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UA Peace Corps to host fair in SUMC

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More than 100 former Peace Corps volunteers will talk with students about the program and the countries in which they served the at the UA Peace Corps fair on Tuesday.


The volunteers, some of whom served in the 1960s and others more recently, have worked in more than 75 countries.

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""The goal is to teach university students and the Tucson community about countries where the Peace Corps serves,"" said Richard Mora, a master's student in Latin American studies and former El Salvador Peace Corps volunteer.


March 1 through March 7 is Peace Corps Week.


Alexandria Kassman, a 2009 UA alumna and current Azerbaijan Peace Corps volunteer, became interested in the Peace Corps after visiting the on-campus fair during her sophomore year.


""After that I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do, hands down,'"" Kassman said. ""I didn't apply for anything else after graduation, Peace Corps was all I wanted to do. Then I went to the recruiter's office and talked to them and they gave me literature to read about it to decide if it was for me. I just got more and more excited the more I read. I started the application process the summer before my senior year.""


Kassman volunteers in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language program in Azerbaijan, where she has heat, basic amenities and Internet access through local Internet cafés.


Last Wednesday, the Peace Corps Fellows Program showed a film called ""The Devil Came on Horseback"" in the Student Union Memorial Center's Gallagher Theater to jumpstart the Peace Corps' activities.


""The film is about the tragedy in Darfur, and the idea of the Peace Corps is to bring world events here, at home, here in Tucson,"" Mora said.


The Peace Corps Fellows also visited local schools and organizations.


""The fair itself will feature elaborate cultural displays of all the countries that we served in,"" said Alyssa Bittenbender, president of the Peace Corps Fellows and a master's student in public health.


Bittenbender, who served as a health volunteer in Zambia from 2004-06, lived in a community without access to drinking water or electricity.


""The Peace Corps for me was a life-defining experience,"" Bittenbender said. ""I'm in the public health program now because of it.""


Bittenbender said there was a small clinic in her community but that resources were limited and the clinic was not able to do any surgeries.


""It didn't have a whole lot of medicine, so the clinic really couldn't handle any kind of complication,"" Bittenbender said. 


The Peace Corps Fellows offers a scholarship program for students, but they have to commit 1,000 hours of service in Tucson over two years. 


""That brings a social service component to the program,"" Bittenbender said.


Peace Corps Fellows get scholarships for their graduate studies.


""The fair is really a celebration of the Peace Corps and all the countries that it has served in,"" Bittenbender said. ""We have all had transformative experiences, so it will be a high energy event.""


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