Meet Leo- our newest Kerala Volunteer!

Volunteer Leo Mathis 

Fate can really be  fickle...

In 1965 I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to UC Davis to learn the techniques of poultry husbandry. It was a four month program after which we were to take what we learned to the folks of Kerala, India.  After  successfully completing the training and about to leave with my group, I was advised on the very last day that I could not join them because I had a slightly elevated blood pressure.  Of course I was devastated.

Subsequently, I began teaching high school in a small rural town in central Missouri, which paid $4,200 a year.

Meanwhile, there was steady flow of letters between  me and the volunteers who made it to various parts of India.

I managed to scrape enough money together to get a ticket and flew to India the following summer.  It was 1966 and things were in terrible shape as the heat was bad and there was a critical shortage of rice- many were dying for lack of food.

I met up with some  of my friends and began traveling, but overlooked bringing bottled water.  Within days I was terribly sick  and unable to eat for five days. Thus began a two month trip that didn’t get any better as I went along.  By the time I left I had contracted two varieties of dysentery and was rather emaciated- I could not leave India soon enough.

After that, I led a normal life with career and family, raising four kids

Once I became a retired and single man, I discovered South East Asia and how pleasant that part of the world can be- a stark contrast to my previous experience in India.

At a family gathering in April of this year, my niece mentioned that her boss was Indian and his name was George John. I knew immediately he had to be from Kerala. She informed me he seeking volunteers to teach in the school that his family owns.  After checking it out I applied and  was accepted for the program.

So here we are fifty years after my first attempt to get to Kerala- it looks like I might make it and I can’t wait


-Leo Mathis

Future Kerala Volunteer

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