Kyrgyzstan RPCVs Create Corey Hilber Memorial Scholarship Fund
By Guest Contributor on Thursday, January 17th, 2013
In response to the tragic, early death on December 15, 2012 of Corey James Hilber (Kyrgyzstan 2009-11), the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community from Kyrgyzstan has created a memorial scholarship fund to honor Corey’s memory in the same way that he lived his life: by helping other people, and paying opportunity forward into the world. The response to the scholarship fund has been incredible so far, raising over $12,000 in one month, or about 57% of the project goal. The success of the project now depends on the support extended RPCV community. The following was shared with NPCA by friends of Corey, and contains remarks made by a close friend at his funeral.
“Corey was a magnet for the Volunteers in Talas,” stated Seth Fearey, the current Country Director for Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan. “He was a talented trainer and organizer. The staff here is deeply saddened.”
The Corey Hilber Memorial Scholarship Fund will create ten one-year scholarships to the Talas City Turkish Lyceum, a prestigious private school in the city where Corey lived and served. The Lyceum has earned its reputation for providing Kyrgyz students with an excellent education as well as a rare launch point into professionalization; however, at a cost of $2,000 per year, the Lyceum is out of reach for all but the most affluent families.
During his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Kyrgyzstan, Corey worked with local NGOs to create a citywide sanitation program that still functions to this day. In his second year, Corey worked with farmers around the country to create a successful composting education program that helped give farmers the ability to increase their crop yields and as well as to expand their knowledge of agriculture.
In addition to being a great PCV, Corey will always be remembered for being the “Mayor of Talas,” and for his role as a leader of the PCV community. Corey kept everybody together and, during the time he served, the PCV community was united and strong. The events he hosted at his apartment, the dinners, and the endless, complicated “goofs” he pulled on his fellow PCVs created a strong sense of community that will never be forgotten. Corey was more than a PCV; he was a supportive leader, a role-model for others, and, most of all, he was a friend to everybody.
Corey was much a connector of people as he was a traveler, as recounted in this story by fellow RPCV, Carl Beien, at his funeral,
“While in the Peace Corps, a group of us traveled through China together. We followed an ambitious itinerary, one that included crossing one of the highest commercial mountain passes in the world, and was technically closed to tourists. In fact, just to get to the boarder, we traded our driver a fancy digital camera instead of a fare! Once we got to the border, a cold and snowy mountaintop, we found a crew of Kyrgyz people in the middle of a celebration, with bottles of Russian vodka, loaves of traditional flat bread flavored with sesame seeds, and lots and lots of boiled meat. Low and behold, one of the Kyrgyz people recognized Corey. He was a deputy governor of the province Corey lived in, and they had made friends at some party months before. Within seconds, we were invited into the gathering. As it turned out, these were high Kyrgyz politicians returning from a trade mission to China, where they had met with ethnically Kyrgyz Chinese politicians, in a show of international good will.
“Corey, smart and prepared to a fault, showed them the best that America has to offer, when he produced a toast in their language, immaculately fitting for the occasion. “Эки тоо көрүшпөйт,” he said, “Эки адам көрүшөт.” The high powered Kyrgyz men, from these two neighboring countries, in a remote mountain pass, standing in a wide circle nodded their heads in agreement, and drank shots of vodka to christen Corey’s words.
“He had stunned them with his poignancy, ‘Two mountains can never meet,’ he said, ‘but two people always can.’ He was, indeed, the perfect man for the job.”
In keeping with his spirit, Corey’s friends invite you to contribute to the Kyrgyzstan RPCV effort to continue Corey’s legacy of dedicating his life to others. Donations are being collected through the Indiegogo online platform. Any funding over the goal will be used to create more scholarships for the Lyceum. More information is available at www.talawesome.com.