Name: Virginia Rezmierski
U-M Affiliation: Faculty

Where do you work?

School of Information

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

I trained Peace Corp volunteers in St. Louis for Honduras in 1965 and then traveled from village to village to supervise and support them for a month in 1966

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

Honduras

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

I was a trainer of community organization and group work but not a volunteer per se

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

Each of the volunteers in the Honduras V group were so enthusiastic and dedicated, full of excitement and ideas.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

I remember some of the training that the volunteers had to go through at Fort Leonard Woods in Missouri. To help them learn to find their way through unknown terrain, they were given a compass and told to meet in three hours at a particular cave. This area was difficult to traverse, had copperhead snakes, was hilly and covered with thick brush. The day was extremely how and not unlike the countryside they would find in Honduras. One- by-one the volunteers appeared at the cave, exhausted, dirty and hot, but successful and happy.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

After working on the training team for the Honduras V group, teaching them to do community organizing and how to work with small groups of children and youth, I traveled to Tegucigalpa to begin my travels village by village, to visit the volunteers. In each of the villages where volunteers were placed, I stayed with the volunteer, talked with them about their transition, their work assignment, their housing, their morale, and their plans for their two year stay. I answered questions and tried to support them in their adjustments to a very different way of life in a different culture. This experience, my travel from village-to-village, and hearing their problems and seeing their dedication was one of the most exciting and challenging times of my life.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

My training for this experience came primarily from my work at Syracuse University and in the city of Syracuse in settlement houses. I had not yet come to UM for my PhD work, but moved to Ann Arbor immediately following my summer of travel in Honduras.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

I have already advised many students to follow their dreams and be part of the Peace Corps.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

This service to the country and the world is life changing and shaping. It helps individuals to gain tremendous insights into other cultures, confidence in their own abilities to adjust, learn, and serve, and offers one of the greatest opportunities for direct service imaginable.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

As a trainer but not a volunteer per se, I learned that the energy, spirit, and dreams of young people can change the world--the Honduras volunteers directed the building of roads, fish ponds, villages. They started schools, livelihood projects and other major community industries. They could never have this impact and held such responsibilities in more developed communities.

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