The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND Peace Corps service increases

Laura McCrystal | Friday, January 30, 2009

Notre Dame jumped four spots in the Peace Corps rankings this year, moving from No. 17 to No. 13 among medium-sized colleges and universities with the greatest numbers of alumni volunteers.

There are currently 26 Notre Dame alumni serving in the Peace Corps. George Washington University holds the No. 1 ranking, with 57 volunteers.

This year marks the sixth consecutive year Notre Dame has been one of the top-25 medium-sized universities to produce Peace Corps volunteers.

The Peace Corps seeks to provide other countries with the assistance of trained volunteers, encourage a better understanding of Americans, and gain awareness of other cultures, according to the organization’s Web site.

Sara Snider, Notre Dame ’08, is one of 800 Notre Dame graduates to serve in the Peace Corps since the program began in 1961. She began her service in Mali, located in Western Africa, 6 months ago.

“I wanted to do at least two years of international service where I wouldn’t be teaching,” she said. “Also, I wanted to live in community with the people with whom I would be serving.”

Snider has lived in a small, 450-person village in the southern-most region of Mali with a host family for the past four months.

Peace Corps volunteers develop their own projects aimed at helping their communities. As a small enterprise development volunteer, Snider will spend her time in Mali identifying and addressing needs in the area of community development.

“So far, the women in my village have expressed a desire to become legally recognized in order to better organize and be able to sell their goods as well as apply for funding as an association,” she said.

Snider said she will assist Malian women market the shea butter they make. She will assist the women’s association in her village produce better quality shea butter and find a buyer for their product.

Snider said she also enjoys the experience of living in a different culture.

“Often I would just walk around the village and join in with whatever a group of people were doing. The culture here is such that anyone is more than welcome anywhere and anytime,” she said. “It’s completely acceptable to invite yourself to any activity.”

The importance of communication is one of the biggest things she has learned in Mali, Snider said. She learned French before she arrived, and she is also learning Bambara, a local language spoken by 80 percent of Malians.

The community development and communication aspects of her service in Mali fulfill Snider’s motivations for joining the Peace Corps.

“Peace Corps is based on cross-cultural exchange and relationships built through community and that was exactly what I wanted,” she said.