Daughter's Service in the Peace Corps Inspires Mother to Join; Mother to Leave for Ivory Coast in May; Daughter Now a Crisis Corps Volunteer in Guinea
April 7, 2000WASHINGTON, D.C., April 11, 2000—Karen Carpenter learned about the Peace Corps in the 1960s and thought it was a wonderful idea, but at that time serving did not fit into her life's schedule. It was not until Christmas of 1999, when she visited her daughter Shelby, in Mali, west Africa, that volunteering became a possibility for Karen. "That was my first trip to Africa," said Karen, 58. "I fell in love with the people, the village life, and Africa itself. It was a fascinating country." Her daughter, Shelby, 25, served in Mali with the Peace Corps as a small business development volunteer from 1997-99. Karen was impressed with her daughter's accomplishments, which included laying grounds for a local radio station and writing grants accepted by the World Bank for the funding of a cultural museum and a local school. Shelby is now a Crisis Corps volunteer in Guinea, west Africa. Her assignment is with the United Nations World Food Program, which distributes food and supplies to refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Crisis Corps is a program that allows former Peace Corps volunteers to provide short-term assistance to countries that have experienced natural disasters or humanitarian crises. Since the Crisis Corps began in 1996, 230 volunteers have served with the Crisis Corps in 20 countries around the world. Karen began teaching in 1964, in Vancouver, Wash., and has done social work with Children's Services in Portland, Ore. She spent one year teaching English as a second language in Japan. For the last six years, she has worked in the Beaverton school district in Oregon with the alternative learning support program that helps high-risk students. Karen has taught English, French, and math. "It just felt right," Karen said on her decision to join the Peace Corps. In May she will leave Portland for Cote d'Ivoire, west Africa, to serve as an education specialist in the Peace Corps. "This will give me a chance to stand back and see what is going on and work with the community to make the schools stronger and better," said Karen. "It will be a learning situation, and I look forward to working with new people, situations, and places. I believe it is a very fulfilling way to live. I will be 100 percent in the moment—not making plans, but doing them." The Peace Corps currently has nearly 7,000 volunteers serving in 77 countries around the world. Seven percent of Peace Corps volunteers are over the age of 50. Since 1961, over 155,000 volunteers have served in 134 countries.