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This message goes to all those in the “service industry.” I’m speaking of people like teachers, nurses, NGO workers, Peace Corps volunteers, and others: people who want to make a difference. I have often wondered if I made a difference or influenced others because of my Peace Corps (PC) experience in Liberia, 1971-73 and Tonga, 73-74. This blog also answers another question: Since its inception, over six decades later is the Peace Corps is “Alive and Well?”

Here is Dontae during his internship with Friends of Liberia (FOL) in Washington DC in the spring of 2021.

In 2020, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Friends of Liberia proposed an analogy project collecting and publishing stories from those who lived and worked in Liberia over a 60-year-span of time. I was asked to lead this endeavor and one of my tasks was find a University Intern to help us with the project. Low and behold, Dontae McFadden, a sophomore at the University of Stockton in New Jersey, and I found each other. He worked diligently with me as I mentored him for one semester. Even though he had a great interest in African history, he had no first-hand knowledge about those who served in those countries or the Africans, themselves. After working (virtually) with approximately 60 returned volunteers, Liberians and others, he began to fully appreciate the level of commitment and compassion of those who served and work in Liberia. Dontae is now in his 3rd year at the University and has made a conscious decision to join the Peace Corps after graduation in 2024 to hopefully serve as a volunteer teacher in Africa. My question: Had I influenced someone positively about my PC service?…I have my answer. I am still in touch with Dontae by Zoom, even though we have never met in person. I am so proud of him!!

Once our Anthology, Never the Same Again: Life, Service and Friendship in Liberia, was published in 2022, we had a virtual hybrid book launch in my hometown of Bellingham Washington. Here is Shirley and Susan.

At the end of the book launch event, a woman, Shirley, raised her hand and spoke from the back of the room about being a Liberian and and how she was taught by a Peace Corps volunteer. She said, that volunteer made an incredible impact on her life and changed her forever. She began to believe in herself and her abilities. She attended college and had a successful career and now lives in Washington State just 60 miles from my home.

After attending the Never The Same Again Book Launch in Washington D.C. in July 2022, Mark and Sally (Salisbury) Zelonis, Group 28 PC Liberia, decided that it was time to share their Peace Corps experiences and stories with friends in Zionsville, Indiana. They reached out to their local Hussey-Mayfield Library and on February 7th, 2023 they did an hour-long program to over 50 attendees about their time as volunteers and an update on current events in Liberia. Sally and Mark’s Liberians stories are in our anthology publication, Never The Same Again. Here is Mark and Sally sporting their Liberian attire.

At the end of their program, another generation of PC volunteers came to light when, Rachel, a young Zionsville resident in attendance stepped forward to tell them she had just interviewed with Peace Corps the day before for a position in Paraguay! Mark and Sally invited her to their home for a post-presentation gathering and whole-hardheartedly encouraged her to continue her pursuit for the Peace Corps.

After over a two-year hiatus when PC evacuated all the volunteers due to the COVID pandemic, they are gradually returning to their host countries around the globe. From Sally, Mark and myself as Peace Corps volunteers in the ’70s, to Shirley, the Liberian who was taught by a Peace Corps volunteer, to the young woman, Rachel, who is currently in the interviewing process to enter the Peace Corps, to Dontae who has his eyes set on Peace Corps Africa in 2024, we have six-plus decades of Peace Corps’ influence continuing to make the world a better place.

We have answered another question, is Peace Corps is Alive and Well? I would say emphatically, YES!

Donations and books sales brought in about $410 from Mark and Sally’s event alone. Overall more than $4,500 in profits from all FOL book sales and donations will go directly to current humanitarian programs in Liberia. Click here to learn more about FOL and donate or purchase a book.

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