Guest Speaker from Peace Corps

Roto Luci Newsletter
Port St. Lucie, Fl

This week’s guest speaker was Steve Hunsicker, who is the South Florida recruiter from the Peace Corps. Before being hired by Peace Corps, Steve was a Peace Corps volunteer in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga helping local business owners either start or improve their business. Steve has written extensively about his Peace Corps experiences in a book called "Steve’s Adventure with the Peace Corps." He is also co-author of a travel book about Tonga.

Steve explained that this is Peace Corps’ 55th year in existence, having been founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. There are about 7,000 volunteers serving overseas in more than 60 countries. And, as evidence of how far things have come, they are preparing to send volunteers to Vietnam.

When he was 46 years old, Steve decided he wanted to do something else and so he filled out a Peace Corps application. At 47 years of age, he boarded a plane and went to Tonga in the South Pacific. He spent 2 years there working with small business owners. Upon his arrival, his first mission was to learn the language. The Peace Corps is about building relationships, after which you can help people by finding out what they want.

Steve told us how fulfilling it is to go overseas and build a connection with people who seem so different from youThe first relationship he built was with his host family. Steve shared with us that the last thing he did before leaving Tonga was to say goodbye to his host family and his "host father." One of the last things this "father" said was "Steve, I don’t ever want you to ask to come back, because you never have to ask to come home."

Steve did his training, passed the language test, and became a volunteer. He decided that his work would be in development banking. One of the projects he became involved with was micro financing. This program allowed mostly women to borrow small amounts of money so that they could start a business. Under this program, if the person who borrowed the money made all the payments on time, 100% of the interest they paid would be rebated to them. The interest rate was about 24%.

Steve told us that one woman he worked with came up with an idea. Everyone had cell phones that could take pictures, but nobody had smart phones and there was no internet available. She thought that if she had enough money, she could start a business where people would bring their phones in and she could print out their pictures. She didn’t have money for the printer or the ink, and so she applied through the micro financing program to get an inkjet printer and some ink so she could start a business. The money she borrowed was about 1,000 U.S. dollars. Steve taught her how to keep the books and she worked out of her house. She made every single payment on time. At the end of the term of the loan, she received a check for about $200, which was enough for her to get a storefront for her business. In addition to printing photos, she got women in the village to make crafts which she then sold, and with the money she could give them, they were able to make progress. The money she received for her loan came from the New Zealand government.

Steve also told us that a woman from Miami had served as a volunteer in Columbia, and she is now working with Rotary to provide micro financing there. Peace Corps has other partnerships with Rotary around the world.

Besides development, Peace Corps provides educational help. There is also a health program, an environmental program (preservation of natural resources), an agricultural program and a youth program.

Thank you Steve for a very informative and well presented program.

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