You heard me. Don’t do it. I’m telling you, it’s going to break your heart.
The Core Expectations for Volunteers states you are expected to “serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary…” What it doesn’t state however is just what hardship means.
Right now you’re thinking, “Oh. There’ll be no flush toilets or showers. I can handle that. I might have to squash a few spiders, but for the high calling of changing the world, I think I can put up with those things.”
But the truth is, hardship isn’t the quirky and fun hardship you’re expecting, where each new day brings adventure upon crazy adventure, more wonderful than the next. True hardship is much more sobering.
During your service you might have to bury a neighbor. Or watch helplessly as your host family is torn to pieces by corruption. You might show up to school to learn one of your students was killed by a classmate. Your host sister could be kidnapped and forced to marry a man she’s never met. You might witness abuse, violence and mistreatment. You may see your best student lose to a kid from another school because his bribe was the biggest. Your dog might be fed a needle, just to quiet it down, forever.
And if none of that happens, then something else will. There’s just no knowing how hard it will be or it what way. It could be dealing with other volunteers is your biggest challenge. Or that you can never live up to the expectations of your host organization. Or that the Internet is so accessible you spend your entire day trolling Facebook, jealous of all the lives continuing on back home.
And what about all the things you’ll give up? Your boyfriend might not wait two years for you. You’ll put your career on hold. Your familiar support networks probably won’t be around – there’ll be no gym, no fast food joint, no car to drive, no family to visit. The stress and diet could make you lose thirty pounds—or gain thirty—whichever you don’t want.
The Peace Corps uses phrases like, “Life is calling. How far will you go?” and in a breath you’re ready to sign your name on the line. But two years is a long, long time and in the middle you find the world you wanted to change is a confusing and complex puzzle of which you are just one, tiny piece.
So please, if you’re not ready for the heartbreak in the hardship, don’t join the Peace Corps.
Because you might just find that all your blood, sweat and tears are worth it – worth the pain, worth the time and worth the investment in the people for whom your heart breaks. Because you might learn some of the most important lessons of your life – that a broken heart can heal stronger than it was before, that a softened heart has more compassion for the world, and that in between its cracks and fissures is the only place where true beauty and grace can grow.
Every PCV goes through three months of pre-service training (PST) to get prepared for the two-year service experience ahead of them. PST includes everything from language and safety trainings to getting to know the culture of your host country — and everyone lives with a host family. From packed lunches to over-protective parents, here’s my list for how PST reminds me of some of my earliest memories.
Peace Corps Volunteers in China organized a prom party at the Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics for over 300 students from three different universities in Lanzhou.
Some of the lessons we had during camp.
Others included: Life Tree (values and goals), Immune System education, Finger Painting Stories, Letter to Self, Decision Making, etc.
Also everyday after lunch, we had an hour of “camper time” where the campers got to choose from a variety of activities such as, volleyball, coloring, frisbee, origami, soccer, water color painting, friendship bracelet making (super popular with all campers), and taekwondo.
Check out our daily schedule for all the lessons and activities we did.
Today our Youth in Development team took advantage of a special opportunity to work with PC Guate’s Food Security Coordinator. With her guidance, we helped students from Segundo and Tercero Básico classes (7th & 8th grade) to make tire gardens in the afternoon.
As you can see above, we used a seriously sharp knife to cut handles into the tire and then flipped it inside-out to fill it with sticks, a piece of tarp, and a mix of soil, sand, and compost. Students chose organic seeds from a variety of native vegetables (i.e. guicoy, amaranth, onion, chipilín, chia, spinach). One example garden was made with a tire while the rest were prepared in containers the students already had at school. We were able to cut and flip eight tires for future use.
The activity was truly fun for everyone! Our group had lots of laughs while trying to flip the tire and I believe the message was powerful for the students. By up-cycling old tires and repurposing compressed dirt from containers behind the school, they could engage in more environmentally conscious behaviors and practices. As Trainees, we are now excited to see how an activity like this - that only takes a couple hours to do - can be a great way to facilitate a segue into other topics such as teamwork, responsibility, and sustainability.
[July 6 - 9, 2013]
DEMYSTIFICATION TRIP with G9 trainees!
Peer Support Network [PSN] members took the newly arrived G9 to various PCV sites to “demystify” them about Ethiopia and how PCVs work / live.
In Bahir Dar, we visited Sarah’s English classroom, where she teaches 20+ OVCs [Orphans and Vulnerable Children] everyday. Her class was amazing to say the least! Sarah showed us some of her class routines, and later we all danced together. They prepared a buna ceremony for us as well, and we took in the aroma of buna roasting all morning.
After observing the class, we had lunch and headed to Woreta, where we spent 2 full days- exploring the town, the market, making family lunch, eating out, having tea/coffee breaks, sharing our various PCV life and work stories, as well as visiting Courtney’s home and schools, and meeting faculty members.
On our last day, we went back to Bahir Dar and got to see their Camp G-GLOW in action! I was so grateful that my G9 girls got to see a wide range of activities PCVs do at site. And all the PCVs that were in Bahir Dar and Woreta were wonderful- answering questions, preparing things for our demyst group! We all got back safely to Addis on the 9th. One of my girls did get a bacteria infection at the last day, but I hope it was a helpful and fun experience for my group. It was definitely rewarding for me as their demyst group leader / PSN mentor.
Now all of G9 are at Butajira, going through their Pre-Service Training. Best of luck to you all, and I can’t wait to see you again in September before you swear-in.
It’s my One Year anniversary in Malawi!
I’m studying this photo of my group that was taken right when we got off the plane. These fresh young faces you see here have really transformed over the past year. And it’s not just that we’ve lost weight, gained a tan, and grown our hair out… the experience itself has aged us. We’ve grown stronger, wiser, more patient… and there’s a visible difference. These people who were strangers to me at the time this photo was taken have become my family, and there’s no way I could have made it this far without them.
It’s amazing how much has happened in a year, how much I’ve learned. I’m eager and optimistic for what the next year of service will bring.
Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal joyfully shake hands with President Obama during his trip to Africa
We’re proud to announce that we will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as Volunteers overseas!
Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.