With a desire to help others and to travel, joining the Peace Corps makes sense to Stephen Henry.

With a desire to help others and to travel, joining the Peace Corps makes sense to Stephen Henry.

“I have a couple of friends who had good experiences with the Peace Corps and I always liked the idea. Besides, if I don’t do it now, I may not get to do it,” he explained.

The application process took nearly a year, but the Augusta High School graduate of 2009 and recent KU graduate, will be leaving for Thailand in a few days. His final destination is not known at this time, but he knows he will serve 27 months in a Thai village.

“You don’t really have a say about where you are assigned. The first three months will be spent near Bangkok with about 50 other Peace Corps volunteers taking training classes,” he said.

Following the training, the volunteers will be sent to their assigned locations. They will receive a small stipend for living expenses.

“I will live the same quality of life as the people in the village. That’s a way for me to relate to them,” he advised.

While serving, Stephen will be allowed two months of vacation, making it possible for him to do some traveling and sight-seeing.

Stephen is part of the Youth and Community Development program of the Peace Corps and will conduct community outreach and needs assessments. He will act as catalysts for change and through the relationships he will forge with community members, he will be able to engage in a wide variety of outreach projects concerning at-risk children or youth, adult literacy, health education, environmental awareness, development of libraries and resource centers, and information technology.

This will be Stephen’s first trip outside of the U.S. and admits he might be “a bit nervous.” Being able to communicate with others serving in the Peace Corps through social media has definitely helped to alleviate most of the anxiety.

His parents, Don and Becky Henry of Augusta, will miss their son.

His mother stated, “The Peace Corps is lucky to get him, but we will all miss him greatly when he leaves.”

His mother, however, will have a unique way of keeping in touch with her son.

Becky is a sixth grade teacher in Leon and plans to participate in the Peace Corps’ World Wise Schools program. Her classroom will be linked to Stephen in the Thai village where he will be staying. Not only will she be helping to promote cultural awareness, broaden perspectives, and encourage service among her students, she will be able to communicate with her son.

Stephen is fully aware what lies ahead in Thailand won’t always be comfortable, but he knows the rewards from serving will make the experience worth any hardships he will endure.

He shared, “I’m looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity for me.”

Belinda Larsen can be reached at blarsen@butlercountytimesgazette.com.