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VENTURA : Peace Corps to Send Teacher to Hungary

When Barbara Meehan volunteered for the Peace Corps, she was bracing herself for stick huts without running water.

But as she embarks on her two-year stint this summer, Meehan will make history by joining the Peace Corps’ first mission to the Eastern Bloc. Democratic uprisings have landed her a job teaching English in Hungary.

Although the conditions in Central Europe may not be as backward as in other host countries, the challenges will be just as great, Meehan said. “The Hungarians are highly educated,” she said. “I’ll be under a lot of pressure to meet their high standards.”

For the first time in the Peace Corps’ 28-year history, volunteers are venturing into Hungary and Poland to teach English. International talks are under way to send volunteers to East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, said Peace Corps spokeswoman Paula Kuzmich.

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“We are following the path of democracy around the world,” Kuzmich said.

The Peace Corps selected Meehan to join the first 120 volunteers to represent the United States in these countries. Meehan spent two summers teaching English to Japanese students studying in Ojai.

With a degree in English and another one in journalism on the way, the Peace Corps considers her well qualified for the job. Meehan initially expected to work as a volunteer in North Africa or the Philippines.

To prepare herself, she studied French, the tongue of many North African countries, and sign language, so she could work with deaf Filipino children.

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“I’ve lived in Ventura for 20 years and I just thought it was time to do something else,” said the 38-year-old substitute teacher for Rio Elementary School District in Oxnard. “I wanted to do something where I could immerge myself in a culture and really be with the people.”


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