Midwest Region Recruiter Kera Halvorson visited campus on Nov. 5 to educate students on possibilities of volunteering through the Peace Corps.
“I served as a health promotion volunteer in Turkmenistan where I specifically focused on a maternal family health project,” Halvorson said. “I was there to educate pregnant women and women in general regarding personal issues they were normally too embarrassed to talk about.”
Most of the volunteer opportunities with the Peace Corps fall under six categories: education, agriculture, youth and community development, environment, health and HIV/AIDS, and business information and communication technology. According to the Peace Corps website, 90 percent of volunteer positions require a four-year college degree.
“I fell in love with my study abroad experience during college and found there’s no better and cheaper way to live abroad than through the Peace Corps,” Halvorson said.
The length of service is 27 months, which includes an average of three months of in-country training for language, technical skills and safety awareness. The Peace Corps considers hobbies, work and volunteer experience when placing participants. There is a Peace Corps office in every country in case volunteers feel unsafe or need assistance.
Chris Yahnke, the chairman of the biology department, volunteered in the Peace Corps in Paraguay for 27 months.
“I would say I struggled initially adjusting to the pace of life and how difficult it was to accomplish seemingly simple tasks,” Yahnke said. “I learned people were more important than progress. If you visit my office, I keep a Paraguayan hammock to remind me of that principle and to remain tranquil.”
The organization is a federally funded corporation, so it is free for volunteers. Each volunteer is given a living stipend along with $7,425 upon completion of his or her service. Returned volunteers also receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility for employment in the federal government.
“The Peace Corps is not for those looking to make money,” Halvorson said. “It’s all about making a difference in the lives of our volunteers and then our friends and family upon returning home.”
Halvorson said reverse culture shock is often experienced upon returning home, but there are multiple support groups for Peace Corps volunteers that can help in reallocating oneself with the states.
“This is an opportunity to learn and be the best face the U.S. has to offer,” Yahnke said. “It is an opportunity to practice resourcefulness, see what it feels like to be a minority and put 10 years of personal growth into two years of life. It is your classroom on how to drink deeply from life. If you don’t return with new eyes, you did it wrong.”