Peace Corps 50th anniversary celebration
By Steve Seepersaud
Binghamton University has had more alumni serve in the Peace Corps than any other school in the State University of New York system. Events held on campus earlier this month recognized the hard work and dedication of those volunteers.
On March 1-2, the University hosted events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Attendees were faculty, staff and some of the more than 240 Binghamton University alumni who hold the title of Retired Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV).
Kay Perkins, MA '88, (pictured) who served as a health care worker in Kiribati 1997-99, talked about her experiences in a panel discussion alongside other former volunteers. Perkins joined the Peace Corps after retiring from full-time work, and received a grant to build toilets on the island where she was stationed. She also treated young children several times a year for worms.
"The biggest thing I got from the experience was to meet some very good people," Perkins says. "It was a gift for me to meet all these people from a different culture who were so kind, and they had such great respect for older people."
The anniversary events also included a reception at which alumni could view a slide show of photos collected from fellow graduates who served. And, about 35 current students attended an information session to learn the ins and outs of service as well as what they should know before applying.
"All of us who have served, regardless of country or continent, share a common experience," says Meg Mitzel, experiential education coordinator in the Career Development Center and a RPCV. "We all were willing to go abroad to the unknown. We all faced many cultural surprises as we learned about our host countries and neighbors, and we found resources within ourselves to survive and hopefully thrive for the 27 months. Many of us were able to change things for the positive in our communities, to learn and value another culture and to see our own culture through different eyes."
The 50th anniversary events were sponsored by the Career Development Center, Alumni Association, English as a Second Language Program and Vice Provost for International Affairs.