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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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GW ranks among top Peace Corps schools

More GW students are helping build homes and feed the impoverished around the world as the University climbed three spots to rank 22 on the Peace Corps’ 2001 list of top Peace Corps universities.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison topped the list for the third year in a row, with 93 volunteers. GW tied the Miami University (Ohio) by sending 36 alumni abroad.

Other local colleges in the top 25 include Georgetown University at 21, University of Maryland at 23 and American University at 24.

“At a school like GW, students are really into giving back,” said Sherlene McCarther, a D.C. Peace Corps recruiter. “They want to help not only in the United States but also overseas.”

McCarther said that schools with strong community service programs, like GW, often send large numbers of students into programs like the Peace Corps.

More than 7,000 volunteers are working in 77 countries, mostly in Africa and Europe. McCarther said the Peace Corps is looking for volunteers for the two-year term “who are adventurous, love to learn and have a desire to help.”

While the organization does not want to scare anyone off with its extensive application process, McCarther said the Peace Corps looks for people with certain talents and knowledge. Each country may require or request different skills – such as how to build a bridge or business skills. She said everyone has a specific skill that can be applied to the region where it is needed most.

The 12-page initial application includes questions ranging from knowledge of CPR and emergency medical procedures to the ability to raise and grow a vegetable garden. The nine- to 12-month process also includes an in-depth interview and a federal background check.

Benefits to service include the coverage of housing and travel costs, possible deferment of college loans, comprehensive medical and dental coverage, 24 vacation days a year and a $6,075 stipend after the completion of service.

Volunteers can work in education, business, environment, agricultural, healthcare and community development. McCarther said 36 percent of current volunteers are in education, followed by 21 percent in healthcare.

“The regions which currently request the most volunteers are Central and Eastern Europe,” McCarther said. “Many students want to go to Spanish-speaking countries to enhance their knowledge, because Spanish has almost become a second language in the United States.”

She added that Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America comprise the most competitive region, because there are the fewest amount of positions open in the area.

Once students are approved to travel, there are special Peace Corps placement officers that match them to a country’s requests. Volunteers have the right to refuse the country’s invitation.

Most volunteers do not turn down their bid “because every experience is unique,” said Jabu Salazar, a volunteer who served in South Africa. He said he enjoyed his time, even extending it to three years. Salazar said he met thousands of people when he served in South Africa, where he worked on projects ranging from education to AIDS awareness.

McCarther said Salazar’s experience is not uncommon, adding “we have a lot of people who fully enjoy their services.”

Since Sept. 11, McCarther said there has been a greater security concern.

“This is a crazy world, so we just stay on top and are prepared,” she said. “We work closely with the ambassadors of all of the countries where volunteers are located. If there are even rumors of problems, we pull the volunteers out immediately.”

McCarther said the agency has not changed much from its conception in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy asked a group of college students at the University of Michigan “to serve their country and the cause of peace.”

Ambassadors, successful businessmen, educators, journalists and politicians, including political commentator Chris Matthews and Health Secretary Donna Shalala, are among Peace Corps alumni.

More than 162,000 volunteers and 135 countries later, McCarther said the Corps “is an agency which is going to pay you to help you experience the most.”

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