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Old 08-01-2002, 12:23 PM   #1
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Normal The Peace Corps

Has anyone gone? Or known someone who went?

I read this book recently given to me by a dear friend. It's called "Dear Exile" and it contains the letters of correspondance between two college friends- one who went on to take a job in NYC, the other who went with her husband into the Peace Corps (they were placed in Kenya). It's a fantastic book, really a great example of friendships, every day things that happen to these two women, as well as what the Peace Corps accomplishes.

After reading this book, I had a few questions. I am in no way knocking ANYTHING or ANYONE who would ever do something so selfless as join the Peace Corps. (I'll admit there is only about a 4% chance I'd ever consider joining.)

My questions, however, lie in how effective is this organization?? Excuse my ignorance, as I am speaking strictly from what I read about this woman's experience. But she went there, had to leave one town and go to another b/c the living conditions was so horrendous, she was a teacher and it ended up she couldn't teach b/c the schools were closed after riots- the students were constantly beaten, she suffered unbelievable things while there, and then she comes back. Is she any better for it? Yeah, I can definitely see that- not taking anything for granted ever again. But.. did Africa benifit? I am really not trying to put down anyone but I just sincerely wonder if participating in those programs are really and truly worth it?

I know there are many different ways people react to situations and want to help - whether it be hands on, or financial help - but does going down there, risking your life, being forever affected by it (guilty over your own luxuries?!).. is this worth it? Ugh.. sorry if this post sounds terribly selfish. I'll just submit it and see if anyone knows what I'm talking about. I'm hoping I can get some confusion sorted out!
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Old 08-01-2002, 12:36 PM   #2
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Well, from what I understand, every single experience is different. So while I wouldn't discount what you read, you may want to pick up some other literature as well to get a broader picture of Peace Corps life. Volunteers do everything from teaching to agricultural work to business advising to medical work. And every country is different in their needs, how the community reacts to the volunteer, etc.

As someone who is joining the Corps, I have had my worries that my usefulness may not be all that great. Recently I talked with some international students from my college...one from Togo and one from Uganda and asked them candidly about their take on the Peace Corps involvement in their respective countries. Their responses were both overwhelmingly positive. The way they saw it, Peace Corps was actually making a meaningful contribution to their communities and they really appreciated them. When I told them that I was going to be joining, they were very excited about it. So that was a positive thing.

I can only speak for myself, but my reasons for joining the Peace Corps range from the desire to do something concrete to help out in parts of the world that are so desperate, a love for foreign cultures and countries, and a strong desire to do more than just send a check to charity. I feel as though even if my two years are spent in just making relationships with the community I'm placed in and even if I don't make any grand changes and look like a hero, it will still be a worthwhile experience. Change is slow...two years is almost nothing. If I've learned anything through watching my parents work as missionaries for 10+ years it is that you can't measure results like you would a corporation. If you can help just one person better their life in a small way, even just give a person who has never met an American a positive experience through your example, then I feel it to be time well spent.

Hope that helps a little, olive.

Actually, it's odd you brought this up today, because I have to call my PC rep in a few hours and tell her if I want to apply for the Africa program or the Central Asian one. I'm thinking Africa.
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Old 08-01-2002, 01:31 PM   #3
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Thanks Sula for your response! I hope you know I have the utmost respect for what you are doing.

I think I just come from a different mindframe, in the sense that I like numbers, I like quantitative improvements, I'd want to see results from my hard work.

That is interesting and positive feedback you got from those college students. I am glad they see there is a tangible difference going on. I couldn't help but remind myself of Mother Theresa as I read this and the work she did. I guess she never really saw great incredible numbers of changes but the little ones, like you meantioned.

I'd just hate to feel like people's hard work, comitmment and selflessness went to waste!!

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Actually, it's odd you brought this up today, because I have to call my PC rep in a few hours and tell her if I want to apply for the Africa program or the Central Asian one. I'm thinking Africa.
Sula, like I said above- this is awesome! and I plan on keeping in touch so maybe I can see this new world through your eyes!
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