by Corinne Wnek
The Peace Corp, established by Sergeant Shriver during the Kennedy administration, asked Americans to go further than our own borders to help fight poverty. When I was in college, I considered joining because I thought I could help fix the world. But by graduation, when I suddenly had some nice job offers, my idealism gave way to thoughts of a budding career.
Not so for K.C. Murray of Rahway, a hero by any definition and the newest member of the Peace Corp. Didn’t know that organization was still around? Read on. This is the story of why a young man of 23 and gainfully employed, decided to chuck it all to give peace a chance.
“When I was at Roselle Catholic High School, I did many service trips to West Virginia with the Marist Brothers Youth Group and that exposed me to devastating poverty in very rural areas of our own country”, says K.C. “Then when I was attending Rutgers, I joined the Catholic Student Organization and traveled to Tanzania in Africa to work with missionaries. We built a school, supported an aids clinic and helped children who were abandoned in orphanages. But I wanted to do more.”
“And it’s strange because I remember some of the happiest people that I ever met were those who were living in poverty”, he continues. “They were so appreciative of everything you did for them that you could feel the difference your presence made in their lives. That’s why I’m with the Peace Corp.”
K.C.’s degree in Environmental Health Policy and his minor in Public Health have prepared him for his twenty-seven month assignment in Panama where he will work in disease control and water resource management. “I leave on June 19 and will begin three months of training in language, culture and safety with other Corp volunteers”, he says. “I think it will be hard but we will all be learning the ropes together.”
So how tough was the decision to leave a good job and all the comforts of home, to work in a developing country to earn a few dollars a day and live in sub-standard conditions? “Well, it was a hard decision at first, but my father has always been very supportive of me and that made this easier”, he smiles.
K.C. says other young people should consider the Peace Corp but warns that it is very competitive and the process for acceptance is slow. “The world is one, big community and the Peace Corp gives that perspective on how we are all connected. It’s a great cross-cultural experience and everybody wins in the end.”
Yep. That’s a hero in my book.
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