Peace Corps volunteers still serving

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    By KERSTIN SMIT

    The Peace Corps still sends volunteers to developing nations, 35 years after President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order to create “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

    Kennedy said he wanted “500 or more people in the field by the end of the year,” in a 1961 press statement. Today there are over 7,000 volunteers serving in 94 countries, and 60 of them are from Utah.

    Sharon Fuller, a Peace Corps recruiter, will come to BYU Thursday and Friday this week for her third recruiting visit. She will be in the stepdown lounge of the Wilkinson Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She will also host a film called “Completely Alive,” which details experiences of current Peace Corps volunteers. The movie will be in 368 ELWC at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18 and at noon on Jan. 19.

    She said BYU is more enthusiastic towards the program than any of the schools she visits, but she has difficulty getting completed applications.

    “That’s been our experience so far,” she said, “but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

    Kathy Nelson, a BYU graduate in English, turned in her application saying she was willing to go anywhere. She served for the Peace Corps in Latvia from 1992-94, teaching English and helping Latvian teachers communicate with students.

    She said she taught alternatives to negative reinforcement teaching methods. Because 80 percent of her students never had a teacher who spoke English as their native language, so her experience as a native-English speaker was valuable to them.

    Over 220 BYU graduates, mostly education students like Nelson, have served in the Peace Corps since 1961, according to a press release from the Peace Corps Denver office. Other Peace Corps volunteers work in public health, mechanics, agribusiness and other areas.

    “Every single Peace Corps experience is different,” Nelson said, adding that the Corps gives people a lot of opportunities to share their skills. “Any talent you have will be used,” she said. “It’s a good place to learn who you are.”

    Nelson served when she was 27 years old, making her part of the 92 percent of volunteers who are 49 years and younger. The oldest Peace Corps volunteer is 86. Fuller said volunteers must have at least a bachelor’s degree and no dependents, although she said married couples (with no dependents) make up seven percent of Peace Corps volunteers.

    The Peace Corps provides a monthly allowance for food, housing, clothing and incidentals. Free medical and dental care, transportation to the overseas site and 24 vacation days per year are also given, according to a Peace Corps brochure.

    Nelson said she traveled to several countries including Poland and Italy before returning home.

    For more information, call 1-800-424-8580 and press “1.”

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