Profile: Heidi and Jim Wilton
In the early 1990s as the Cold War was ending, the Peace Corps moved swiftly to help people in Eastern and Central Europe make the challenging transition from a command to a market economy. For Heidi and Jim Wilton, it was a unique opportunity to share the skills they had developed in the United States with the people of Armenia.
Jim served as a community development Volunteer and helped to open a computer and language training center. "At first, I helped to train people in basic computer skills, with the hope that they would soon join the emerging information age. Now they are managing the resource center and training other people in the city."
Heidi concentrated on the youth by working with teachers to develop new teaching methodologies. "We discussed critical thinking skills in young people and the best ways to engage them in a classroom environment. We also worked to develop effective teaching aids, using materials that can be found in any market in Armenia."
Being a married couple in the Peace Corps had its advantages. Heidi and Jim were able to rely on one another for support and share in their mutual successes. "We spent more time communicating with one another than we ever had before. We also enjoyed working together on activities, like coaching the girls' soccer team and taking kids on environmental hikes."
Dilijan is a fairly large city in Armenia, giving Heidi and Jim access to many conveniences such as e-mail, restaurants, electricity, and running water. "Each day we woke up and listened to VOA or the BBC and drank our coffee. The water came on for about two hours each morning, and we collected it in different buckets, cans, and bottles - anything we could to make it last the rest of the day, or perhaps the next." And living in an apartment building allowed Heidi and Jim to meet many of their neighbors. "Some of the greatest times were spent with our neighbors. We shared all of our new experiences with them, and they helped us to communicate more easily with other people."
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