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Steve Solloway: Finding peace in the Peace Corps

The following excerpt comes from The Portland Press Herald in Portland, Maine and was originally published on May 4, 2012.

“Simon Williams' biggest fans these days are no older than 6 and no taller than 4 feet. They watch for him almost every morning.

‘I walk through the gate to the schoolyard and look to my left,’ says Williams. ‘Most of the kindergarten is waiting for my arrival and when they see me, they explode with smiles and waves. Talk about a great way to start your day.’

Yes, Williams can remember the applause and cheers when he walked to the batter's box wearing his Portland High uniform and later the colors of the University of Maine. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 2004. He was an outfielder blessed with quickness and athleticism, and chasing a dream. He can remember the crowds at minor league ballparks when his name was announced.

His passion for baseball was evident. Fans loved his hustle and his smile.

That life is in his past. His present revolves around life in a small village in central Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union. Williams is a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English and organizing physical activities for about 100 students in grades K through 11. The village itself has about 500 people.

His small house is a short walk from the school, which is good. Passengers stand shoulder to shoulder on the bus. More horse-drawn carts than cars use the road.

He has electricity but no indoor plumbing. His shower is a bucket. He has access to the Internet in the village but it's not reliable. We sent emails to each other over the past two weeks.

‘Steve, I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I just can't stop smiling. I wanted to see the world, work with less fortunate kids and experience a different culture. The Peace Corps offered 27 months of exactly that.’”

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