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Finding their call

Nov. 1, 2006
By Maria Galluci and Jennifer Cochran

The call to service comes in many forms. The nearly 40 Peace Corps alums on campus and in the community have answered the call by working around the world as volunteers -- from Niger to Nicaragua, from Korea to Kazakhstan. The alums represent great diversity in their experiences, which reflect the growth of the organization over time. And many say their experiences have shaped their careers.

 

To learn more...

The next Peace Corps information session will be held Thursday, Nov. 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Friends of the Library Room on the third floor of Alden Library.

You can contact Josh O’Donnell at 593-0290 or e-mail peacecorps@ohio.edu.

 

Alan Boyd, director of International Student Services, served in Ethiopia with his wife, Sue, from 1964 to 1966. His group of more than 300 volunteers taught English mostly in secondary schools in the provincial capital of Gandar, a city of about 30,000 people. The Boyds also got involved in the community, supporting an orphanage of mostly physically handicapped children. 

Another Ohio University Peace Corps alum, assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karen Dahn, served a three-year tour in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. Serving in the early 1970s, she was first recruited to teach third grade and later conducted a choir and taught English language and literature at the high school. 

Dawn Bikowski, a faculty member of the Department of Linguistics and the Global Learning Community, served with her husband, Greg, in a community of about 1,500 in El Salvador from 1997 to 1999. She taught English and health and collaborated on water sanitation development -- a job that involved visiting individual households to make sure villagers understood basic health concepts, such as boiling or chlorinating water before use. 

A safer place

Photo courtesy of Karen DahnIn the 30 years that span these three volunteers’ experiences, the Peace Corps has seen many changes concerning communication and safety issues. Dahn said when she served in the 1970s, the corps was a much looser organization and volunteers were left to their own devices, but when she returned as an associate Peace Corps director a decade later, her role was more involved than she had seen before. She supervised training and monitored the quality of volunteers’ assignments, housing and working conditions.

Joshua O’Donnell, the Peace Corps recruiter at Ohio University, said in the past the corps provided safety and security officers at each regional post. However, since 2004 officers have been stationed in every town or city where volunteers serve to ensure health and safety and to maintain communication between volunteers and program officials.

The ability to contact home has also increased. When Boyd served in the 1960s, he and his wife used a tape recorder to capture the sounds of Gandar and their voices to send home -- the city had one radio telephone to be used only in extreme emergencies. Letters sent home took three weeks to reach the United States and families could not visit volunteers on assignment. The expense to call collect kept Dahn from speaking to her parents for two years when she served, but now volunteers have cell phones and access to e-mail and parents are welcome to visit.

Impact for a lifetime

Before her service in El Salvador, Bikowski worked in education, but it wasn’t until after she volunteered that her career gained its international focus. Since receiving her graduate degree from Ohio University in linguistics in 2001, she has taught undergraduate students about international issues, and she has taught international students about a variety of subject areas, including writing and public speaking. 

Boyd, who has worked 27 years at Ohio University, said his Peace Corps experience taught him to be very tolerant and respectful of other people, and he now feels comfortable spending time with people from other countries without being self-conscious about their differences. He said he is appreciative of his time in the corps because it opened his eyes to many cultural possibilities, and he’s spent the rest of his life working with international issues.

Dahn has worked as an administrator here since 1991, talking to undergraduate students on a daily basis about what they are going to do after graduation. She said the Peace Corps is an ideal way to bridge college and the professional world because the people a recent college graduate meets and the opportunities to be experienced in the corps could completely change his or her ideas on possible career choices.

Since its creation in 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, which is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for number of volunteers in the field. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment that has an impact for a lifetime.


Maria Gallucci is a communications assistant with the Center for International Studies. Jennifer Cochran is assistant director for communications with the Center for International Studies

 

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Published: Jan 3, 2007 9:35:38 AM
 
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