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Stafford man on a mission to Bulgaria
Stafford resident travels to Bulgaria on a Peace Corps mission

Date published: 8/25/2004


More than 5,400 Virginia residents have served in the Peace Corps since the agency was established in 1961. Today, 278 are working in places such as Kenya, Belize, Uzbekistan and Nepal. Fifty-five more have accepted assignments.

James Mayers of Stafford is one of them.

"I needed a new challenge," said Mayers by phone two weeks ago. He was preparing for his 27-month stay in Bulgaria--a country in which he barely knows the language.

"I'm pretty adventurous," said Mayers, 37, who had applied to the world-renown volunteer organization last year.

The timing was right--midway between establishing his career and starting a family, he said. Otherwise, he would have had to wait until his 50s to go. And, he didn't want to postpone the adventure.

So, after making arrangements to rent out his house, after saying goodbye to friends and family, Mayers was off to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

For years, Mayers had thought about joining the Peace Corps. He developed a penchant for travel because his family moved around a lot, he said.

After hearing the experiences of a former volunteer at an information meeting, Mayers decided to get some volunteer experience before applying. He made arrangements to be a mentor at Widewater Elementary School in Stafford. Then he served as an English as a Second Language tutor in Spotsylvania.

The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, added to his desire to serve as a volunteer. "I felt like I wanted to do something to support the American ideal and express that throughout the world."

For the first three months, Mayers will receive eight hours of training daily while living with a host family.

Some of that will include basics that he will need to know in order to blend into the culture.

"He'll learn how to go to the market, how to haggle, what is appropriate behavior in the culture," explained Sara Johnston who is with the Peace Corps' mid-Atlantic regional office.

After the training is over, Mayers will be ready to take over his post, located beyond the city.

His primary role will be to organize a nongovernmental environmental agency.

His volunteer work will utilize skills in business development. But he understands that there may be other roles he will have to take on.

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