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Peace Corps Alumni Volunteering for New Cause

Marie Sue and Bob Parsons are part of a global network of house party hosts aiming to resurrect and expand the Peace Corps' appeal and reach.

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Marie Sue and Bob Parsons taught English to grateful islanders during their Peace Corps tour on Yap Island in the South Pacific in the late 1960s. (Parsons family photo)

Have you ever wanted to drop out of the rat race and live a simpler life, so that all of your actions will mean something important in the lives of others? There’s a way. It’s called the Peace Corps.

“It was a really good experience,” said Marie Sue Parsons, local real estate agent and Peace Corps alumna. In the late 1960s she and her husband, Bob, went to the Island of Yap, a system of four small islands joined by a coral reef in the remote Pacific.

The couple, along with four other volunteers, taught English to the indigenous people, but not before they learned a little Yapese themselves.

“We trained for a couple months in Florida, and we did well, but we did way better when we got there, we had no choice,” Parsons said.

Thanks to their work and the work of other volunteers who went to Micronesia, Yap and the other islands in what eventually became the Federated States of Micronesia are united by a single language — the English that the Parsonses and others taught the islanders who were separated not only by the ocean, but by language.

These days, the Peace Corps is dispatching only about half — 4,000 — the number of people it sent out four decades ago. So while her stint with the Corps was more than 40 years ago, Parsons is gearing up to do some work for it again, this time as a host of one of the 100 parties the Peace Corps wants to hold all over the world Saturday.

Parties are springing up in places like Afghanistan and in Micronesia. Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and the third generation in his family to do a Peace Corps tour, will be hosting one in Atlanta.

The purpose of the 100 House Parties movement, according to the MorePeaceCorps Campaign, which is heading up this effort, is to recruit thousands of new activists and generate hundreds of personalized letters to lawmakers to support the goal of doubling the Peace Corps. Doubling the number of volunteers, according to the organization, would cost $1 per capita today, and there are more than 20 countries requesting service. It’s a goal the group wants to meet by the 50th anniversary of the organization, in 2011.

The parties themselves will be an opportunity for interested people to talk to returned volunteers and get an idea of the kind of experience that can be had with the Peace Corps.

So far, about 90 parties are confirmed around the country Saturday.

“We selected the date, Sept. 6, because we wish to draw attention to the ServiceNation Summit, which will take place in New York City from Sept. 11-12, where both presidential candidates will speak about the importance of national service,” said Rajeev Goyal, MorePeaceCorps national coordinator.

For more information about the local house party, call Marie Sue and Bob Parsons at 805.895.4866. Click here for more information on the MorePeaceCorps Campaign.

[Editor’s note: We’re interested in hearing about Noozhawk readers’ experiences as Peace Corps volunteers. Please e-mail us your name, contact information and a brief description of your time in the Corps, 100 words maximum. Thank you.]

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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