Where in the world?

Where in the world is JMU Peace Corps change?

Where in the world is JMU Peace Corps change?

I’ve learned a few things about James Madison University people who are involved in the American Peace Corps. They meet needs — and they are as enthusiastic and as connected as any group I’ve ever seen. After posting one story about Peace Corps volunteer Angelina Loverde (’11), I heard from April Muniz (’90) about her experience in Senegal. Then April told us about several other JMU volunteers — and followed up by sending information on what they were doing. That led to even more discoveries, including Kelly McCormack (’05) who is a public affairs specialist with the Peace Corps Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Office.  As I dug deeper into the JMU’s many Peace Corps connections, I found more and more stories.

As a result, I’ve been in touch with more JMU Peace Corps alumni and with current and future volunteers. What began as one story quickly snowballed into an avalanche of life changing stories about experiences involving the Peace Corps.

And the stories come from all over the world. Literally.

Curious, I decided to grab a world map and plot all the places that JMU people have served with the Peace Corps. It was a “wow” moment.  The variety of locations is pretty amazing.

Over the next few months, I’ll periodically feature one of our JMU Peace Corps people. And as we do, we’ll populate the map you see here. Follow along to see just where in the world JMU and the Peace Corps is “Being the Change.”

And if those of you located near campus are intrigued and would like to learn more, several upcoming opportunities will let you check out the Peace Corps. Kelly McCormack (’05) will be on campus Mon., Sept. 30, along with recruiter Molly Douglas. They will return several more times throughout the next two months. Below is the fall schedule for the Peace Corps visits to campus and links to the specific event where you can get further information, ask questions, or set up individual appointments.

Mon., Sept. 30, 2013, 12-4 p.m., http://www.peacecorps.gov/meet/events/6325/
Career Conference, Festival Conference and Student Center

Tues., Oct. 1, 2013, 4-5 p.m., Festival Conference and Student Center, Room 3

Tues., Nov. 5, 2013, 12-1 p.m., Festival Conference and Student Center, Allegheny Room

Tues., Nov. 5, 2013, 1-4 p.m., Office hours, Festival Conference and Student Center, Allegheny Room

Thanks to JMU graphic designer Lynda Ramsey for her help in creating this JMU Peace Corps map.

The Golden Blogs: 2012 in review

"And the winner is ........."

“And the winner is ………”

The afterglow of Sunday night’s quirky Golden Globes feels like just the right time to review last year’s Be the Change blog. Call it the Golden Blogs. (Hey, we’re just missing the “e.”) Looking back is always interesting and like the Golden Globes, it can be a little quirky.

Take, for instance, the armadillos. Once again a blog post mentioning armadillos floated up into the top five last year, finishing as runner-up yet again. (That’s two statuettes, if you’re counting.) I can’t explain why, except to speculate that perhaps armadillos are more popular than one might imagine.

Of the top five mostly widely read blog posts we published last year, three were written by guest bloggers. Jake Williams (’13) wrote about the Lost Boys of Sudan. Jake’s post and a post about Invisible Children written by Gabrielle Piccininni (’11) took the fourth and fifth spots. Gabrielle’s post, by the way, was actually published the prior year, in 2011, yet continues to gather readers. That’s staying power. The No. 1 most read Be the Change post last year also went to a guest blogger, Jim Heffernan’s (’96) who wrote Sweden: The Malmo Summit.

That Jim’s post was No. 1 didn’t surprise us. It was well written, interesting and had a component that the blogosphere handles about as well as any Internet medium — a worldwide audience. In the blogosphere, lines between nations are blurred and sometimes erased, bringing us all together. I presume that’s why, for the first time last year, WordPress provided daily stats about where our blog readers were located. It was a fun statistic to watch as JMU and its mission of change spread out over the world. In the final 2012 tally, the Be the Change blog was read in 148 countries. The only disappointment — big white zeroes in Greenland and Iceland. (So here’s a shout out: Hey, Greenland and Iceland! Come visit us.)

All in all, in 2012 the blog garnered almost twice the number of visits of 2011. Coincidentally, the same calendar date in both 2011 and 2012 saw the most visitors to the blog: Sept. 11. On the home page that day was a post by another guest blogger: BTC intern Anthony Baracat (’13))

In October last year, the blog was Freshly Pressed. You might call FP the “Oscars” of WordPress. Sounds good, anyway. That post, chosen by the editors of WordPress from blogs all over the world, resulted in a big jump in followers. In fact, we’re now only a few followers shy of 100. We also had our first month with more than 5,000 views.

Still we have work to do, countries to crack (Hey, Greenland and Iceland! Wavin’ at you!) and conversations to engage. So here are some of our goals for next year. We want to continue to feature the people of Madison who devote their time, talents and lives to improving the world in ways as varied as academics, humanitarianism, medicine, science, politics, business, nonprofits, and volunteerism. We want to talk with and about projects, programs and people who are making a difference. We want to reach more of the world — and be read in even more countries. According to the U.S. State Department there are 195 countries in the world, so we’re only short 47. That’s doable.

But we want more than numbers; we want to engage in conversations that will further the goals and aspirations of Be the Change and those who do it. We want to share, listen and exchange thoughts and ideas. We want those conversations to be honest, open — and to matter, not merely entertain. We want to show the world our human face, our compassionate heart and our determination to Be the Change.

So, now, who among you readers will push us over 100 by following this blog? And which one of you is ready to start a great conversation?

Click here to see the complete report.

Olympic-sized inspiration

The 2012 Olympiad is history and Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M) is back home in the USA but only temporarily. He is already planning trips to Sochi and Rio. How cool would it be, he writes, if JMU folks organized to “have a little Madison influence become part of the Olympic experience at the next host city!” To inspire you to begin planning for the next Olympics Games, here’s Jeremy’s final post about his 2012 Olympic experience. You can let Jeremy know with a comment here if you’re game for visiting the next Olympics. Sochi and Rio, here comes Madison…..

Olympic-sized inspiration

by Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M), guest blogger

London met their challenge to inspire a generation.

All good things must come to an end, even the Olympics. As the torch was extinguished, the world’s athletes retired until coming together again in Sochi, Russia, in 18 months. The Games of the 30th Olympiad in London focused the world’s attention on a shared experience of hope, courage and possibility. This is truly unique in our modern times that often seem to connect only through tragedy or conflict. The creators of the modern Olympics hoped for a gathering that would bring the world together and provide hope for a more congenial global family. London showed us it is possible.

The London games had the motto of “Inspire a Generation.” London Olympic Chairman Lord Coe, himself a former Olympic athlete, and the London organizing committee set out to execute an Olympic plan that would be the spark for a nation — and perhaps the world. Looking back, the opening ceremonies and particularly the lighting of the torch highlighted this effort to inspire the youth of Britain and the world. Unlike past games, a popular athlete or past champion did not light the torch. For the London games, six “future Olympians” assembled to do the honors. In an emotional and touching moment, these young athletes paused before the six dominant British champions in their disciplines. More than 200 past British Olympic Champions gathered behind them. How could any young hopeful child in Britain not be inspired?

Great Britain shone at the Olympics in both organization and athletics.

You see, Great Britain had not been strong at the Olympics in recent years; just one gold medal in 1996. The entire nation focused on increasing training and coaching of sport across the board. When London found out in 2005 they would host the 2012 games, it was time to show that their efforts worked. Now after the games, there is no doubt that Britain’s plans worked; Team GB had its most successful games in 100 years. Their champions were hard working and dedicated athletes, a great example to the scores of children hoping to match their success someday. I would be shocked if a surge in sport participation does not follow these games in the UK. Expect more great results from Team GB in Rio in 2016.

The inspiration was not limited to the host country. The actions of a single athlete can change an entire country. I was lucky to see the gold medal round of the men’s individual epee at the fencing venue. The unexpected victor was a 27-year-old Venezuelan named Ruben Gascon. His gold medal was the first for Venezuela since 1968. The people of his country were celebrating in the streets for a fencing gold medal. I am sure more than one little boy or girl with a dream started waving a stick that night. Guatemala, Cyprus and Grenada won their first medals ever. Scores of other stories could be written on how the experience of a single athlete, even without a victory, would change their home country.

The inspiration can reach across nations as well. You would have had to be on Mars to miss the story of double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. His experience at these games inspires everyone that anything is possible.

Ready for Russia: Jeremy with Sochi’s mascot Cheburashka.

Then there are the women; so many inspiring moments for the little girls of the world. For the first time, Team USA had more female athletes and more women medaled than men. This was also the first Olympics in which women from every country that fielded athletes participated. Women competing from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar will spark for more in the future.

In a nation as large and as successful as the United States it is easy to take for granted wins and medals at the Games. Team USA dominated at basketball reassuring thousands of kids to continue their hoop dreams. More inspiring to our future Olympians might be the non-marquis successes in sports, like boxing, wrestling, judo, rowing, shooting, archery, cycling and diving. Even I wanted to go learn to dive after watching David Boudia win gold for the U.S!

The games closed with the call for the youth of the world to gather for the next games. I will be attending the 2014 Games as a spectator in Russia and hope to go to Brazil as a volunteer for 2016. We all leave the Olympic experience with a greater sense of the world we live in and perhaps a desire to be stronger, higher and faster in our own pursuits. As a part of the Madison family we all share that hope to be better citizens of our hometowns and the world. I end these Games with a hope to do even more good in the world — to “Be the Change.”

Throwing your money out the window?

Imagine you are 10-years-old. You live in Yemen, a country where conflict is ongoing, devastating, and where hope is in short supply. Imagine you are caught up in the violence and injured. There is no 911, no Rockingham Memorial Hospital, no local rescue squad. Imagine also that transportation is limited and often interrupted. And imagine that an American or English or Australian doctor comes to you to provide unexpected help. Imagine that their assistance is the difference between life and death. Imagine. Just imagine.

Sadly, the truth is that tens of thousands of individuals in Yeman — and many other countries around the globe — experience this daily.  Sadly — except for the last part where  doctors find them. Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres-MSF) provides those doctors. For instance, according to their website:

During 15 days of heavy clashes in April, more than 200 heavily injured people were received in the emergency room of Lawdar Hospital, where MSF has been working since January 2012. Since January, more than 3,000 patients have been treated at the health post in Jaar and more than 1,500 at Lawdar’s emergency room….More than one-third of these were trauma cases related to violence, and the vast majority were civilians.*

Now back up and think: Where do those doctors come from? Where do they start? And could you be someone who initiates such a rescue? Perhaps.

Recently, we came across a letter from international student Anna Marie Pacheco Young (’14), recipient of the Lucy Copenhaver Gunter Memorial Scholarship. She wrote to express her thanks for the scholarship JMU awarded her, what it means to her, and what she hopes to turn it into. Her letter is compelling — and it is inspiring.

Sometimes there’s a disconnect from what we give to, say, a university and the impact it can have. I came across a slogan for Doctors Without Borders that I liked: Don’t throw your money out the window. Throw it further.

That describes what a scholarship does. In the simplest of terms, a scholarship can go far beyond providing educational help. What the impact of that education becomes is the true measure of the value of a scholarship. It rarely ends with education, and as you’ll read in Anna Marie’s letter, it is potentially so much more.

I cannot begin giving my thanks without saying this scholarship was a true blessing. Currently, I am with my family in Spain. I find it awing the great news was brought to me in their presence not only because they were with me to celebrate but because my family and life in Spain have set the foundation for who I am and everything I do at JMU…. Not only does this scholarship mean a proud moment for my family as I am the first to go to college here in the U.S., it means a chance to be able to continue following my dreams.

All my life I have wanted to do one thing: to influence and help others in an impeccable way. I made the decision to dedicate my life to pursuing medicine in hopes to one day call myself a physician. This decision has grown into a beautiful dream that has been changed and shaped by my experiences at JMU and the rest of the world.

As of now, I am studying biology and medical Spanish. After I graduate, my goal is to serve abroad on medical missions for a year. More specifically, I want to target underdeveloped and impoverished countries in South America. After this year I hope to gain acceptance into a medical school of my choice and continue into a pediatric residency program. I hope to have the opportunity to serve the children of these countries and educate them into living a healthy life so future generations will do the same.

My ultimate goal is to be a part of Doctors Without Borders…. To get to this goal my educational plans hold a lot of potential and importance. I have big dreams and I know success in my college experience will be crucial to achieving them. Therefore, I hope to continue pursuing a degree …, achieving excellent remarks and grades along the way. In order to help others to my full potential I want to gain as much knowledge as possible. In addition, I want to enter into a research program this coming summer and school year in the biology department and travel to Bolivia on a medical mission that targets children in La Paz.

I have already served in Panama in which the medical team targeted families in the slums of San Miguelito. As a result, I desire to continue this kind of work in Bolivia. I also plan to continue and grow in my involvements on campus. As a student ambassador, president of Service Learning without Borders, a Spanish medical interpreter under Blue Ridge AHEC, and a member of the Huber Learning Community I learn everyday what it is to be a leader and continue to fuel my passion for service.

This scholarship means motivation, achievement, and most of all hope for the future that awaits me. 

With these credentials, is there any doubt that someday Anna Marie will turn her scholarship into something amazing? She’ll be throwing that scholarship money further than anyone could imagine.

To learn more about the James Madison Organizations, Anne Marie works with click on the embedded links above.


Cheering on Team GB

Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M) in front of London’s Tower Bridge

“When in Britain, do as the Brits do” has been a big part of the Olympic experience for guest blogger Jeremy Brown (’94,’96M) and his traveling companions, Jennifer Philips Bost (’97), Liz Hadley (’98,’04M) and Jimmy Bost (’97). Soaking up the ambiance of the international city, getting around  to different venues and cheering on Team GB are all wrapped up by lightning fast media coverage. In today’s blog, he describes how England’s media cover the Olympics, an experience that can be “slightly surreal.”

My time here in London is wrapping up and I am heading back stateside for the last week of competition. I have to be honest; I am sad to leave the excitement of the games and to join the rest of the world watching it on the couch. It will be possible to see much more of he results and stories from the comfort of home, courtesy of NBC and my Internet connection. When you are at the games, it is nearly impossible to keep track of all that happens on a daily basis unless you spend all your time online.

I quickly became a fan of the home team, Team GB. Everywhere you go in the city you are reminded of the possibilities for Britain. Billboards, tube ads, radio and tv spots, and even t-shirts showcase those expected to win big in 2012. It was impossible not to become part of the British team and follow their ups and downs with the rest of the people. There is a very healthy newspaper industry still in London, both morning and evening editions. These are found outside every tube station and can easily be found left behind on the tube, a bench or in a pub. The morning editions cover the success the night before, combined with a wish for the glory of that day. The evening versions highlight the day’s triumphs or failures. This news coverage sometimes was slightly surreal. I’ll give you an example:

U.S. opening ceremony flag bearer and fencer Mariel Zagunis competes for bronze.

On Friday we were heading out to the day’s rowing competition, held at Eton Dorney outside London near Windsor. Getting to the venue required time on the tube, the national rail, the Olympic shuttle bus, plus a brisk walk. On the way we picked up the morning paper and read of the near miss of the British rowing team earlier and the hope for success from the British Women’s double sculls team of Grainger and Watkins. The background was particularly of interest since Grainger had previously missed gold in the last two Olympics. We arrived at the venue and shared in cheering the team on to gold with 20,000 other fans. The medals were awarded and the national anthem played. After the competition, we spent some time in the town of Windsor. On the train back to central London, I picked up the Evening Standard and read — in detail — all about the event I had just attended. This included great interviews and photos. Pretty remarkable to hold the news in my hands that was only about three hours past. The newspapers covered it all. I read more than probably healthy about the badminton (pronounced BAD-min-tin in the UK) controversy in the papers and got a thorough daily update on what all the Royals were up to at the games. Then there’s the BBC.

Beach volleyball includes a cast of dancers to entertain the crowd during timeouts and between games.

Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, leads the crowd in cheers at Greenwich for Equestrain.

The BBC (the main news channel on British TV) has multiple channels covering the games. Most of my viewing was in the early morning or late at night. The a.m. shows outlined what to expect for the day and sometimes had guests from the day before. The evening shows brought together seemingly random guests to discuss the events of the day. One panel included Michael Johnson, John McEnroe, and a British Track star, all there to discuss — swimming!  The anchors recap all of the action. If Team GB fell short that segment was replayed over and over and over again. The British seem to enjoy a shared struggle or an unrealized dream. We got a lot of this on the first day when Cavendish failed to win the road race in cycling.

The best part of the BBC coverage was the nightly Team GB medal count. They have giant gold, silver, and bronze medals on the set. Headshots of any medal recipients are slapped onto the medal. If it’s gold they also give a giant dong of Big Ben. Through it all it is obvious the pride and unity the Games bring to London and Britain. Go Team GB!!!

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