Celebrating and sharing history and cultures – Peace Corps volunteer finds passion through service in Malawi

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When Nyassa Kollie’s father thinks about his childhood and the hurdles he overcame in pursuit of his education, he replays the voices of encouragement telling him that he could do anything, even earn a doctorate in chemistry. Similarly, when Kollie’s mother faced obstacles growing up, it was the voices of hope that prevailed and lifted her up, reminding her that her education mattered.

Those voices her parents heard belonged to Peace Corps volunteers.

Kollie, now a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, wouldn’t fully grasp the motivation that fueled her father’s passion for education, or of the love her mother had for the volunteers who defined her youth until years later. Continue reading “Celebrating and sharing history and cultures – Peace Corps volunteer finds passion through service in Malawi”

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”

Antioch, Illinois, Native Selected For Peace Corps Service in Sierra Leone

Name: Jonathan Bieschke

Hometown: Antioch, Illinois

College:Carroll University

Major: English literature

Jonathan Bieschke, 23, of Antioch, Illinois, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Sierra Leone on August 3 to begin training as a secondary education English teacher. This program is the first to re-enter Sierra Leone after Peace Corps suspended its programs due to the Ebola outbreak. As an education volunteer, Bieschke will work at the community level to teach English to students in seventh through 10th grade. He will empower youth to live healthy, productive and active lives by improving extra-curricular activities and life skills classes.

Continue reading “Antioch, Illinois, Native Selected For Peace Corps Service in Sierra Leone”

Creating healthy homes: Illinois native inspires families in Peru to adopt healthy behaviors

KHanson PC4When Kate Hanson, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, began planning her Healthy Homes project, meant to improve general health throughout her community, she anticipated participation from the families to wane throughout its eight-week duration. Other volunteers who had done similar projects told her many families lose motivation after a few weeks, with sometimes less than half completing the program.

However, Kate started with 54 families and ended with 54 families.

“When I look back on my service, the Healthy Homes project is definitely the project I am most proud of,” said Hanson, 25. “I think it speaks to the incredible team I was working with and the families themselves.” Continue reading “Creating healthy homes: Illinois native inspires families in Peru to adopt healthy behaviors”

Chicago Native Begins Peace Corps Service in China

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Jessica Bustamante, 29, of Chicago, Illinois, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for China June 17 to begin training as a secondary education English teacher trainer. Bustamante will work at the community level to teach college-level students basic English writing and listening skills. She will provide her students with the necessary training needed to become primary and middle school teachers throughout the community.

“I was with my twin sister, Janette, when I received a notification of my acceptance,” said Bustamante. “My heart dropped suddenly, and the moment felt surreal as I told her that I had been invited to serve in China. A part of me still feels that way. We hugged each other, and I clearly remember Janette saying, ‘June 2016 is going to be here before you know it.’ Indeed, it’s here already.” Continue reading “Chicago Native Begins Peace Corps Service in China”

Naperville, Illinois, resident begins Peace Corps service in Togo

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Austin Maggard (right) with his mother Masami Maggard (left). Austin will depart for Togo on June 8.

Austin Maggard, 22, of Naperville, Illinois, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Togo on June 8 to begin training as a secondary English teacher. Maggard will work at the community level to train new English teachers on techniques to employ in the classroom and create a community of practice among his counterparts in Togo. He will also work closely with the English and gender education project in collaboration with other volunteers to organize girls’ conferences, youth camps and vacation enterprise activities within his community.

“My grandfather put the idea in my head when I was a freshman at Miami University. He described the organization in magnificent ways and believed that I had the values that they look for in volunteers,” he said. “It is one of those things that I knew I would regret for the rest of my life if I did not at least apply. My motto is: ‘Life isn’t fair. So let’s make it fair.’ Rather than feel bad about the injustices and problems around the word, I would rather go out and make a difference.” Continue reading “Naperville, Illinois, resident begins Peace Corps service in Togo”

Discrimination in the Dominican Republic empowers Peace Corps volunteer

Self Love

Deandra Bass’ counterparts warned her not to dip into the hot Dominican sun: “It will make your skin too dark,” they offered. They made those comments not out of malice or discrimination, but out of love and protection.  As an African-American Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, Bass could blend in with her local community – for the most part. But at times, she danced with the color line, causing some to question if her skin was not of Dominican decent, but of Haitian. This ambiguity exposed her to an ongoing political struggle that was bigger than her.

“Some volunteers were asked to get off buses and not allowed to travel because they were dark-skinned and looked Haitian,” said Bass, who served from 2012-15. “I once was questioned for my identification to prove I was not Haitian. Luckily, I had the support of fellow volunteers who advocated on my behalf and, fortunately, I was not asked to leave the bus.” Continue reading “Discrimination in the Dominican Republic empowers Peace Corps volunteer”