Lander University graduate Cassie Biron of Greenwood did a lot of traveling as a member of a military family, and she will soon be on the road again to a new destination as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Biron is headed for the Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked enclave tucked within the borders of South Africa. It is a poor nation whose per capita income is below the international poverty level. Its inhabitants have a life expectancy of 40 years with an HIV/AIDS rate of more than 23 percent.
Biron is scheduled to depart for the capital of Maseru on May 31 to begin 10 weeks of training in Lesotho culture and language. That will be followed by a 24-month assignment doing work that will depend on the needs of the village where she will be stationed with other Peace Corp volunteers. She expects less than comfortable living arrangements, with no running water or electricity.
In 2009, she traveled to Amsterdam with 11 other Lander students as part of a sociology research project on health care and other policies in The Netherlands. She said, “Traveling to Amsterdam really sealed the deal on applying for the Peace Corps.” In Amsterdam she went without her Blackberry, a car and other luxuries. “I found an inner strength there,” she added.”
Biron, 23, graduated from Lander in 2009 with a degree in sociology and, later that year, she formally applied to the Peace Corps. She was accepted several months later after completing an intensive screening process. “Originally, I was nominated to teach English in Indonesia but missed a deadline because of a delay in medical clearance, and was moved to another group.”
She was then given a choice of teaching English in Asia or working as a Community Health and Economic Development volunteer in Africa and she chose the Africa posting. Her career goal is to teach at the college level. When she returns home in two years, the Peace Corps will help with the next phase of her education by admitting her to a fellowship program at one of 40 schools at a reduced tuition.
A graduate of Greenwood High School, Biron is employed as a community training home coordinator for Burton Center supervising 27 clients and a staff of 35 in seven homes. She said her experience working with special needs adults has prepared her for her assignment in Africa.
The Peace Corps will fly her to Lesotho and back and provide her a modest living allowance. She can take up to 100 pounds of luggage and she plans to bring a laptop computer and an electronic reading device.
Her father, Daniel Biron, a retired Air Force veteran, and mother, Corie, live in Greenwood. Cassie is the second oldest of six children. Her older brother, Scott, is a Marine stationed in Charleston.
When she was 11, her parents adopted three children from the Marshall Islands. They are siblings, two girls and a boy, who spoke no English at the time. Less than a year later, the Birons adopted an infant in Greenwood.
She said her family is very supportive of her decision to join the Peace Corps adding, “I know my mother is already planning a family safari to visit me in Lesotho.”