped in Chicago to see Kera, her first trip ever to the U.S. In April, Kera visited Gujemal on the campus of SDSU. She was able to meet Gujemal’s host family and see where she lives. Gujemal will soon begin her sophomore year at SDSU and hopes to stay in the U.S. to receive a master’s degree and potentially a doctorate before returning to Turkmenistan to work in education. Throughout their friendship, Kera and Gujemal have had to navigate cultural differences and help each other in very dedicated ways. However, it’s only brought them closer. In the video above, the two talk about how they met, their reunion, and why their friendship is so important to each of them. Continue reading “Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures”

Michigan Tech student, S.D. native to serve in Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic

Peace Corps Masters International House at Michigan Tech.  Clockwise from the top left: Sam Clair, a current volunteer in Peru; Cole Bedford; Jomara Laboy, an invitee for Cameroon; and Eduardo Cabret, an RPCV from The Gambia and Lesotho
Peace Corps Masters International House at Michigan Tech. Clockwise from the top left: Sam Clair, a current volunteer in Peru; Cole Bedford; Jomara Laboy, an invitee for Cameroon; and Eduardo Cabret, an RPCV from The Gambia and Lesotho

Cole Bedford, 23, of Sturgis, S.D., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Kyrgyz Republic April 22 to begin training as a health extension volunteer. Bedford will live and work at the community level to raise awareness about the need for health education. He will work with community leaders and peer educators to teach families and youth about basic nutrition and sanitation, prevention of non-communicable diseases, reproductive health, and prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Continue reading “Michigan Tech student, S.D. native to serve in Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic”

Canton, Ill., native begins Peace Corps service in Malawi

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Amber Furness, 25, of Canton, Ill., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Malawi March 2 to begin training as a natural resource management extension volunteer. Furness will live and work at the community level outside of a national park or forest reserve to improve use of local natural resources through forestry management and promoting better food security with soil and water management. Her possible projects include establishing and managing fruit trees, educating community members on improved cook stoves and encouraging composting, mulching, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, small scale irrigation and permaculture.

“I am excited to learn about new cultures and advance my knowledge of environmental management in a service-oriented position,” Furness said. “Connecting with the people of Malawi will mean new friendships and perspectives that I can share in the U.S. I know that this will be a unique, life-changing experience that I will always cherish.” Continue reading “Canton, Ill., native begins Peace Corps service in Malawi”

Meet Your Peace Corps Central Recruiter: Krista Mastel

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Name: Krista Mastel
Country of Service: Mongolia, 2011-2014
Assignment: English Education, Health
Recruitment Territory: Northwest Minnesota, North Dakota

Why did you apply to the Peace Corps?
I joined the Peace Corps largely because I wanted to share my skills while traveling. With my background in anthropology I had an appreciation for diverse cultures but had yet to gain first-hand experience living and working abroad. Peace Corps gave me the opportunity to share my skills overseas while also allowing me to gain the cross-culture experience I was looking for. Continue reading “Meet Your Peace Corps Central Recruiter: Krista Mastel”

Strong belief in public service led South Dakota resident to Peace Corps service in Tanzania

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Dennis “DJ” Smith, 22, of Mitchell, S.D., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Tanzania Feb. 8 to begin training as a health education volunteer. Smith will live and work at the community level to make a difference building the capacity of primary school teachers, students, out-of-school youth, community groups and health service providers to understand and promote health in their communities. In addition, he will help raise awareness about primary health care and other related health issues, particularly HIV/AIDS.

“I joined the Peace Corps because of my strong beliefs in public service and passion for helping others,” Smith said. “I hope to be able to make a difference and be able to not only teach, but to learn from a different culture and group of people.” Continue reading “Strong belief in public service led South Dakota resident to Peace Corps service in Tanzania”

South Dakotan joins Peace Corps to gain new world perspectives

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Alex Spencer, left, pictured with his nephew Christian Dewolfe and older brother Matt Dewolfe.

 

Alex Spencer, 25, of Rapid City, S.D., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Ghana Feb. 1 to begin training as a community health volunteer. Spencer will live and work at the community level to make a difference promoting positive behavior changes. He will organize projects with the goal of improving maternal and child health, reducing cases of malaria, increasing knowledge on ways to prevent HIV/AIDS and improving water, sanitation and hygiene.

“I have been interested in joining the Peace Corps since I was 14 years old. When I was younger I viewed volunteers as heroes because they travel the world and help those who need it,” Spencer said. “However, as I have gotten older, I realize that even though I still want to help people around the world, I also have a desire to open my own perspective of life to the different cultures and people out there.” Continue reading “South Dakotan joins Peace Corps to gain new world perspectives”