Mandan News

Mandan resident begins Peace Corps service in Cambodia

Westen Thomas

Westen Thomas

Westen Thomas, 28, of Mandan, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and departed for Cambodia July 10 to begin training as a health extension volunteer. Thomas will make a difference on projects related to maternal and child health and infectious disease prevention and treatment.

“Having an interest in other cultures, I wanted a unique cultural experience that would allow me to be fully immersed in another culture for an extended period of time, while being able to contribute my skills and knowledge to help a community in need and make a difference in the world,” Thomas said.

Thomas is the son of Gene and Gladys Thomas and a 2003 graduate of Mandan High School. He graduated from North Dakota State University in Fargo with a degree in zoology in 2008. While at NDSU, Thomas traveled to South Korea and Australia.

“Both of these experiences abroad really sparked my interest in learning more about cultures around the world and have had a profound impact in my life,” he said. “Having those opportunities at NDSU are part of the reason I decided to learn more about the Peace Corps.”

During the first three months of his service in Cambodia, Thomas will complete technical, language, health, and safety training while living with a host family to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. The training and cultural exchange prepare Thomas for his two years of service, while also allowing community members to gain a better understanding of Americans. After Thomas is sworn into service and assigned to a community, he will work on sustainable, community-driven development projects that make a difference for the people of Cambodia and provide Thomas with leadership and cross-cultural skills he can use throughout his career.

“During my Peace Corps service, I hope to become a fully immersed member of my host community so that I can help to the best of my abilities and make a positive impact,” Thomas said. “I also hope that this experience and the challenges I face will allow me to learn things about myself that I didn’t already know and better prepare me for my future endeavors.”

Thomas joins the 14 North Dakota residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 561 North Dakota residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.