Alan Hale has impacted a lot of people in his life.
Whether it’s training volunteers in Puerto Rico or teaching students at Minnesota State University, Hale’s focus has always been on others and the greater good.
Despite living a life of service, Hale still had a 56-year old dream on his bucket list — a dream born when President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps through Executive Order 10924 in 1961.
At 80 years old, Hale is living that dream as the oldest currently serving Peace Corps Response Volunteer in the world.
“The inspiration of Kennedy to be of service was important for me,” Hale said. “It was always something I wanted to do.”
Hale and the Peace Corps didn’t get off to a great start. He was declined by the program soon after its inception because he was a married college student. Despite not being able to volunteer, Hale worked for the Peace Corps as a training officer in Puerto Rico from from 1962-1965.
With a bachelor’s degree in biology already in hand, Hale arrived in Mankato in 1972 to purse a master’s degree in experiential education. While pursing the degree, Hale worked as a faculty member of the Wilson Campus School for three years. His duties included teaching classes and engaging students in social service projects. Post Mankato, Hale proceeded to do a number of different things including getting a law degree. He worked as a lawyer for 12 years. Hale then went on to manage an award-winning solid waste management program.
It wasn’t until age 79 that Hale first fulfilled his dream of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. His first tour lasted 11 months.
He is on his second tour, again in the Philippines. Hale is stationed in Bontoc, a community in the province of Southern Leyte. Each tour has been centered around environmentally sustainable sanitation and education. A field he has a wealth of knowledge in given his background in waste management.
There are four big areas of concern for Hale: trash burning, overuse of plastic, composting and segregation of trash. When it comes to education, Hale works tirelessly creating publications, using social media and teaching classes to educate people in the community.
“The end goal is to come up with sustainable solutions,” Hale said. “It’s certainly a challenging puzzle.”
When he isn’t working, Hale has no problem finding things to do. It may be a swim in the ocean or a fiesta. He also enjoys spending time with his host family, or getting to know the countless number of friendly strangers who greet him on the street.
“The acceptance of the community has been great. It’s a very small and peaceful town,” Hale said. “The cultural norms have really helped me slow down.”
His tour is coming to an end this fall, but Hale hopes his impact on the community will outlast his stay.
“In the Peace Corps, you are given a situation and you have to make due with it,” Hale said. “You may even have to learn an entirely new language and culture along the way.
“That’s an exciting way to live.”