Merriell Moyer, email@example.com
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet joined Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) at Lebanon Valley College Wednesday to speak with students about the value of making a difference through Peace Corps service.
The Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and nearly 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 140 countries worldwide tackling the most pressing needs of people around the world, according to a Peace Corps press release.
Pennsylvania is ranked as the number five Peace Corps volunteer-producing state in the nation, with 286 currently-serving Peace Corps volunteers calling the Keystone State home, according to statistics provided by the Peace Corps.
“Pennsylvania has a long tradition of supporting American development efforts throughout the world and in particular with its relationship to the Peace Corps,” Dent said. “The Peace Corps likes visiting Pennsylvania because we’ve provided a lot of very good volunteers over the years – a diverse group that has made a real impact.”
Dent said he worked to help set up the event because he is on the appropriations sub-committee that deals with foreign operations in the State Department, which funds the Peace Corps.
“For a relatively small investment, we get a great return in the form of very good will through much of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the Peace Corps has had a huge impact, and people there have a generally favorable view of the U.S. in no small part because of that,” Dent said. “It has been an important part of our diplomatic efforts.”
Hessler-Radelet thinks Pennsylvanians make good Peace Corps volunteers for a number of reasons.
“Pennsylvanians are a hearty people – they are resilient – and many of them come from small villages and towns, so the idea of living and working in a small village may not be such a big leap for them,” she said. “Many people here in Pennsylvania are exposed to other cultures and languages just because it is one of our larger states and a state that is internationally focused.”
Hessler-Radelet, who grew up in Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., was made director of the Peace Corps in June 2014, and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer with more than two decades of experience. Four generations of her family have served as Peace Corps volunteers, according to Hessler-Radelet.
“When you sign up with the Peace Corps, you are signing up for total immersion in a community,” Hessler-Radelet said. “It is a life-changing experience. You live and work side-by-side with your community and become a part of that community.”
To cement that idea in the minds of those present at the event, a Skype call was set up with Mark Goldy-Brown, Community-Based Environmental Management Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Peru.
“I live on a farm where they have pigs, chickens and guinea pigs,” Goldy-Brown said. “Here in Peru, guinea pigs are not pets, they are food – they are quite tasty.”
The first time eating one was a little alarming, according to Goldy-Brown.
"When they serve it to you, they peel off all the fur, roast it and stick it on a plate,” he said. “You can see the legs, the teeth and everything, and you just have to pick it apart. It is a little frightening at first since most of the food you get in the U.S. doesn’t look like it was just alive.”
Raising guinea pigs as food is environmentally friendly since raising them has a smaller environmental impact than cows, sheep or chickens because you can raise them in a smaller space and they are higher in protein content, according to Goldy-Brown.
The main focus for Goldy-Brown’s work in Peru is trash management, something which the country only began to be concerned about in 2008, Goldy-Brown said.
“Peru is just recently implementing a lot of environmental practices we’ve had in place for a long time in the U.S.,” he said.
At least one student at Lebanon Valley College is considering serving in the Peace Corps.
“I’m looking at the Peace Corps as an option because I’ve always been interested in traveling,” Michael Butcher, 21, Frederick County, Md., said. “I just want to represent the U.S. and give back to communities around the world to those who may not have the chance at the same opportunities I’ve had.”