UVM Peace Corps Celebrate 45th Anniversary

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps at UVM, and the recruitment is as strong as ever. UVM Peace Corps representative Carmen Jaquez has been recruiting in Vermont as a UVM graduate student since 2003.She herself was a member of the Corps from 1995-1997 and served her term negotiating hunger controversies in Uganda. In addition, when her two years of service were up, she got a job at a gorilla national reserve and continued service for another two years.There, she dwelled in a mud hut with thatched roofing. “I like to live without things. I joked that as a kid I used to eat dirt. I ate the local food, and drank the local water,” Jaquez remarked.Living without materials was the least of her concerns. For the four years Jaquez was in Uganda, she coexisted with hyenas, lions, elephants, gorillas, and hippopotamus. Jaquez also noted that on the toughest days, when sickness ensued, there was no one to call. The loneliness got to her at times.The Peace Corps is not all tragedy and depression. She emphasized her favorite spots in Uganda as being the most scenically beautiful places on Earth.At one point, she stood atop a glacier (the second highest in Africa) that rose thousands and thousands of feet, yet split the equator giving a spring-like climate with her sweet African view.Her favorite point in the trip was in the gorilla parks, in which she observed a pregnant mother resting, rubbing her hands over her protruding stomach. “It was just amazing to sit there and look at this gorilla, five feet away from our group, like any human woman who is eight months pregnant,” explained Jaquez.University of Vermont ranked 24th in producing Peace Corps volunteers in 2005, and almost 700 UVM alumni have volunteered in the past forty-five years. Since starting her position in the summer of 2003, she has engrossed dozens of students and alumni to join the Peace Corps, including seventeen alumni currently serving in various countries around the world.”I think we do so well recruiting here because UVM is strong on service learning,” said Jaquez. “Students at UVM really want to see a fair and just world. They want to represent the underdog whether environmentally or in economic development. Vermont is pretty committed to community service, and I think students see that and take it with them when they leave. I think being part of this community and serving in the Peace Corps makes them realize they can have a voice and make change.”With offices in major cities all over the country, including neighboring schools UMass and UNH, the 7500 Peace Corps volunteers nationwide are “keepin’ the peace” one country at a time.Carmen left with one last inspirational message to pass on to the UVM student body, and that was, “Don’t underestimate what you can do with your life, whether it’s Peace Corps or anything, just don’t think you can’t, just do it, go for it, and never give up on your peers- especially at UVM. It’s such a do-gooder campus.