Sept. 20, 2005
By Jennifer Cochran
Want to know where the crunchy grain quinoa is grown? Or where your bananas come from? June Ginther can tell you. They are just two of the crops grown in Ecuador where Ginther served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer working on alternative agriculture projects.
Today, Ginther is the campus recruiter for the Peace Corps and a graduate student studying international development with a focus on economic development and health, apart of the Center for International Studies at Ohio University. She plans to pursue a second master's degree in public health.
Ginther, a native of Chilicothe, first became interested in the Peace Corps after attending an information session at Ohio State University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in international studies. At that point, she was a sophomore and not yet ready to join, but she told her sister Jessie about the opportunities to serve abroad in the Peace Corps. Jessie applied and was sent to serve in Bolivia. Meanwhile, June got her first taste of international travel by studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She later visited her sister in Bolivia, an experience that confirmed her desire to join the Peace Corps herself.
"I'd always been interested in speaking Spanish and in Latino culture," said Ginther. She added that despite studying Spanish in high school and college, she still had a lot to learn.
Ginther was assigned to a village of about 200 residents called Dies de Agosto, near Puyo, Ecuador. Her days typically began at 4 or 5 a.m. when she helped her friend milk cows. She worked with a group of women on an integrated farm, helped improve bookkeeping practices in the local cheese factory and established an environmental education program in the local school. Although her primary project involved alternative agriculture, Ginther provided health education as well. She traveled to three nearby communities with a team of Ecuadorian health care providers to teach about nutrition and help establish family gardens.
She said she misses the slow-paced lifestyle in Ecuador. "Everyone was my neighbor," she said. "Everyone was so open and so eager to be my friend. It was nice having that feeling of closeness and community."
In the evenings, Ginther joined other women as they gathered to play basketball or soccer. "Women were really strong in my community," she said. "That's why I was able to get a lot done."
In addition to improving her Spanish, Ginther learned many other things while in Ecuador. "I learned patience," she said, adding that she also learned to enjoy being alone and to appreciate life more. "I notice things a lot more than I used to," she explained.
Her experience has also aided her in her studies. "It gave me a less naïve, more genuine appreciation for studying developing countries," she said.
After completing her service as a Peace Corps volunteer, Ginther remained in Ecuador to train other volunteers. Since her return to the United States, she has worked as a high school Spanish teacher and has had led groups of students on trips to Mexico and Ecuador.
In Ecuador this summer, Ginther led a group of student volunteers who were on a community service project, and also assisted with a Chagas disease prevention project led by Ohio University's Tropical Disease Institute.
There are 38 Ohio University graduates now serving in the Peace Corps. For more information on the Peace Corps visit:
To contact Ginther directly, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 593-0490. Ohio University's Peace Corps recruiting office is located in Yamada International House.
Jennifer Cochran is the Assistant Director for Communications and Graduate Programming at the Center for International Studies.