Centerton man begins Peace Corps service in Ethiopia


"It's going to be tough and difficult in addition to rewarding and you'll need something to keep you going for those two years," John Meisenbacher said.

CENTERTON, Ark. (KNWA) — After the loss of his wife, a local man is embarking on another Peace Corps journey — keeping their love of volunteering alive.

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

On January 12, John Meisenbacher will begin the journey towards helping to improve nutrition of women and young children in Ethiopia  — making this his third Peace Corps tour.”

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

John’s plan after his retirement was to join the Peace Corps with his wife — as a couple.

“She got sick and now it’s just me,” he said.

After her death, John retired early and decided to still fulfill their dream.

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

“The whole world peace, friendship, and making the world a better place is what I like to do,” he said.

John said he has learned a lot from his two stints with the Corps.

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

“As hard as it is when you volunteer, you still get so much more out of it,” he said.

John said each time he’s been, he’s seen so many people struggle without complaint.

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

Which in turn, made him learn to appreciate the simple life even at his age of 61.

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

“Even as an old guy being able to learn something new I guess is something that keeps me going,” he said. “I’ve learned to complain a little less and I’m happier because of it.”

Courtesy of John Meisenbacher

With the new year, John wants to encourage others to take a step back and look at ways they can help others.

“You can all make the world a better place at home or abroad,” he said. “You don’t have to go off to a third world country.”

John said when you put the needs of others first, you get way more than what you give.

“That’s the whole idea of volunteering,” he said.

Below is a press release from a Peace Corps spokesman on John’s volunteering:

John Meisenbacher, 61, of Centerton, Arkansas, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Ethiopia on Jan. 12, 2020, to begin training as an Agriculture and Nutrition Development Volunteer.

“My inspiration for volunteering was my amazing wife Theresa.  She encouraged me to volunteer with her for the American Red Cross and the St. Vincent de Paul Society while we lived in O’Fallon Missouri.  After my retirement, we planned to serve as a couple in the Peace Corps.  Sadly, that was a dream unfulfilled as she passed seven years ago.   

In 2014, I retired early to join the Peace Corps in her memory, first serving as an education volunteer in Ghana, West Africa.  It was a tough job, but I loved it.  Volunteering, helping others even with your own problems, is a great way to find happiness.  The Peace Corps mission, to bring peace and support to citizens of other nations, is a way to build lasting friendships.  About 4 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are 50 years or older, and I encourage people thinking about transiting out of careers to something else to consider Peace Corps.  Of course, I greatly enjoy serving with the dedicated and inspiring younger volunteers. 

Promoting world peace and friendship, sharing the American culture with those in the country I serve, and then sharing the country’s culture with Americans when I return is a good way to spend my “retirement”,” said Meisenbacher of his desire to join the Peace Corps.

Meisenbacher is the son of Loretta Meisenbacher, the father of Chris, Daniel, and Samantha and the grandfather of Andy and Libby.  He attended University of Maryland Baltimore Country in Baltimore, Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s in, information systems management, in 1983. Meisenbacher also attended John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he earned a  master’s in technical management, in 1992.  Prior to joining the Peace Corps, he was a local Red Cross disaster team leader for 9 years and volunteered for St. Vincent de Paul and Habitat for Humanity.

“This will be my third Peace Corps assignment, but my first in the agriculture sector.  Previously, I taught math to 7-8-9 graders in Ghana, and I taught Math and English to third graders in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Meisenbacher. 

During the first three months of his service, Meisenbacher will live with a host family in Ethiopia to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist his community, Meisenbacher will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Ethiopia, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.

“Learning from and living in a new culture and making friends would be great.  I’ve very excited about working in agriculture – learning more about bees and poultry and better applying regenerative soil techniques like composting and biochar that I’ve used on the small scale for years.

I would to see what Ethiopia is currently doing with water conservation and climate friendly projects.  I hope to be able to help the farmers find better ways to help themselves, their families, their country, and our world,” said Meisenbacher.

Meisenbacher will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Ethiopia and help Meisenbacher develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give him a competitive edge when he returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

Meisenbacher joins the 30 Arkansas residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 1,026 Arkansas residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

The Peace Corps currently has a high need for applicants to fill volunteer programs departing in 2020. Interested Americans can apply online by January 1 for hundreds of available openings in nearly 30 countries worldwide. Volunteers receive a living stipend, extensive language and technical training, and financial benefits including student loan deferment and graduate school fellowships after service. To learn more about how to get involved with Peace Corps and the benefits of service, connect with a recruiter online or register to attend an event.

About volunteers in EthiopiaThere are more than 140 volunteers in Ethiopia working with their communities on projects in education, agriculture and health. During their service in Ethiopia, volunteers learn to speak local languages, including Afan-Oromo, Amharic and Tigrinya. More than 3,860 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Ethiopia since the program was established in 1962.

About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 235,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide. For more information, visit and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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