Comics about Volunteering: Joe and Azat

Cartoonist Jesse Lonergan donated something very precious to the world and to Turkmenistan. He gave two full years of his life to the country via the Peace Corp program. Through few drawn lines Lonergan creates the most expressive characters. Here we see Joe, the American in glasses, looking for something rather important to any traveler.

The stories are episodic partly gathered from Lonergan’s own experiences while in the country. Azat is Joe’s guide into the world of Turkmen culture and, as it turns out, Joe is Azat’s guide into the world of business. One of my favorite stories is about Azat starting an arcade in his own home. How many of you grew up believing capitalism was the BEST economic system to govern your life without understanding how it worked? Azat’s charming naivete is only outweighed by his sheer enthusiasm and you want, hope and pray he is successful.

Lonergan’s well-balanced page layouts are so effortless you don’t even recognize how masterful he is until you slow down. Sometimes it takes an amazing confluence of story and art to do so, like rarely practiced old customs of bride-stealing or setting yourself on fire to win the woman of your dreams who happens to have a reluctant family:

I asked Lonergan what he brought back with him from Turkmenistan other than memories. He said in Turkmenistan people hang out with each other and garner interest even if they are not similar be it socially, morally or politically. From Lonergan’s life in the US, he observed the opposite, a clumping together of people always sharing the same interests. Lonergan returned with a willingness to meet people who were not necessarily cut from the same cloth and much less likely to “write people off.” And, if you’ll excuse the soap box I’m a-standing on, that is one of the best lessons you can learn while volunteering and in life. Pick up a copy of the excellent comic Joe and Azat by Jesse Lonergan today!

-Jen Vaughn

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