For Anne and Todd King, the years when they first met as Peace Corps volunteers are “a marriage and three kids away,” but when they recount their time in Nepal, there is an immediacy and passion that comes from intense, life-changing experiences. Perhaps it is such outcomes which have enabled the Peace Corps to prosper, grow, and survive for fifty years.
March 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, begun by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Still a vibrant organization today, there are 8,655 volunteers serving in 77 countries in a wide variety of projects. Some operations like water purification and basic education remain unchanged; others such as the fight against HIV/AIDS or the development of information technologies were unimagined in 1961.
Anne King served in Nepal from 1995-1997 as a health educator, particularly focusing on women and children. Though she had majored in sociology in college and had planned to become a social worker, after Nepal where she was so affected by the intense need for health services, she went back to school and became a nurse, which is still her profession today. Todd King began his Peace Corps stint in 1996 as a science teacher in a rural village and, in his second year, he set up a volunteer program for kids at the Kathmandu Zoo.
Shortly after the Kings left Nepal, the country erupted in civil war, and the Peace Corps program there was dismantled and has never been reinstated. What can not be destroyed however are the relationships that Anne and Todd forged with friends and colleagues there. This, they believe, is at the heart of the Peace Corps, the second and third parts of the organization’s mission.
Beyond the service projects are the understandings between people which, as Todd said, “transcend the volleyball net I built at the school.”
Going far away to a foreign country, living and working within very different cultures and customs, learning a new language, all create a rich experience that is not without its challenges.
But, as Anne King said, “there are amazing lessons you can’t learn in a textbook. People everywhere have the same dreams and aspirations.”
The Kings now live in Catonsville with their three children, two of whom have Nepali names: Jivan (life) Pei, Yen Kai, and Maya (love) Jayden Chi. Though life is busy with jobs and three children under eight, the Kings still consider themselves Peace Corps volunteers. They take seriously their mission to help further understanding and appreciation of the Nepalese people and culture and have created a Nepal table for International Night at Hillcrest Elementary School. They also hope to march with other volunteers in the Catonsville July 4th parade in celebration of the 50th anniversary and the continued vitality of the Peace Corps.
See the interactive timeline of the Peace Corps history.