PRESS - The Journal Standard
Peacefully helping those in need
Troy Tillis of Stockton hikes along the Goleshnica Mountain range in Macedonia, where he is currently serving in the Peace Corps. The country of Macedonia is 80 percent mountains, and in his spare time, Tillis said he loves to hike the area.
Troy Tillis of Stockton is living a lifelong dream. He gets to travel and at the same time help others less fortunate. Tillis plays a vital role by providing assistance and basic business skills in Macedonia and the Balkan region, by serving in the Peace Corps.
“Primarily, I promote business growth amongst small enterprises within Macedonia and I provide assistance to trade associations and local government offices and businesses,” Tillis said.
Tillis graduated from Northern Illinois University with high honors, earning a degree in management. He said it was his strong desire and interest to help others that motivated him to join the Peace Corps. Through the Master's International Program, sponsored by the Peace Corps, Tillis is able to work in two areas that he loves, higher education and helping others.
“Most importantly, I feel it's imperative, as an American, to become educated about the other individuals that inhabit this earth,” Tillis said. “Not only do we need to understand how other people in this world live, but they need to understand Americans better.”
Tillis left for Macedonia in September. For the first three months, he spent training in language and learning about the duties he would need to fulfill for his two-year stint in the Peace Corps. It was not until Dec. 17 that he officially became a member with the Peace Corps and from that time on, his two-year stint in Macedonia began.
“I am living in Prilep, a large city in central/south Macedonia,” Tillis said. “I'm pretty excited to work alongside the people.”
“Everyday is an adventure here,” Tillis said. “Macedonia on the surface functions similar to America,” Tillis said. “We don't have many of the discomforts that many Peace Corps volunteers have in other countries, but we do face an uphill battle in building a stronger democratic state and fighting corruption.”
Tillis said he was excited to learn he was going to the country of Macedonia. This country is a relatively unknown country, “rich in beauty and history.” It is a country that has seen centuries of conflict and can still be economically considered a developing country.
Tillis said his first impression of this tiny country is that the “landscape is gorgeous,” and the architecture is rich in history. The infrastructure of the road system is badly in need of help and added that the rural areas that he has seen is much like life was life in America during the 1950s.
One of the things he sees is that there is garbage everywhere and the lack of recycling concept and environmental degradation is something Tillis hopes to become more involved with.
Tillis is living in the valley between two mountain ranges. He describes Macedonia as “poor,” but becoming more developed. He said he loves the people and the biggest cultural barrier he has encountered is language, but with three months of language training under his belt, he is feeling more comfortable these days.
When asked to describe a personal experience he shared since his arrival in Macedonia, Tillis had this to say, “So far, it is hard to describe my experiences, but I think fondly of my time with my host family in the village of Chaska. The man is 73-years-old and he loved it when I spoke English to him. His favorite word was ‘friends' and we would often sit on his patio and drink coffee and eat grapes till the sun went down. Many times we didn't have anything to say, but you know we understood each other and that is how I share moments with many of the people from this country. We communicate on a whole other level.”
When asked what his real purpose for being in Macedonia was, Tillis replied, “I would say it's what I like to call cultural transfusion. The exchange of ideas, mannerisms, language and customs. I exchange societal norms with these people. I laugh with them and sometimes I even cry with then, but in the end it is about helping them.”
“My experience is all about appreciation,” Tillis said. “It is an appreciation for each other's country, an appreciation for each other as an individual, and essentially, it is about an appreciation for differences in out world. It is we, as global citizens, that can make the peace in this world.”
Tillis said he has had lofty goals about what he can accomplish by being a member of the Peace Corps. His mother, Deb Tillis, of Stockton said her son always wanted to travel and knew that someday he would find a way to travel and to help others.
“His father, Dean, and I have always been supportive of what Troy wanted to do,” Deb said. “Troy is all about giving back to the community and I have always known he wanted to travel abroad.”
“We worry about him, but know he is in a secure place and we try to talk once a week and there is always e-mail.”
Tillis said the hardest time for him was being away from his family during the holidays. He had to work on Christmas, expecting to celebrate the holidays of the Macedonian people.
Tillis is not alone in his service with the Peace Corps. He said there are a total of 80 Peace Corps members serving in Macedonia. He now lives in his own flat, which he said is modest but nice for a developing country.
He said Macedonia is a country that is 80 percent mountains, so in his spare time, he enjoys taking hikes to see what he says is “gorgeous country.”
Living with no television, he spends a lot of his time reading. Tillis said he keeps in touch with friends and family by Internet, which is easy to get in this country.
While relatively new to his newfound experience with the Peace Corps, Tillis said he knows he is doing something he was destined to do.
“It's the hardest job you'll ever love,” Tillis said.