A new way to serve

A new way to serve
By Ngoc Huynh, Staff writer

Syracuse Post Standard, NY
May 11 2004

Janet Munro, of Cazenovia, is a minority among the thousands of Peace
Corps volunteers.

The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28; Munro is 69. Before
she retired as a teacher at East Syracuse-Minoa High School last year,
Munro knew she wanted to do more, give something back.

“I’ve always known that I will reach the stage of my life where I
have no responsibility,” she said, “and shed my garments and I can
completely forget about me and help other people.”

This mother of five and grandmother of 13 has been reading about
Armenia in southwestern Asia, where the Peace Corps stationed her.
She is scheduled to leave in June. She will be trained for three
months and then serve for two years.

Her daughter Nancy Chase, of Manlius, is proud of her mom.

“This (Peace Corps) will allow her to help people and use her talent,”
Chase said. “She pushes herself to do a lot and she’s an inspiration.

“We’re going to miss her,” Chase added. “That’s the only hard part
of the whole thing.”

Munro was an English teacher for 28 years, and she has been selected
to train Armenian English teachers in methodologies and curriculum

She will train for three months in Dilijan, a resort town about 68
miles from the capital, Yerevan. After her training, Munro does not
know where in Armenia she will be placed.

Munro said she does not plan to duplicate her comfortable American
life in Armenia. She knows bucket baths are common and not all toilets
are modern.

Barbara Crossett, Munro’s colleague and a former student, said Munro
has a thirst for knowledge.

“She’s like a walking encyclopedia. She knows a lot about a lot
of different

subjects. She’s very smart,” said Crossett, now an English teacher
at ES-M High School.

Crossett’s children also had Munro as a teacher.

Armenia is about the size of Maryland, with a population of about 3
million. It prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt
Christianity, in the early fourth century.

Munro read that Armenia is about 2,700 years old. She said she is
looking forward to learning about its culture, history and people.

Early last month, Munro contacted a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia
named Dawn Sheppard for advice and suggestions.

Sheppard’s first e-mail to Munro said, “You are going to love
Armenia. I have never known friendlier people. They will give you
all they have which isn’t much.”

Munro wanted to know whether shorts – which she wears when she jogs
four times a week – would be acceptable for a woman her age. “No
Armenians wear shorts, men or women,” came the reply.

To prepare for her trip, Munro has bought a Swiss army knife, books
and a sleeping bag for temperatures of minus 20 degrees. Temperatures
in Armenia are similar to those in New York state, but not all homes
have modern heating systems.

“I’m not terribly nervous,” Munro said, “but I’m beginning to feel
separation pain.”

There are 7,533 Peace Corps volunteers, according to Bart Kendrick,
regional public affairs specialist. He said about 6 percent are over
age 50. He added that people who participate usually change their
lives upon returning to the United States.

Some even seek employment with the Peace Corps, Kendrick said.

“I think it’s one of those kinds of experiences that aren’t easily
erased,” Kendrick said.