Withers volunteers in Macedonia
Anne Withers ’04, right, and Julie Gezon, a fellow volunteer, have fun making ajvar.
Anne Withers ’04 began a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Macedonia in December, working with the Economic Development Office of the Municipality of Novo Selo, a village near the border with Greece and Bulgaria.
Withers is helping the municipality develop the tourism potential of the region, which features two impressive waterfalls. She is assisting with grant applications and English translation while also looking at new projects for the community. Reducing a high unemployment rate is a major priority.
“Local governments such as Novo Selo’s only recently gained administrative powers from the central government with the dissolution of Yugoslavia,” said Withers.“Essentially, they are trying to figure out the process of governing. Many of their developmental strategies have the goal of eventual membership in the European Union by Macedonia.”
Peace Corps volunteers have been in Macedonia since 1996, assisting the citizens as the nation transitions to a market-based economy. There are currently 86 volunteers in the country.
In addition to her official duties, Withers is enjoying the opportunity to experience a culture new to her in many ways.
“I’ve seen Roman ruins, petted ostriches, learned a new language, tasted Macedonian delights like ajvar, musaka, sarma, and stuffed peppers, drunk rakiya with the mayor of Sveti Nikole (where she completed pre-service training), and survived a frigid bathroom.” she said. “Every time I think two years is a really long time, I realize I wouldn’t change anything about the last four months of my life.”
Withers, a double major in political science and studio art at Transy, completed a master’s degree in public policy at George Washington University in May 2006. Her long-range goal is to return to Washington, D.C., and work for the federal government.
In the meantime, her work in Macedonia dovetails nicely with one of her core values.
“My philosophy in life has always been to help people, whether it’s my next-door neighbor or someone an ocean away,” she said.