On Feb. 1, the Peace Corps Prep program held a Peace Corps Film Festival in Wilson Auditorium.
The Peace Corps is a government-run agency that uses U.S. citizen volunteers to help develop and educate disadvantaged countries around the globe, and this Thursday, this agency is working with Monmouth Universities Peace Corps Prep Program, for the second year in a row, to share stories, and short films, of Peace Corps, volunteers from around the world.
“The Peace Corps headquarters is located in Washington D.C, and they asked Monmouth if we would like to host this event. Of course, we said yes,” said Frank Cipriani, Director of the Peace Corps Prep Program, Director of the Major in Spanish and Communication, and specialist professor in the world languages and cultures department.
This evening began with returned Peace Corps volunteers displaying artifacts and information from the countries that they served in. This will provide guests and students the opportunity to directly communicate with volunteers and learn more about their experience abroad.
Returned volunteers include, Linda and Carl Muhlhausen (Uganda ‘71-‘72, ‘13-‘15), Phil and Reina Levy, (El Salvador ‘74-’76), Lenore Bonilla ( Honduras ‘08-’10), John Ramus (Madagascar ‘07-‘09), and Maysee Yang ( Micronesia ‘00-’02).
Cipriani led the event with opening remarks in the auditorium, followed by Dan Turkel, a regional recruiter for the Peace Corps who served for two years in Albania from 2013-2015, and then Diane Lagattuta, a keynote speaker and returned Peace Corps who served in El Salvador and Honduras from 1980-1981.
The film festival presented sixteen different pieces created by volunteers, many of whom are still serving in other countries and cannot be present. The theme of these films is family and aims to show the unique cultures and hospitality of the families in the communities Peace Corps volunteers assimilate into.
“Home is where the corn grows,” is a saying in Guatemala that represents a cultural aspect of family, according to Cipriani.
The winner of the film festival is pre-determined by the Peace Corps, but Cipriani is organizing a people’s choice award by providing ballots for the audience members to select their favorite video. When the winner is determined, the Peace Corps Prep program will honor the winner by sending a gift to them in the country they are serving in.
Maya Paco, the student ambassador of the Peace Corps Prep program, and a sophomore communication student, will be serving as the MC for the evening.
“With my strong interest in film and cinema, the film festival is something I am personally excited for. Last year’s short films were so engaging and I was personally inspired to integrate my life with film and travel. It gives people, regardless of whether they are or are not interested in the Peace Corps., the opportunity to see a place and culture that is not their own, in a way that is beyond the usual resort,” said Paco.
Marco Palladino, a member of the Peace Corps Prep program, and a senior political science student said, “The Peace Corps film festival offers a unique, very personally experience into the life of volunteers in the Peace Corps Program. It also talks about Monmouth University’s amazing role in its foundation.”
“Last year we had return volunteers speak about their experiences and the importance of the program not only for the people they serve but as a reminder of human consciousness across national borders and how people can serve their country while building a better future in another. It is a shining example of American character and pride internationally. The Peace Corps Prep programs hope to push the student in this line of work and to encourage them once they go to bring back cultural traditions that amplify and exemplify our own,” Palladino continued.
After the films are shown, the audience was invited to enter to the hall for refreshments. At this time students who are interested in the Peace Corps are encouraged to ask questions about the returned volunteers’ experience, and parents of these students are invited to do the same.
Cipriani’s daughter is currently volunteering in the Peace Corps living in Mongolia, teaching English and training English teachers. He is very proud, supportive, and impressed by his daughter’s work. Having visited his daughter, Cipriani reflects on the gher, a tent made of felt or skins and the cold weather. While experiencing the program through his daughter, Cipriani encourages students to consider joining.
“When I went to Mongolia to visit my daughter, and when she began to speak fluent Mongolian I was so amazed. The community does a great job at teaching the Peace Corps volunteers so much about their culture, and helping them to learn the language there,” said Cipriani.
Cipriani teaches a Peace Corps Prep class where he asks students, “How many of you have mortgages? How many have kids?” and then says “this is the last time in your life before you do that you can go out and do something big and meaningful in the world without having to worry about those sort of things.
Plus, Peace Corps service qualifies you to defer many of your loans without interest. Also, after your service, you will be part of a tight-knit network, you will get two years of Civil Service credit toward pay grade and retirement, you qualify for special scholarships, you make a huge difference in the world, you get noncompetitive preference for government jobs, and the unemployment rate among returned volunteers is close to or exactly at zero.”
The Peace Corps Prep program generally meets on Wednesdays and invites the student body to attend. On Saturday, Feb. 24 the program hosted a seal watching event and has many events related to experiencing and learning about cultures.
Any students interested in joining the Peace Corps or the Peace Corps Prep program are encouraged to attend the film festival or can contact Frank Cipriani or Deborah Rothermund via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.