Celebrating 60 years
of global service

Celebrating 60 years of Peace Corps at UW–Madison

Badger Peace Corps Stories

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Cris Carusi's Service in Nepal

Cris Carusi

Years of service: 1989-1992

His story: “I worked with Appropriate Technology Unit branches in Far Western Nepal and Surkhet. In the Far West, my work spanned three districts (Baitadi, Darchula and Dadeldhura). Bus transportation was limited, and I spent a great deal of time walking – sometimes days at a time – to project sites, talking with people along the way. I learned that work is not just about the actual job you do, but what you learn on the journey (literally). Peace Corps also taught me that you will be more successful if you meet people where they are at, listen to them, and try to see things from their perspective.”

Laura Whitmore's Service in Poland

Laura Whitmore

Years of service: 1993-1995

Her story: “It is difficult to drum down my Peace Corps experience into just memories or just one or two things to say about it. My Peace Corps experience defined me – particularly the me of the mid-1990s. As any human who grows, there are big and defining moments that add to your growth as a human being: becoming a parent, or losing a parent, or even losing or changing careers. They are different for everyone. As I look back at my life, the Peace Corps ranks as one of the best decisions of my life – personally and for my career. The Peace Corps kicked off my career in service. I took the three goals of the Peace Corps to heart and continue to live goal 3 today. We are currently in a time where many American citizens believe that America needs to come first. After having lived and served in another country, and seeing how everyone just wants to live freely, I continually share my experience of living in a country that was only a few years away from a lockdown of communism. I share the struggles and the joys of my friends in Poland with my friends and family here in the USA.

My favorite memory happened at the end of my service and revolved around a sense of belonging. I served in a very small, coal-mining village in Poland. I was the first Peace Corps volunteer in my village. When I arrived, people were very curious about me and but also very stand-offish. I would walk down the street or go shopping and I could hear people talking about me as “that American.” Except for my students and really close Polish friends, I was more of an oddity to the rest of the village. However, near the end of my service, I was walking down the street and a young child and her grandpa were walking towards me. The young child didn’t know me and pointed, “Grandpa, who is that?” The Grandpa, who I honestly didn’t know either, said, “Don’t you know who she is? That’s OUR American.” Ever since that encounter, and still to today, I consider Kleczew, Poland as my ‘other’ home.”

Michael Merry's Service in Peru

Michael Merry

Years of service: 1968-70

“Just being there!”

I would spend my extra time in the afternoons with Juan, the SIPA veterinary technician, playing games with local children; tag and hide-and-seek were always fun games for the children. Juan was always on his 125 cc Honda.

“What would you do with your extra time? Play? Chat? Is that all you did? What about helping the children? Can you elaborate a little more?” It was a valid question from the future, 42 years in the future.

“I wish I could say that I did more to help the children of Ite. I know playing and chatting doesn’t sound like much in today’s world.”

I struggled in 2010 to explain the world that existed in 1968.

“You see Sir, back then in 1968, John F. Kennedy envisioned young Americans helping communities around the world, setting an example of good will, and learning that people could live together if only they could see and talk each other. Just being there, playing and chatting with the children of Ite was a giant leap forward for the world community. Just being there helped erase the image of “The Ugly American” for thousands of young people in hundreds of countries around the world. Just being there was an achievement equal to the landing of men on the moon in 1969. Landing a volunteer in Ite, Peru, and thousands of other world communities, in 1969, was a “giant leap forward for mankind.”

I suddenly realize that maybe people in 2010 do not really understand this achievement of the Peace Corps and the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture back in 1968.

“Just being there.” That was the mission.