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Where the Heart Is

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Alex Peterson '05, who majored in religion and political science, is on a mission and not even twice contracting malaria has deterred him.

by Donna Parker

As Peace Corps Ghana's National Coordinator for HIV/AIDS and Gender and Youth Development programs, Alex helps educate young women in Ghana about their reproductive and educational rights and has discovered along the way that Ghana is a country poor in economic resources, but rich in family and friendship.

"I've wanted to do this for as far back as I can remember. When I'm in Ghana, it strikes me that, even though Americans enjoy economic wealth, Ghanaians are much happier. They respect and support everyone in their community. They tell jokes, laughing about everything and they always fall back on family and God to spiritually cope with whatever their world brings."

For Ghanaian women, that world usually does not include higher education.
"Because women here are seen as less viable, we teach them through mentoring about scholarship programs, so they'll stay in school. We aren't telling their parents they have to send their girls to school, but we do offer help to those who want it and are not able to find it."

Not an easy task in a place where there is no running water, electricity, and a 10 foot x 20 foot space may house six or seven family members. 

"Plus, there are tribal conflicts. I've never felt in any danger, but in my previous assigned village, people wandered into town with bullet and deep machete wounds."

However, when life seems too hard to bear, there's always soccer.
"Soccer is life here. If there's a soccer ball, there are 500 people! Even though my skill level is extremely low, comparatively speaking, they still let me play!"

Alex, who says his own Nebraska family is very service oriented, decided early on to help others. While at Trinity, he was a founder and President of Habitat for Humanity and a TUVAC executive board member
"Tucker Gibson, department of political science, was instrumental in teaching us to know who we are and how we can help other people - help our brothers (and sisters)," states Alex, who also salutes Mary Ellen Ross and Randall Nadeau, both in the department of religion, for teaching their students to enjoy relationships and extend forgiveness to others.

"Also, Jacob Tingle, department of athletics, who led the sports recreation department, was like a father to me. He was my mentor in just about everything. He is one of those good, respectful people who just lives life and enjoys it."

When the Peace Corps assignment concludes in November 2008, Alex plans to pursue his master's degree in divinity.

"I'd like to study how to incorporate your own personal ethics into serving the world."
Meanwhile, Alex, who lives in a circular mud and concrete building and draws water from a hand pump, continues to work in remote villages where he says, "If you have the desire, you can push yourself and try new things. Right now, Ghana is where my heart is. I feel very connected to the people there and would tell everyone that we are all in this together. It's a wonderful way to look at life."

You may reach Alex at alex.alden.peterson@gmail. He checks his e-mail on the communal computer once a week.