City of Scottsdale volunteer is pioneer of road less traveled

City of Scottsdale volunteer Gloria Bailey. (Submitted photo)

City of Scottsdale volunteer Gloria Bailey. (Submitted photo)

Out of close to a quarter of a million Scottsdale residents, Gloria Bailey certainly is one of a kind.

The great grandmother of nine, born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, has traveled around the world helping others. In total Ms. Bailey has been to 116 countries.

“I went into the Peace Corps when I retired at 63,” said Ms. Bailey in a July 7 phone interview. “I went in first because they were looking for older people, past 55, with experience. A lot of the youngsters that they were recruiting from the universities have the academics right but they don’t know how to deal with people as a whole because they don’t have experience.”

When she first entered the Peace Corps she worked and lived in Pingelap, Micronesia. A region of islands east of Papua New Guinea and to the west of Hawaii.

Ms. Bailey said she went to live with the people from the tiny island and find out what their negatives and positives were and how to build off of what was already there without upsetting the people.

“I took my shoes off and slept on the floor,” said Ms. Bailey. “It took them a long time to accept me because I was the only odd person on the island. I used to go to council meetings and sit outside and listen because they wouldn’t talk to me.”

Ms. Bailey lived on this island for two years. It was considered a remote island, and therefore a boat only came every other month. It took four days for the boat to arrive from Pohnpei, what Ms. Bailey called, the Capital Island of Micronesia.

“I found Leprosy on the island,” said Ms. Bailey. “They said ‘we thought it was just his face was falling away and we all have that.’ I had to get medics in there, which was very difficult.”

Toward the end of Ms. Bailey’s two-year assignment, word got back to the director of the Peace Corps at the time about how successful Ms. Bailey was, and the director made a special trip to Pingelap.

“The director of the Peace Corps came to see me and asked me to come to the Capitol Island to teach a course,” said Ms. Bailey.

The course would be a three-to-four-month conversion class to teach students English after high school so they can manage once they got to college.

“The language is supposed to be English, but every island has its own language,” said Ms. Bailey. “The kids finish high school and come to the Capitol Island where they have a two-year college. The only Miconesian college actually.”

After that is when Ms. Bailey says she “really started running around” and traveled to 19 countries.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it. I lived with the people and studied,” said Ms. Bailey. “I went to South America, Asian countries, Belize, Costa Rica. I lived in each one for maybe two months.”

Ms. Bailey, a grandmother and great grandmother, said her family was worried at first.

“At first they were not happy because they knew me as a business person, all dressed up going to the office and suddenly I’m telling them I’m going to a place where I will be walking barefoot and only eating fish,” said Ms. Bailey. “But once I got involved and started sending them pictures and information, they saw that I was OK and some of what I was doing.”

She now volunteers with the city of Scottsdale in the Ambassador Program where she mans the stations, gives instructions and talks to people. She also volunteers at Mesa schools as well.

Prior to settling down in the Valley of the Sun, Ms. Bailey studied at New York University before moving to Arizona in 1969 and became a successful businesswomen who was named the first female vice president in her company.

Ms. Bailey is now a rock star volunteer for the city and enjoys making Scottsdale visitors feel special.

“I love talking to people, especially when we have foreign people,” said Ms. Bailey. “The picture she sent you, a family in Korea took it of me and they sent it to me.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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