Although Michael Kim originally hails from right here in Eastchester, he’s currently living in Armenia, half a world away. As a member of the Peace Corps, Michael has been working to raise awareness of health issues in that country for almost a year.
This summer, he and a group of fellow Peace Corps volunteers will undertake a cross-country walk, Border2Border, stopping at villages to conduct one day seminars on improving children’s health.
We spoke with Michael via email as his team readied for this summer’s walk….
About Town: How did a guy from Eastchester wind up with the Peace Corps in Armenia?
Michael Kim: The Peace Corps is something that I had always wanted to do. I saw it as something positive, something very challenging but also rewarding. Having been in Armenia for almost a year now, the Peace Corps has met all of those expectations. The fact that I ended up in Armenia is really a matter of chance. Peace Corps will try to accommodate your geographic preferences when you apply, but it’s really a matter of where they need a person of your skill set. Armenia is where they sent me and I'm happy that they did.
AT: Tell us a little bit about the Border2Border walk—what are the current issues on the healthcare front in Armenia, and what specifically will the walk look to address?
MK: Healthcare is a major issue in Armenia and the problem is compounded by a severe lack of basic knowledge of healthy lifestyles. Non-communicable diseases account for over 80 percent of the deaths in this country and this is largely the result of poor lifestyle choices. For example, tobacco consumption is almost a cultural norm here with around 67 percent of the adult male population smoking cigarettes. Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of death in Armenia, accounting for 54 percent of total deaths. Our walk this summer seeks to spread awareness about these problems and educate Armenian children on ways to avoid them.
The nature of the walk also addresses the disparity of resources between the country's more populated urban areas and the significantly more rural villages. Our team of walkers will pass through many of the country's villages on foot, bringing health information and resources to village children who would otherwise have little opportunity of ever learning about these issues.
AT: Logistically, how do you plan on pulling off an effort of this intensity?
MK: Our project consists of two teams of six Peace Corps volunteers [each]. The southern team will begin from Armenia's southern border with Iran and the northern team will begin from Armenia's northern border with Georgia. The two teams will converge in the middle of the country in the town of Yeghegnadzor. Each team will walk roughly 250 kilometers [about 150 miles].
AT: We’re guessing you’re not staying at Hiltons along the way?
MK: As far as housing goes, we plan on utilizing the generosity of our fellow Peace Corps volunteers who have offered to host us along the way.
AT: What can Westchester residents do to support your teams?
MK: [They] can find out more about the project or make a donation by visiting http://go.usa.gov/40E. Donations for the project will be used for developing teaching sites and the printing of educational materials.