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  • Peace Corps life defining leadership experience. Volunteers live, learn, and work

  • with the community overseas for 27 months, providing grassroots

  • assistance in six program areas.

  • I am one of more than 200,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who has

  • answered the call the serve,

  • and it's an incredible feeling to be part of this vibrant program.

  • Since 1961,

  • Peace Corps Volunteers have improved the lives of millions of people around the

  • world. Their work represents a legacy of public service that has remained true to

  • Peace Corps' mission spanning over five decades.

  • Peace Corps promotes world peace and friendship by providing trained

  • Volunteers to countries that request assistance,

  • promoting a better understanding of Americans,

  • and sharing a global perspective here at home.

  • Peace Corps places Volunteers with a community where their skills and

  • experience are most needed, based on host country requests for assistance.

  • Peace Corps service begins with training in the country in which Volunteers are invited to serve.

  • Volunteers study together and receive intensive

  • training in the local language.

  • They also receive technical training related to their job assignments

  • and learn more about the country through cross-cultural training.

  • The training here was pretty intense - intense language classes four or five hours a day.

  • And we were living in villages during the training. So the training never really ends. (speaking in Wolof)

  • Peace Corps training did help a lot

  • and then being here at school

  • watching other teachers teach and

  • have those teachers watch me teach and give me pointers

  • what to do, what not to do. Those things helped.

  • Shafiq is mainly helping us with teaching

  • He is also helping our staff teachers with the computers,

  • because most of us do not know how to use a computer.

  • Pre-service training, or before you get to site is about a three-month long process and you go through a

  • lot of language training in the local language. You also go through safety and

  • security training, medical training,

  • things to look out for both on both of those fronts.

  • With training, they teach you a lot of things but is like when you go out there and

  • first get in your community.

  • That's really when,

  • what they say,

  • "rubber meets the road."

  • Volunteers are assigned to work in a community in one of six program areas:

  • Education

  • Youth and Community Development

  • Health, Agriculture

  • Environment

  • and Business and Information and Communications Technology.

  • I work in the primary school here. I teach grades one and two.

  • My main objectives are literacy and numeracy.

  • The bakery program was first started as a workshop.

  • For the baking project, the kids participate by making the dough. They make the dough, and then they make the

  • bread and they participate from start to finish. A lot of these children are from

  • some of the poorest areas in Ecuador. They don't really know about sharing

  • or working in teams, so that was something that I try to implement in their daily lives.

  • I'm a health Volunteer assigned to a health center.

  • My job is education. I primarily have worked with

  • people living with AIDS support groups.

  • I'm working with a non-governmental organization

  • we're trying to create sustainable projects and implement them in our community.

  • I'm working with coffee farmers. We're talking about how to market our coffee

  • and how we can maximize our profits

  • from the crops that we have.

  • The goal of this fish project

  • is to ensure better food security and a better source of protein through fish.

  • I do urban agricultural work. I work at the Hospital Fann and we have a huge

  • garden that we use

  • to feed the patients that are in the infectious diseases ward.

  • Education is the largest area of need and that specifically with English

  • as such a growing language.

  • It's a field constantly looking for people.

  • So regardless of what you're doing in the Peace Corps it always comes back to education.

  • I love the work that I do outside of my primary placement.

  • The secondary projects - I love them. We started playing basketball and I saw that

  • a lot of kids had an interest. It's great.

  • The students who might not listen so much in class

  • always listen

  • in the gym playing basketball, and that's translated into a better rapport in the classroom.

  • Peace Corps is special because Volunteers get to work first-hand

  • with community members. We build personal relationships.

  • We are in the homes. We are in the community centers. We are in the organizations.

  • We are just amongst the people, making decisions with them, interacting with them on a daily basis.

  • The health and safety of Volunteers serving overseas is the Peace Corps's highest priority.

  • Volunteers receive the training, support and information they need to stay healthy and safe.

  • Volunteers have access to medical care and trained medical professionals.

  • One thing that was important to me was

  • hearing the policies of Peace Corps about safety.

  • They also did an extensive training about how to get around town,

  • areas we can go into and areas that we shouldn't go into.

  • It's nice to have a medical officer come in and tell us "hey, this is what it's like here" and these are some

  • precautions to have, and it's nice also to have them on-call 24/7.

  • I feel very safe in my community. Peace Corps was very good at preparing

  • young women for the attention they were going to receive.

  • The rules that Peace Corps has in place, I understand are put for a reason,

  • that my safety security is very important to Peace Corps.

  • Most Volunteers are able to stay in touch with friends, family, and fellow Volunteers by

  • phone,

  • text message, internet, or mail. More than 90 percent of all Volunteers have a cell

  • phone. Access to communication can vary greatly from site to site.

  • However,

  • in all cases, Peace Corps has systems in place to contact Volunteers if there is

  • an emergency in-country or at home.

  • I don't have internet nor electricity where I live so I have to leave to do that.

  • And it's quite easy for me to get out, because there is a road

  • and a good bus system.

  • So, I can leave my community in the morning.

  • I could go run errands in town, check the internet, and I can be back up into my community that afternoon.

  • There's no one typical Peace Corps location or experience. Accommodations very greatly

  • from a rural hut

  • to an urban apartment. In all cases housing must meet Peace Corps' standards

  • for safety and suitability.

  • Volunteers receive an allowance that covers the cost of housing and other necessities.

  • A lot of houses are made of wood. They have

  • thatched roofs made of a plant found in the rain forest called troli. There's no

  • power, no running water.

  • I have to bathe in the creek every morning.

  • My apartment is

  • nothing like I expected a Peace Corps living situation to be. I live in a

  • post-Soviet bloc-style apartment--I have two rooms and have most amenities

  • that I had in America.

  • Welcome to Lithabaneng. I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer

  • This would be my

  • kitchen area

  • right here.

  • I study here, read here.

  • To be eligible to serve in Peace Corps, you must be at least 18 years old and a

  • U.S. citizen.

  • Here are a few of the qualities that make for a successful Volunteer.

  • The successful Volunteer is somebody who adapts quickly to their environment

  • but who also pays attention because

  • it's not what you want for your community, it's what your community wants for themselves.

  • It's up to you to really kind of work towards that.

  • The best Volunteer is the flexible Volunteer. Being open and interested

  • and

  • having a passion

  • to learn more. It's understanding that

  • sometimes

  • their tradition is going to throw you for a complete loop. But

  • being able to grasp that and have fun with it and make it part of who you are,

  • while still staying an American, is really

  • going to make you the

  • best possible Volunteer.

  • You're coming into a place where you're going to have a lot of new experiences. It's very different from home,

  • so you need to be willing to try new things, try new foods, talk to people

  • who may be very different from yourself. If you go into it willing to

  • do that

  • and really just

  • open your heart and open your mind, it's going to be a much better experience.

  • Understanding is the key to peace, I believe.

  • Just taking that time out to understand who

  • a person is or what that person was or what that person wants to become. And once you make that exchange

  • you're building personal relationships, and that's how you begin to foster peace is by understanding.

  • One of the things about Peace Corps is I get paid basically the same as any

  • other teachers here. It's humbling in some ways because you see other people working

  • with the same amount of money

  • and oftentimes with more burdens than you have and they can make it work. It's part of the experience really.

  • Many Volunteers say that they got much more out of their experience than they gave.

  • Some of the tangible benefits of Peace Corps service include:

  • language and technical training, a monthly stipend to cover housing and living expenses,

  • full dental and medical care, and vacation time.

  • Plus, travel to and from your country of service is paid for.

  • Additionally, deferment or partial cancellation is possible for some student loans.

  • After completing service, Volunteers receive approximately $7,400

  • in transition funds.

  • Returned Volunteers have access to job placement services and a career center.

  • If you're considering graduate school and Peace Corps service,

  • you can do both together through the Master's International program.

  • Or, complete Peace Corps service, then and use the lifetime eligibility for graduate degree benefits

  • like reduced tuition, assistantships and stipends--

  • all available through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program.

  • For Master's International, I applied to