llinois again this year ranks among the top-producing states for Peace Corps volunteers. Currently, 300 Peace Corps volunteers call Illinois home, making it No. 6 among all states and No. 1 in the Midwest.
Lemont native Amanda Hoster is currently making a difference as an environmental education Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua. Hoster, who graduated from Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill., and Kenyon University in Gambier, Ohio, trains local educators and co-teaches science and environmental studies classes, as well as coordinating recycling projects and English classes in her community. Growing up in Illinois helped put Hoster on the path to Peace Corps.
“In school and at church growing up, we were always taught the importance of community service. I always participated in food drives and visits to nursing homes, as did most of my peers,” said Hoster, 23, who has been serving in Peace Corps since September 2012. “In Lemont, I was always surrounded by the idea that we should help others in need and be compassionate. Because of my upbringing, Peace Corps was a next logical step, because it allows me to share my talents and knowledge with people in need.”
Hoster works in two schools with four teachers and about 90 students. She also teaches community English classes and this year hopes to build improved stoves and ovens in her communities.
Since Peace Corps was created in 1961, 8,302 Illinois residents have made a difference and helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served, according to a release from the Peace Corps. Within Illinois, the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metro area is home to 239 active Peace Corps volunteers, and Chicagoland is the fourth-highest producer of Peace Corpsvolunteers this year among metropolitan areas. On the whole, 4.2 percent of all current Peace Corps volunteers are from Illinois."Being in Nicaragua has changed me in so many ways, but I think the most important things I've learned are persistence and the importance of family and community," Hoster said. "Nicaragua as a country has been through so many hardships, from the revolution and civil war to hurricanes and earthquakes to the current poverty rate. Despite all this, everyone keeps working to help their family members and community members.
"Everyone is willing to give of themselves to others, even if they don't have much themselves and everyone truly wants the best for the community and the country. It’s inspiring to see people work together so much."
It's easy to keep up with Patch!