Cherry Valley, Ill., native begins Peace Corps service in Mozambique

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Joshua Sorensen, 25, of Cherry Valley, Ill., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Mozambique on Sept. 21 to begin training as a secondary education biology teacher. Sorensen will live and work at the community level teaching biology and chemistry in Portuguese to high school students in his area. He will also participate in secondary projects such as science fairs, life skills activities and English theater competitions.

“I have always loved being immersed in other cultures and learning about new places and languages, and I knew the Peace Corps would allow me to represent my country in a peaceful and positive way,” Sorensen said. “I felt that the Peace Corps would allow me an invaluable opportunity to improve and grow as a person.” Continue reading “Cherry Valley, Ill., native begins Peace Corps service in Mozambique”

Berrien Springs, Mich., resident begins Peace Corps service in Mozambique

Soos.Alexandra_MozambiqueAlexandra Soos, 22, of Berrien Springs, Mich., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Mozambique Sept. 21 to begin training as a secondary education chemistry teacher volunteer. Soos will live and work at the community level teaching chemistry in Portuguese to high school students.

“I joined the Peace Corps for the opportunity to be involved in secondary projects,” said Soos. “I also want to learn more about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the initiative Let Girls Learn and the health and education systems in developing countries.” Continue reading “Berrien Springs, Mich., resident begins Peace Corps service in Mozambique”

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”

Three fathers teach Rwandan Peace Corps volunteer valuable lessons

Peace Corps Midwest Recruiter Meghan Costello with two of the Fathers from her Parish in Rwanda.
Peace Corps Midwest Recruiter Meghan Costello with two of the Fathers from her Parish in Rwanda.

Part of the Peace Corps experience is finding a family away from home. Many volunteers develop deep relationships with their host fathers that extend well beyond their two years of service. As a volunteer in Rwanda, Peace Corps Midwest Recruiter Meghan Costello didn’t have a host father – she had three. For Father’s Day, Meghan describes the lessons they taught her and how those memories have stayed with her.

“Umuryango. Mu’mucho muRwanda, abantu bose bari umuryango.” Today in Rwanda, all strive to be one family.

“Turi umuryango,” we are family, is heard in classrooms and on radios across the rolling green hills and over smoky charcoal fires. The country is healing, and part of that is accepting everyone as family.

As a recently arrived Peace Corps volunteer, in 2010, the idea of family sounded really good. I had just picked up my life and moved to a post-genocide country across the world. For the next 27 months I would be without my mother and father, my siblings and friends. I was there to share my education and skills through integration into a new culture. I was eager to learn as much as I could. Continue reading “Three fathers teach Rwandan Peace Corps volunteer valuable lessons”

Son’s Peace Corps service inspires retiree parents to make a difference as volunteers

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Elsa and Jeff Shaver wash clothes in Botswana.

 

Elsa Shaver had walked by a stack of mail nearly 50 times before the headline on a magazine jumped at her: “My two years in the Peace Corps as an electrical engineer.” Her son Lee was approaching his graduation from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, where he studied electrical engineering, and unsure about his next step. As she read the article, she was more convinced that Peace Corps was the right fit for her son.

That article would launch a path to Peace Corps for not only Lee, but for Elsa and her husband, Jeff, as well. The three Shavers, originally from Syracuse, N.Y., but now living in Madison, Wis., are all returned Peace Corps volunteers, with Lee serving in El Salvador from 2007-09 and Elsa and Jeff serving in Botswana from 2012-14. Continue reading “Son’s Peace Corps service inspires retiree parents to make a difference as volunteers”

Peace Corps runs in the family for daughter, mother, grandmother

Janet Pershing, Jan Larsen and Abby Pershing
Janet Pershing, Jan Larsen and Abby Pershing

As a kid, Abby Pershing thought she had the coolest mom. She grew up listening to her mother, Janet (Larsen) Pershing, speak Bambara, which sounded like secret-agent talk to Abby but is actually a language of Mali, where Janet served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1983-85.

Through her mother’s words and photos, Peace Corps seemed like a grand adventure, but Abby was able to see life as a volunteer up close when she visited her grandmother in Burkina Faso. Inspired by her daughter Janet, Jan Larsen also made a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, serving from 2010-12.

In February, Abby, of Rockville, Md., will follow in both of their footsteps and begin her own Peace Corps service in Senegal.

“I received my invitation to serve while on a trip with my grandmother, so she was the first to find out,” said Abby, who graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and public policy. “It was really special to share that with her. She is so excited that I am joining the Peace Corps, particularly given that Burkina Faso and Senegal are both in West Africa.” Continue reading “Peace Corps runs in the family for daughter, mother, grandmother”

Mother of two Peace Corps volunteers felt more pride than worry

Allie, Grant, Ann, Ben and Tom Comstock in Madagascar while visiting Allie who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country, from 2005-07. Grant also became a Peace Corps volunteer, in Lesotho from 2010-12.
Allie, Grant, Ann, Ben and Tom Comstock in Madagascar while visiting Allie who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country, from 2005-07. Grant also became a Peace Corps volunteer, in Lesotho from 2010-12.

Anne Comstock understands the mix of swelling pride and lingering worry that comes as the mother of a Peace Corps volunteer. But the Cincinnati-area resident didn’t just send one child off to serve in Africa for two years; she sent two.

Anne’s daughter, Allie, 31, served in Madagascar as a nutrition education volunteer from 2005-07,  and son Grant, 28, was a community health extension volunteer in Lesotho from 2010-12.

“I often get asked what we did as parents that resulted in two of our three kids volunteering for Peace Corps,” said Anne, who raised her children in Richmond, Va. “The answer is nothing; we just got very lucky. They are two of the best people I know.” Continue reading “Mother of two Peace Corps volunteers felt more pride than worry”