May 27, 2020

Peace Corps offers challenges, rewards

Stumbling out of bed only to fight the surrounding mosquito net is enough to make most people want to crawl back under the covers.

Not Julia Clawson, a Fresno State graduate who dealt with pesky mosquitoes, bucket baths and daily motorbike commutes as a Peace Crops volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

Clawson, who worked at a school teaching computer classes and workshops, said she enjoyed the experience.

“It is a great way to serve others,� she said. “Listen to the people you are serving. In quiet ways, you will see the best way to serve them.�

The Peace Corps is made up of volunteers like Clawson who serve in developing countries to fulfill the corps’ mission of promoting world peace and friendship.

Volunteers have the opportunity to serve in one of 75 countries for 24 months.

While serving, volunteers live in communities and work to educate the people of that community.

Former volunteer Mona Nyandoro served in the Peace Corps in forestry and community development and was a recruiter from 2001 to 2006.

“It’s not easy being away from family and friends,� she said. “You live minimally but it can be positive. You learn to appreciate things.�

Requirements for volunteers include: U.S. citizenship, being 18 years of age and in good health.

“Volunteers should be in fairly good health,� Nyandoro said. “There is a medical screening which is pretty intensive because you are going away for two years.�

The entire length of Peace Corps involvement is 27 months. Prior to the 24 month assignment, volunteers train for three months in the country they are assigned.

“Volunteers have three months of training in language, skills, medical and safety,� Nyandoro said.

Volunteers can have various work experience and education levels and there is no upper age limit. In fact, about 8 percent of volunteers are over the age of 55, Nyandoro said.

A typical profile of a volunteer is a recent college graduate at the average age of 26. Most volunteers are in the fields of liberal studies or agriculture; although all degrees are welcome, Nyandoro said.

“[Good characteristics] for a volunteer to have are: patience, open mindedness, self motivation and friendliness,� Clawson said.

There are six general categories in which volunteers are needed including: education, health, agriculture, environment, business development and information technology.

Volunteers are provided with a living allowance that makes it possible for them to live similar to the local people.

The cost of medical and dental care is covered as well as the transportation to and from the country in which they are providing their service.

Upon completion of service, volunteers are given $6,000 as a “readjustment allowance,� Nyandoro said.

“You get to teach people and serve as a bridge between two countries,� Nyandoro said. “You learn so much.�

When applying, volunteers can state preferences on where they want to serve, however, placement is mostly done according to need and the skills of the volunteer, Nyandoro said.

“There is certain flexibility with placement,� Nyandoro said. “But volunteers go where they are invited to serve. [Those countries] are happy for people to be there and volunteers are well received.�

Nyandoro suggests applying up to one year in advance of leaving.

“I was so excited to get out and serve,� Clawson said. “I was most worried about what to pack,�
“Do it,� she said. “It is an amazing experience.�

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