Miamian Spring 2010 - Feature Story - Snapshots of Service

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Snapshots of services

Helping others. The need to do so is instinctive and shows up even in our earliest years when we share our toys. Then we grow up and share our talents, whether they be teaching or farming or building, as in Chuck Thompson's case.

'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.' ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Personal Energy Transportation(PETs)

While in Guatemala, Chuck Thompson '75 showed this man how to operate and maintain a PET. A few years ago, the man, his family's breadwinner, fell out of a tree and broke his back.

"I recently returned from a great experience in Antigua, Guatemala, where I helped assemble and distribute 70 Personal Energy Transportation vehicles (PETs) to people who can't walk. While I was there, I showed them how to use and maintain the motorless wheelchairs and also helped build bunk beds for children we saw sleeping on cardboard on the ground. A recently retired industrial education teacher, I build the wooden parts of PETs – seats, backs, and sides – in my garage. The PETs are delivered to 81 different countries around the world from nearby Columbia, Mo. Just last month we sent 120 to Haiti." ~ Chuck Thompson '75 of Fayette, Mo.

PET, according to its Web site, is a faith-based, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization that started making and distributing its vehicles after a missionary in Zaire (now Congo) told of the great need for three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchairs for victims of polio and landmines.

Miami also has alumni working with Teach For America, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Special Olympics, Race for the Cure, Catholic Relief Services, and more. Truly, the list is so extensive that there isn't enough space to name them all here. The following are only a few snapshots of the many Miamians helping others, both at home and around the world.


By joining WorldTeach, Norene Harshbarger Hogle ’53 became immersed in Namibia’s culture for a year, getting to know her students and their country well. Traveling was one of the many perks.

"I'm winding up a year as a volunteer teacher with WorldTeach in Ondangwa, Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa. I was a teacher in the States for 31 years and came out of retirement for this because it is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Plus, I've wanted to travel while here, which I've been fortunate enough to do. I've taught fifth- and seventh-grade English and natural science in the far north central part of Namibia near the Angolan border. It has been a great experience with some challenges – with the large classes and lack of supplies – and is much different than any of my previous teaching." ~ Norene Harshbarger Hogle '53 of Mukilteo, Wash.

WorldTeach is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that, according to its Web site, has placed thousands of volunteer educators in communities throughout Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Pacific since its beginning in 1986.

Peace Corps

When Christopher Weiss '07 and his students started digging garden beds in the school yard, they first had to pick out unwanted roots and weeds and even bits of glass and shards of metal.

"The school gave me a large plot of land to do whatever I want with. So far we've created a seedbed and a compost pile; we are just about done turning the soil over. The soil is very rich because 10 years ago a teacher started a garden and a chicken coop, but it was abandoned. We should be planting some seeds within the next week or so and doing some transplanting in about three to four weeks. It's a lot of work and I am using students to help me complete the project. If you get suspended from E.P. Yorke High School, you don't go home, you work in the garden with me. Surprisingly, a lot of the students seem to enjoy it. " ~ Christopher Weiss '07 of Sylvania, Ohio, who is in the Peace Corps in Belize through October. He runs an after-school program for at-risk youth at E.P. Yorke High School in Belize City.

Miamians share strong ties with the Peace Corps, this year moving up from seventh to fourth place on the organization's Top 25 list for most volunteers from medium-sized schools. Currently 43 Miamians serve in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps

Aly Martin '07 and Colleen Klus '07 with Tonata, their friend's daughter. Tonata liked to visit often with her American neighbors.

Aly Martin '07 and Colleen Klus '07 lived across the street from each other as undergraduates in Oxford, but they didn't meet until they became Peace Corps roommates in Otjimbingwe, Namibia, where Aly taught high-school English and Colleen primary English in the remote African village.

Although Colleen of Burbank, Ill., finished the Peace Corps in December, Aly, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, stayed on, signing up for a third year.

In her "Under the Namibian Sun" blog, she writes, "Life in Khorixas has been great! I have a primary project now with a youth organization called OYO ( They work with learners, teachers, and out-of-school youth and use art, songs, and dramas to create behavior change and reduce HIV/AIDS. I will be working in the Khorixas office of OYO with three young guys who are wonderful! So far, I have traveled around to schools, presented the OYO magazine, and have brainstormed other projects for next term. It's great because OYO is always busy and always works with learners, which is what I love! I am also continuing with my Girls Clubs and hope to work with Ministry of Education and OYO in Opuwo to train some facilitators to start some girls clubs up there (Opuwo is the northern town in my region, Kunene)."

Project Japale Goune

Katie Krueger '01 took this photo of daily life and scenery in Senegal. When at age 24, Katie set out for West Africa, she had no idea how completely her life and belief system would be overturned.

"In their company, I was laughing more, hurrying less, and handing control of my fate over to the divine. As an outsider, I spent months pondering the formula for their pandemic joie de vivre and searching for the fabled African wiseman to reveal it to me. Some parts of the equation are clear. Spending most of your time with family and friends. A national commitment to welcoming other people into your life. Smiling at one another. Encouraging others to feel at peace. Giving every person you meet enough time to update you on the well-being of their family. Those are at least a few of the first steps." ~ Katie Krueger '01 of Madison, Wis., from her book Give with Gratitude: Lessons Learned Listening to West Africa.

While in Dakar, Senegal, as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Katie and two friends launched Project Japale Goune, which is a Wolof phrase meaning "lending a hand to children." The school lunch program serves 10,000 meals a year to children who might otherwise go hungry.

CancerFree KIDS

To celebrate 10 years of being cancer-free, Shayna, daughter of Sam '84 and Ellen Rasch Flannery '84, makes and sells beaded "courage" bracelets. Her goal is to fund a research grant with money raised entirely by kids.

"Shayna was a bundle of red velvet on her very first Christmas Eve when we noticed that something didn't look right in her eye. A week later she would have her eye removed to prevent cancer from spreading to her brain and begin chemotherapy for the tumors in her remaining eye. Nothing prepares you for that. After many months of treatment and a new prosthetic eye, she has now been cancer-free for 10 years. We say she is one of the ‘lucky ones,' but it has nothing to do with luck. Our daughter's treatment was successful because of research. Determined that no child should have their childhood interrupted or cut short by cancer, our family started CancerFree KIDS to fund the critical research that is necessary for every child to be guaranteed a cure." ~ from CancerFree KIDS Web site.

Ellen Rasch Flannery '84 of Cincinnati traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2008 to be honored by the Senate and receive the Jefferson Award, widely known as the Nobel Prize of volunteer work. Ellen and husband Sam '84 founded CancerFree KIDS in 2002. During the past eight years, they have raised more than $800,000 and funded more than 30 research projects at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

'I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.' ~ Albert Schweitzer

Editor's note: If you are a Miamian who has served in the Peace Corps, we'd like to hear about your experience. We will be sharing these stories next year when the Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary. Title e-mail or envelope "Peace Corps Story" and send to Miamian at or fax to 513-529-1950 or mail to Miamian, 208 Glos Center, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056.


For more information

Contact Donna Boen '83 MTSC '96, editor of Miamian, at or 513-529-7592.


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Miamian, Miami University's alumni magazine, highlights alumni, student, faculty, and staff involvement with the University, updating readers on campus news and events, arts, sports, and alumni news. Miami's primary communication link with alumni and close friends of the University, the magazine sets out to inform and entertain while generating a sense of knowledge and involvement with Miami University. Miamian is published three times a year.

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