Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Whitworth alumni couple working in Mongolia featured in new Peace Corps book

Hot off the presses is a new book about the Peace Corps that features some familiar Whitworth faces. In Making Peace with the World (Other Places Pub, 2011) photojournalist Richard Sitler introduces readers to 32 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in more than 22 countries across the globe. Two of the featured volunteers are Whitworth alums Ryan Hackbarth, '06, and Stephanie Hackbarth, '07, who are currently serving with the Peace Corps in Mongolia.

The Hackbarths started the long application process to join the Peace Corps in Jan. 2008.

"We wanted to travel, help people who are less fortunate, learn a new language and have an adventure," Ryan Hackbarth says.

The Hackbarths speak fondly of their time in Mongolia, where they work with children at an orphanage.

"Whether it's playing basketball, teaching English or baking cookies with the children, simply being present in their lives has been so rewarding," Stephanie Hackbarth says.

Building these relationships is what Stephanie values most. She says the most valuable thing she's learned in the Peace Corps is that the relationships she's building are just as important as the work she's accomplishing.

Ryan says he's learned that "traveling outside of the U.S. (or one's comfort zone) has incomparable value; value that cannot be learned in a book or a classroom."

The Hackbarths both agree that Whitworth's emphasis on developing personal worldviews and exploring why people believe what they believe has helped prepare them for their Peace Corps duties.

"I'm always presented with beliefs that are very different from my own," Stephanie says. "Instead of simply accepting these beliefs, I often find myself asking, 'Why do they believe this way?' Sometimes there isn't a good answer, but other times there is. Because I've analyzed rather than rejected their beliefs, I'm better able to understand the Mongolian culture and their worldview."

The Hackbarths are currently in Mongolia finishing up their service and plan to return to the U.S. this summer. Stephanie hopes that the release of Making Peace with the World will show readers that Peace Corps volunteers have vastly different experiences.

"From the people and the culture, to the language and the climate, every volunteer's experience is entirely unique. I hope readers will see this," she says.

Ryan hopes the book will "encourage readers to go out into the world."

Making Peace with the World (Other Places Pub, 2011) coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. It is available at http://www.otherplacespublishing.com/.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contact:

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703, or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.