Returned-Peace-Corps-Volunteer

The Best Gift a Returning Peace Corps Volunteer Can Give:

Circa late October 2013

I had just worked out at the embassy gym, showered-up, bought some rice-n-beans and sought refuge from the heat in the volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Santo Domingo.

I looked across the lounge and there was Tristan savoring his final moments as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was emotional. You could tell that he was ready to carry-on with life in the United States, but it was bitter-sweet. He already missed his friends from the village. He returned his Peace Corps issued phone and there would be no last minute calls; for many of his fellow volunteers had done the same.

He fought back tears and watched the clock as it drew closer to his departure. We made nervous chatter. He would leave the Dominican Republic with the same two bags that he brought and they undoubtedly exposed two years of struggle, periodic loneliness, waterborne illness and battle. In this moment the success, personal growth and determination that comes from two years of service isn’t apparent but it will never leave him.

The clothes that he brought have been long tattered and don’t fit anymore. Change of diet, walking, heat, diarrhea and stress have caused his body to change. He has lived in poverty.

Things change.

A volunteer might bring a flashlight and end up relying on candles. They arrive prepared for the jungle and leave wearing business casual because going to the market is special. They rejoice at the opportunity to collect rain water. They arrive timid and leave with a certain air of tigüeraje (street smarts, intuition, assurance).

Tristan and I hug it out. He turns back from the door and says, “Here take this,” and is gone.

In my hand is a white plastic bag that appears to have been dropped in the mud.

Behold the contents, a perfect gift to a fellow volunteer who will muster and carry-on:

  • 2/3 of a bottle of rum from the night before, Brugal Añejo
  • One dirty sock (the other may have served as toilet paper, the beauty is that we are left to speculate, very Peace Corps)
  • Various seasoning packets
  • 1 bag of potato chips
  • 1 scratched, pirated cd with popular Dominican songs
  • 1 smashed chocolate candy bar
  • 2 used (one broken) thong sandals that could have only come from a street vendor
  • 1 water damaged, but readable book
  • Basil seeds
  • 1 dirty bandana with bleach stains
  • 1.5 limes
  • 1 Santo Domingo Metro Card (worth RD$50, USD$1.25)
  • 3 small candles
  • 2.5 bouillon cubes

I look down at my new treasures and silently say a prayer for RPCV Tristan. I am thankful for his service and sad to see him go.

I don my pirated Ray Ban sunglasses, turn towards the sun and step get on a bus that has more people than seats. 

Peace Corps Fundraiser Lunch

Peace Corps Fundraiser Lunch

I did it finally, I took the leap. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I was planing on getting more involved in the RPCV community around where I live and this past Saturday, I took the next step. This past weekend I went to the Spring Fundraiser lunch hosted by the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. It was fantastic and I fell silly for worry about meeting people and trying to fit in.

The…

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Corps to Career: From corporate rights to human rights

Corps to Career: From corporate rights to human rights

From orchestrating a youth athletics program and teaching English lessons, to assisting with community flood relief, RPCV China Dickerson left no stones unturned during her service in El Salvador from 2007 to 2009.

Before Peace Corps, Dickerson aspired to a career in corporate law, but her work with under-served communities shifted her priorities. We asked some questions of the RPCV to learn…

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Over-Under Packing

(Written on 02.26.15)

Currently I am on my flight from Tucson to Dallas on my way to Staging in Washington DC.

Leaving home was definitely bitter sweet. Leaving behind family and loved ones is never easy, but what helps keep me positive is knowing that I’m going to do my best to make them proud.

Unlike most of the volunteers, I saved my packing to the very last day. My sister’s room at my parent’s house became my “packing room.”
There, I had all of the things I knew I wanted to take spread out over her bed so that I could have a visual of what I was packing and also to take inventory.

A RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer) advised me to pack everything I wanted to take, and then remove half of your belongings. I tried to follow that advice as much as possible, but I think I only removed about 1/4.

I really don’t think I OVER packed, but I packed more than what I needed in regards to everything.


- Toiletries and Meds
- T-shirts & Shirts
- Jeans
- Work out shorts and pants
- Swim Trunks
- Flip Flops & Sandals
- Formal Shoes
- Tennis Shoes
- Boots
- American snacks (CHEESE ITS!)
- So. Much. Underwear.
- Laptop
- Go Pro
- Solar Charger
- Cell phone
- 3 head lamps
- Flash Light
- 2 Nalgene water bottles
- French Press coffee mug
- Alarm clock
- Bicycle Helmet (as per the Peace Corps’ request)
- Towels 

That covers the gist of it, but there are definitely other random things that made it in.

I came in perfectly underweight! My primary piece of luggage weighed approximately 45lbs and my pack weighed about 30. Fewf!

The hard part is over. Saying goodbye to silly personal items, saying goodbye to friends and family, saying goodbye to my home.

Now, let the big adventure begin! Yippeeeee!!!!

Day 874

Day 874 as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Today I worked out, swam for 40 minutes with out stopping in the Atlantic Ocean, gave my mom remote computer support and had a friend from my new organization over for soup. A good Sunday.

On day 873, I went snorkeling with current Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Sabine. We swam for an hour on a reef. For dinner we invited Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rebecca (who served in Ukraine). Rebecca works at my new partner organization. We made pasta, talked about all the hard times and how no one posts pictures of themselves crying alone at night or suffering from explosive diarrhea. Those days do exist and the best thing to remember is that situations are temporary.

All I can say is if you are making etch marks in the wall… don’t worry too much about day 536. Even if 537 isn’t better, you will find a way to make the bad days less frequent. Think of it in terms of stretching. If you are just starting cold or you are a yogi… we all arrive to a certain point and feel the same burning/stretching sensation. This is true even if our positions are different.

Eventually Sabine mentioned that the normal Peace Corps Dominican Republic volunteer service is 799 days. Our service will be ~40 months and ~1,201 days. 

No etch necessary. 

 

Peace Corps Festival: Tuesday, March 3rd - 6:00 to 7:30 PM - UW Career Center (Mary Gates Hall)

This Peace Corps Week, join Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from around the globe as they share stories from their service. We’ll be focusing on our Host Country Heroes, the individuals whose collaboration and friendship make Peace Corps service the amazing experience that it is. There will be something for everyone as we celebrate Peace Corps’ legacy of teamwork with communities the world over.

Milwaukee Peace Corps Association

Milwaukee Peace Corps Association

Ever since I’ve gotten back from the Peace Corps, I wanted to do more with my life. I wanted more than a job and an apartment and a car to get between the two. There was this need to be doing something that helped the community, no matter how small or large. It was a feeling of fulfillment in what I was doing with my life, a feeling I had come to love while in Ukraine. I struggled with the get up…

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A really cool story about the impact Peace Corps Volunteers (specifically Moldova PCVs!) have on our communities and people we meet, and the lasting friendships we make. You never know… a future Prime Minister could be in my class/club!

"Moldova has had a fraught history. But returned Peace Corps Volunteer Richard Kimball is optimistic. Why? Because the new president is a personal friend."

Who is your Host Country Hero?

Who is your Host Country Hero?

Every year Peace Corps organizes a video contest, for current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers. This year the theme of the video contest is who is your Host Country Hero. One of the things I love most about Moldova is the amazing people I meet here, but the people who really keep me motivated to continue working are the Moldovan youth.

I am continually impressed by their drive, their…

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“Ultimately, I think a map project truly is a collaboration of geography, art, community and advocacy. I love letting kids from Birmingham know that another kid from Alabama was able to experience another culture.  In a small but significant way our group is continuing our Peace Corps service.”

The Greater Birmingham Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group (GBRPCV) has turned the World Map Project around on its head and completed 13 murals at home in Alabama to expose Americans to the rest of the world.

Being in the Peace Corps was one of the best things I could have done to prepare for becoming an entrepreneur, especially a social entrepreneur. Successful Volunteers are, in many ways, entrepreneurs: You learn how to do a lot with few resources, how to jump into a vague situation and create change, how to recognize opportunities, and how to build something out of nothing. I learned firsthand how powerful business can be in creating social change for women.
—  Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Siiri Morley, executive director of Prosperity Catalyst, who launched a program in Haiti that provides direct support, mentorship, and training to women as they start candle-making businesses

Join the global celebration of Peace Corps service!

Peace Corps Week celebrates how Peace Corps Volunteers make a difference in host countries around the world and in the United States, commemorating the date President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order to establish the Peace Corps—March 1, 1961.

Don’t miss your chance to support world peace and friendship by furthering the Peace Corps Third Goal of helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans! Learn more @ www.peacecorps.gov/pcweek