Peace Corps opportunities bridge international boundaries

Alex Johnson, News Editor

With over 250 volunteers straight from the UW-La Crosse campus, the United States Peace Corps has helped communities and people all across the globe.

As part of the Fall Career Fair, Jason Lemberg, a Peace Corps Regional Recruiter who also served as Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, spoke to students about volunteering for the Corps.

“The beauty of Peace Corps is that so many volunteers show up wanting to make a difference and we do end up making a lot of difference and having a significant impact on individuals” he said.

Founded in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has had 220,000 plus of these volunteers, with just over 6,800 current volunteers and trainees.

The beauty of Peace Corps is that so many volunteers show up wanting to make a difference and we do end up making a lot of difference and having a significant impact on individuals”

— Jason Lemberg

Of the current volunteers whose ages range from 20 to 79 years old, 63% are female, 37% are male and 95% have at least an undergraduate degree.

The Peace Corps also offers a variety of areas and occupations to serve in. The two largest, Education and Health care, have helped over 140 countries deal with problems such as climate change, disease and natural disaster.

Sharing his pride and passion for the Peace Corps’ high level of diversity, Lemberg also mentioned how “the Peace Corps represents America in a lot of different ways. And there is no one definition of who a Peace Corps volunteer is. Whether it be in terms of religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race or gender.”

Lemberg also shared personal experiences from his two years in Kyrgyzstan, detailing his many adventures with then 9-month old host sister, Sezim, and the cultural differences they both had to face together.

“In my time in Kyrgyzstan, Sezim taught me to walk, taught me to talk and was my introduction to the culture. Now, I’m seven years older and she’s seven years older. Her and I were on the perfect same level with language. She knew 10 words and so did I! We both knew the relevant information…She knew how to tell her mom and dad she was hungry, and I like to eat. Within two weeks of meeting my host family, granted two weeks, she became like my daughter. I put her on my shoulders and we would go for a walk through town. Sezim defined a lot for me,” he recalled.

The idea of Peace Corps is to open up international boundaries, cross cultural boundaries to learn from one another while ultimately becoming better as people in general, a fact that Lemberg wants everyone to know.

“In the end, the idea of making a difference is the number one thing I want people to know [about Peace Corps because it’s universal,” he explained. “You’re making a difference in the community you serve, making a difference with the people you developed a relationship with and with every person you interact with when you come back home.”

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