Peace Corps opens recruiting drive

July 22, 1993|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Staff Writer

Richard Gardiner stood out from most of the prospective applicants who stopped at the Peace Corps recruiting booth in the East Wing Lobby of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health yesterday.

Most of the people visiting the booth were students in their 20s. Mr. Gardiner is a 50-year-old employee of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. He said he did not feel out of place, however.

"I know far more than they do. At this stage in life, I have super confidence," he said.

Peace Corps officials kicked off a recruiting drive in the Baltimore area yesterday morning by opening a recruiting booth at the Hopkins. Later in the day, a recruiting session was scheduled for Towson State University. Sessions are scheduled today from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Hopkins' Nursing School and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Catonsville Community College.

The Peace Corps has more than 6,000 volunteers and trainees working in more than 80 developing nations in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Central Europe and the Pacific. Peace Corps volunteers typically spend two years abroad running programs aimed at improving the standard of living in their host nations.

Yesterday, at the Hopkins, Lawrence R. Nedeau, a Peace Corps recruiter, fielded questions and passed out literature.

Mr. Nedeau, 38, completed a three-year stint in Swaziland in 1986 and a two-year leg in Guatemala in 1991. After Mr. Nedeau graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in public health in 1980, a friend suggested that he join the Peace Corps.

Mr. Nedeau, a native Californian, said he has not looked back since.

"The international experience is invaluable in today's market," he said. "Learning a language, gaining cross-cultural training . . . employers are beginning to look upon [these skills] more favorably."

The Peace Corps is currently targeting people with experience in the health care field.

After years of establishing booths on college campuses and attracting liberal arts majors, the Peace Corps has recently had to "refocus" its recruiting efforts to get health care professionals, said Mr. Nedeau.

"We're looking to inspire health care educators and educators in general to join the Peace Corps . . . because the countries are requesting more and more of these individuals," he said. "The countries are looking for scarce-skilled people like the health care professionals."

Mr. Nedeau said the professionals would then be trained to teach the host country's citizens how to administer proper health care to fellow citizens. "We're trying to leave behind a good core of health care workers," he said.

Some of the requirements to join the Peace Corps include U.S. citizenship, a minimum age of 18 and either a degree or experience in a skilled trade.

Mr. Nedeau said that prospective volunteers must also be willing to commit for two years.

But joining the Peace Corps may be as difficult as serving in it. Last year over 17,000 people volunteered for the Peace Corps, but only 3,300 of them were placed in host countries.

Mr. Nedeau said that volunteers must go through a lengthy application process that may take months to complete.

The Peace Corps provides extensive health and dental benefits, a $5,400 "readjustment allowance" at the end of the two-year service, and employment counseling for returning volunteers.

Mr. Gardiner, who holds a degree in economics from Towson State University, said he won't be needing any employment counseling. "I'm looking for a reason to retire. I have to go into something better," he said, adding that he would like to teach economics to citizens of a formerly Communist nation.

Margurite Ro, a 25-year-old student in the Hopkins master's of public health program, picked up some literature and said she was considering a stint in the Peace Corps.

"They work in developing countries in which community health is emphasized, and it's a direction I hope we're moving in . . . you know, with Clinton pushing a health care package," she said.

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