Article in the Ball State University Daily News about local RPCVs
- I thought that this might be of interest. Darnell and Sarah attended
some of our early gatherings at the Rathskeller. Darnell writes for
Married couple volunteers for Corps
BSU graduates spend honeymoon in 'desert country with scorching sun"
Kimberly Robinson | Chief Reporter
November 18, 2004
Darnell and Sarah Morris-Compton spent the majority of their first
three years of marriage without electricity or indoor plumbing.
The Ball State graduates enrolled as volunteers in the U.S. Peace
Corps and left one month after they wed. This was definitely not a
honeymoon, he said. The couple began the extensive application
process a year and a half prior to their departure.
"I wanted to be challenged in a way that I could not be in U.S.,"
Sarah Morris-Compton said. "I wanted to be pushed by helping people
and learning another language and living with another culture."
She graduated with a degree social work, and he graduated with a
degree in journalism.
Sarah Morris-Compton said she wanted to volunteer since junior high
school when she saw an advertisement on television, and it just
stuck with her.
Darnell Morris-Compton said he thought volunteers consisted of
doctors and nurses, not journalists. After deciding to volunteer
together, they began to figure out what was the best thing to do in
terms of working there, he said.
"The thing about the Peace Corps is that you don't live the life of
the rich or fancy person, you live the life on par with the locals,"
They were given different choices of countries to work with, but the
choice would change because of issues such as political unrest, he
said. They finally ended up in Turkmenistan, a primarily Muslim
country. The Peace Corps gave them information about what to bring,
and they researched the culture online. They knew it would be hard
work, but they did not have any preconceived notions.
"It's nothing like you expect," he said. "Whatever expectation you
have, the experience will be different from it."
They were the ninth group of volunteers to arrive in Turkmenistan, a
place in which he described as a desert country with scorching sun
and little vegetation. While working as health volunteers, they
learned Turkmen and a bit of Russian. Sarah Morris-Compton worked in
a clinic dealing with women's health issues, while he helped
students by explaining health problems and how to prevent infections.
"I got more out of it than I thought I would," he said. "It wasn't
just a big dramatic changed, I took notice of the small changes that
affected my life."
Darnell said they spent three months of training in the country and
were supposed to have two years of service at the site. They did not
serve a full term because of Sept. 11. This was a major concern for
the couple because the Turkmenistan borders Afghanistan. He said
they stayed in clusters for about two weeks receiving updates until
they were finally told to leave. He said five countries with
volunteers in that region were evacuated.
"After hearing what happened when the planes attacked, we were
worried about putting more Americans on a plane, but they made sure
every precaution was taken, " Darnell Morris-Compton said.
After leaving, they returned to Fort Wayne only to leave six months
later to volunteer in Kenya, a definite change from the desert
climate of Turkmenistan. Their volunteering focused on HIV and AIDS
education in schools by teaching young people about prevention.
Sarah worked with widows who were HIV-positive by teaching them how
to care for themselves and staying healthy. In Kenya, he made a
juice for patients who were too weak from the disease to eat solid
He said the experience is not the same as a tourist experience.
Tourism allows the visitor to see all of the beautiful places and
eat the best of foods. He said it turned his world upside down even
with daily experiences. Although in America he would be considered
African-American, the people of Kenya called him a "mzungu" or a
white person because he is from America.
"Little things as well as monumental cultural differences, help to
highlight my own cultural upbringing," he said.
Her advice for interested students is to not have any expectations
of what it will be like.
"The world is a lot less black and white, things are a lot more
gray," she said. "You get a different set of values, the world is a
lot more complex to me now."