hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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August 30, 2007

Haverhill woman serves Peace Corps in Kyrgyz Republic

Haverhill and a former province of the Soviet Union have little in common except Rebecca Johnson.

Johnson, 22, is serving in the Kyrgyz Republic as a member of the Peace Corps.

The Republic is nestled in a mountainous region with Kazakhstan to the north, China to the east and southeast, Tajikstan to the southwest and Uzbekistan to the west. Roughly the size of Nebraska with about four times the population, the country’s main economic focus is agriculture.

Johnson’s role is to transfer the technical skills she has, like grant writing, managing, organizing, writing and editing, web design, monitoring, evaluation, marketing and public relations.

For the first three months, Johnson is living with a host family who has been introducing her to the country’s language and culture. After she is more confident in the language and way-of-life, she’ll move out and live in a manner similar to the Kyrgyz people.

She is in the Peace Corps as part of the Master’s International Program, which offers Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to compliment master’s course work with overseas service. The program, started in 1987 and collaborates with over 40 academic institutions, and it is a perfect fit for Johnson, who wanted to pursue a master’s degree right after college.

“I am working with, not for a community. My facilitator-like role, if effective, will empower my community to make positive, sustainable adjustments for improved living and working conditions,” said Johnson. “I knew immediately that this was what I would do. I was extremely nervous the night before my departure—repacking the bags I had packed a week prior and checking off my to-do list. On the drive to the airport the morning of departure I was nauseous with compounded emotions and heightened anxiety, but the moment I was on the plane I felt okay.”

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