UW-Madison Peace Corps office recognizes World AIDS Day

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The AIDS Memorial quilt honors those who were affected by the disease. The quilt is visiting the UW-Madison this week from The NAMES Project Foundation. Photo credit: Kerry Hill.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Peace Corps office, along with the Division of International Studies and the Global Health Institute, recognized World AIDS Day with a display of an AIDS Memorial quilt that remembers those whose lives were affected by AIDS and a group discussion on preventing the disease.

During the Dec. 11 discussion, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine at UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health, talked about his research on combating HIV/AIDS and providing care to patients in Dane County. Continue reading

Green Bay ranks No. 7 on Peace Corps’ annual list of top volunteer-producing metropolitan areas per capita

Jordan Hatcher, a native of Green Bay, Wis., is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.

Jordan Hatcher, a native of Green Bay, Wis., is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.

With 19 local residents currently serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, Green Bay, Wis., ranks No. 7  this year among metropolitan areas for producing the most Peace Corps volunteers, per capita.

Green Bay generated 6.1 Peace Corps volunteers for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, the state of Wisconsin produces 2.2 Peace Corps volunteers per capita.

Wisconsin is home to 187 currently serving Peace Corps volunteers.

Jordan Hatcher, a native of Green Bay, is currently making a difference as a preventative health education volunteer in Senegal and works with a community of 2,000 to improve hygiene, sanitation and nutrition and preventing malaria. Since arriving in Senegal in March 2013 she has also raised money to construct a wall between the village’s main road and several school buildings to protect the school’s staff and 150 students as well as a school garden and tree nursery. Continue reading

Twin Cities, Minnesota rank on Peace Corps’ annual list of top volunteer-producing states, metro areas

Natalie Lake, a native of Minneapolis, served as a Peace Corps volunteer  in Peru, from 2012-14.

Natalie Lake, a native of Minneapolis, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, from 2012-14.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area again this year ranks among the top-producing metropolitan areas for Peace Corps volunteers. Currently, the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs are home to 142 active Peace Corps volunteers and rank No. 8 among U.S. metro areas in total volunteers.

Minnesota also ranks No. 9 for states, per capita, for Peace Corps volunteers. Minnesota produces 3.7 volunteers for every 100,000 state residents. Overall, 202 Minnesotans are currently serving as volunteers.

Recently returned volunteer Natalie Lake is a Minneapolis native whose background projected her into service in Peru. Lake, a 2008 graduate of Black School in Hopkins, Minn., made a difference as an environmental education volunteer, teaching the importance of the local ecosystem and how to limit the effects of climate change. She also initiated a recycling program that now reaches 1,560 homes.

“I think having grown up in the ‘Minnesota Nice’ culture has definitely shaped a part of who I am,” said Lake, a graduate of the Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “Always being friendly and neighborly is something I tried to emulate during my service and something that my community has definitely described as one of my key traits.”

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Ohio ranks No. 9 on Peace Corps’ annual list of top volunteer-producing states

Veronica Moermond, a native of Cincinnati, is currently serving as an education volunteer in Mongolia.

Veronica Moermond, a native of Cincinnati, is currently serving as an education volunteer in Mongolia.

Ohio again this year ranks among the top states for producing Peace Corps volunteers. With 237 residents currently serving overseas, Ohio is the No. 9 state for volunteers in 2014.

On the whole, Ohio produces two Peace Corps volunteers for every 100,000 state residents, and 3 percent of all volunteers come from Ohio.

Veronica Moermond, a native of Cincinnati, is currently serving as an education volunteer in Mongolia. She makes a difference training English teachers on teaching methodologies and helping them improve their English skills. She also leads two English clubs and uses games, songs and American culture to help group members learn English. Moermond, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s in English in 2006 and a master’s in education in 2010, found many like-minded Ohioans who valued service.

“The more I talked to people about the idea of joining Peace Corps, the more people I encountered who had done it or know someone who had,” she said. “This was great for me because I got to ask them a lot of questions regarding what it’s like to be a volunteer and what advice they would have for me if I were to join.”

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Chicago, Illinois rank on Peace Corps’ annual list of top volunteer-producing state, metro areas

Lauren Karplus_Illinois

Lauren Karplus, a native of Bloomington, Ill., served as Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland, from 2012-2014.

Chicago, including Naperville and Joliet, again this year ranks among the top metropolitan areas for producing Peace Corps volunteers. Currently, 224 Peace Corps volunteers call Chicagoland home, making it the fourth highest-producing metro area for volunteers nationwide in 2014.

Illinois ranks fifth among the top states for Peace Corps volunteers. It’s the top state in the Midwest with 284 residents now serving overseas.

Peace Corps volunteer Jack Guen-Murray, a native of Oak Park, Ill., makes a difference as an English education volunteer in China. He teaches seven English classes at a vocational college and reaches an average of 250 students per semester. He shares his Chicago home with his Chinese community through images and shared values, such as food, family and holidays.

“I would say the greatest part about living in another country is obtaining an external perspective, a new awareness and gaining a new appreciation for your own country,” said Guen-Murray, who graduated from Lake Forest College in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies and philosophy. “You see social issues from new angles that are impossible to see from inside the U.S., and you begin to place your wants and values on new scales.”

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Peace Corps service confirms UW-Madison graduate’s calling for teaching

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Zoe Schroeder always had the inclination that she should be a teacher. Being a Peace Corps volunteer, though, confirmed that teaching is her true calling.

Schroeder, a native of Washington, D.C., completed her two-year Peace Corps service in November and returned to Madison, Wis. She went to Lesotho in 2012 after earning a bachelor’s degree in geography and Spanish with a certificate in European studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It had always been a dream of mine to join Peace Corps since I first heard of the program in middle school,” she said. “My friend’s mom was a volunteer in the 1970s, and it sounded like such an adventure.” Continue reading

Mother of two Peace Corps volunteers felt more pride than worry

Allie, Grant, Ann, Ben and Tom Comstock in Madagascar while visiting Allie who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country, from 2005-07. Grant also became a Peace Corps volunteer, in Lesotho from 2010-12.

Allie, Grant, Ann, Ben and Tom Comstock in Madagascar while visiting Allie who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country, from 2005-07. Grant also became a Peace Corps volunteer, in Lesotho from 2010-12.

Anne Comstock understands the mix of swelling pride and lingering worry that comes as the mother of a Peace Corps volunteer. But the Cincinnati-area resident didn’t just send one child off to serve in Africa for two years; she sent two.

Anne’s daughter, Allie, 31, served in Madagascar as a nutrition education volunteer from 2005-07,  and son Grant, 28, was a community health extension volunteer in Lesotho from 2010-12.

“I often get asked what we did as parents that resulted in two of our three kids volunteering for Peace Corps,” said Anne, who raised her children in Richmond, Va. “The answer is nothing; we just got very lucky. They are two of the best people I know.” Continue reading