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Q & A with Edward Riehl, Peace Corps recruiter

Published: Sunday, September 27, 2009

Updated: Sunday, September 27, 2009 17:09

Peace Corps

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Edward Riehl's experience with the Peace Corps comes later in life; at the age of 61 to be exact. Despite this delay in Riehl's life, this organization has undoubtedly succeeded in allowing him to reassess his values in order to find a more beneficial way to use his remaining time. Riehl, now college recruiter, joined Wilkes University students on campus September 24th, to speak of his successful experience with the Peace Corps and how it has provided him with such a passion that allows him to continue supporting the cause after his time served.
The three goals of the Peace Corps include helping people of different countries in fulfilling their needs for professionally trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the individuals served, as well as helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
The Beacon: How did you originally find yourself entering the Peace Corps?
Riehl: I was turning 61 when I entered the Peace Corps so my motivation extends back to the days of John Kennedy. I was attracted by the opportunity to "stretch" myself while doing something meaningful to help less advantaged people and maybe make the world a little bit nicer place.  My situation didn't allow me to do Peace Corps, though, for some years.  So, over the years, I built a career and tended to family responsibilities.  Finally, when I realized that my family was grown and gone and that I really had no reason to work any longer, I decided to quit and joined the Peace Corps. It was the best decision I ever made.
The Beacon: How long have you been involved with this organization?
Riehl: I applied to the Peace Corps in late 2005 and began volunteer service in 2006.  A few months after I returned from my volunteer service, I applied for and was hired as a recruiter.
The Beacon: What kind of service have you done, and where did it take place?
Riehl: I served as a University English teacher in the northeast section of Ukraine.  I taught all levels: undergraduate, Masters and "aspirants" .  The university‘s specialization was "public administration" and so many of the grad students and part-time evening students worked for the government  - some dating from the period when the government was the former Soviet Union.  Teaching English conversation and discussing topics such as freedom of the press, free elections, and even the student-teacher roles in higher education made for some lively classes.    
The Beacon:  Do you feel as though the budget is sufficient enough to meet the means of the Peace Corps? President Obama stated in his campaign trail that there would be a new bold Peace Corps, also stating, that the budget would be doubled. As of now, there has only been a 10%  increase.
Riehl: I believe the budget needs to be increased.  I am biased, of course, not because I work for Peace Corps, but because I have seen what it does both for people in a developing country AND for the Americans who serve as Volunteers.  To me, every dollar invested in Peace Corps provides a two-fold return:  it helps a developing country become more self-sustaining and it helps America develop a more well-rounded, thoughtful citizenry. 
The Beacon:  What inspires you to continue working with the Peace Corps? 
Riehl: Why I do it?  I love the Peace Corps and I want to tell as many people   -especially students - why Peace Corps is a great opportunity for them.  I want everyone to know enough to make the decision for him or herself.  I do not want people to miss the chance because they just never knew enough about Peace Corps….
The Beacon:  What advice do you have for students interested in joining? Name the benefits of doing so. 
Riehl: The advice I have is this:  (i) keep learning about Peace Corps;  (ii) build up your skills;  (iii) be active  - lead full lives;  (iv) get some good volunteer experience. You will learn a language, learn how to live in another culture, test your ability to use the skills you have acquired in school or elsewhere, experience a real sense of having done something meaningful.  You learn humility and build self-confidence at the same time!  And when you come home, we give you a little money, a year of non-competitive eligibility for a federal government job, and the opportunity for fellowships at over 50 colleges! It is the opportunity of a lifetime!

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