Dear Future Peace Corps Volunteer

When the pandemic swept around the world, Peace Corps was forced to evacuate all of their volunteers, nearly 7000, from the sites that they were serving in. Two years later Peace Corps has been slowly returning volunteers to these countries it once served. Madagascar, the country in which I served for 3 years, finally got its first volunteers since the evacuation. Having finished up 11 weeks of training in Mantasoa, Madagascar, the volunteers swore in yesterday to begin their journey as Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar. 

While watching their swearing in I was reminded of my service, the amazing and life changing experience I had, and all of the work that was done and has continued to be done in Madagascar. This blog was started as a way to chronical my time in Madagascar; my life and work as a volunteer, the culture of the Malagasy people, and the Peace Corps experience as a whole. In light of the new volunteers starting their own service I wanted to share a post I wrote as a letter to future Peace Corps Volunteers.
 
This post was originally posted March 9, 2017 as part of Blogging Abroad's 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week four: Change and Hope.
 
sunset over lycee vondrozo madagascar peace corps


“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” ~ William Shakespeare


Dear Future Peace Corps Volunteer,
 
Peace Corps is truly a grassroots organization. We work on sustainable developmental projects to help better the lives of those in our community. We serve in towns and villages, learn the local language, live in local housing, and in almost every way of life live like those around us. Our communities' way of life and their culture becomes our own and this place so far away from what we were used to becomes our home.  
 
 
swearing in stage 45 peace corps madagascar
Stage 45 Peace Corps Madagascar

 
We say goodbye to our family and friends and leave the life that we had created, with all of its luxuries and ease, to venture out on what we will soon find to be the greatest adventure of our lives. We travel out to a foreign land, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to volunteer…, to serve…, to change the world. Changes we will make, but unbeknownst to us, many of these changes happen to ourselves. In ourselves we find the artist, the reader, the writer. We find the farmer, the nurse, the teacher. We find the selfless server, the pragmatic optimist, the zen in self-dependence. Most importantly, we find ourselves. In our volunteerism abroad we see the world and who we are in a whole new light. We see the true potential in ourselves and little by little we make changes to promote this potential. We come out of our service a better person; more conscious of the world around us and our role in it.  
 


host family mantasoa madagascar peace corps
My host family and I in Mantasoa, Madagascar

 
The changes in ourselves happen over time and we hardly notice them happening, and so to are many of the changes in our host communities. You will ship off to change the world and find it much harder than just that. You’re not going to change the world, nor the country you serve, and you may not even make the biggest changes in the community you live, but you will make an impact. You will make a change in the people that you interact with on a daily basis. They will learn from you, imitate you, and make small changes in their lives that benefit them and those around them. Sometimes you are able to see these changes, in the harvest of rice from new farming techniques in Madagascar or the regular use of new hand washing stations, but often times the changes we make as volunteers are never seen by us; taking root years after we have left. We hope that these individuals go on to make changes in others and them in others as well. In a way, at the end with these small, often unseen changes, we have and continue to change the world.
 

malagasy students planting trees vondrozo madagascar peace corps
Malagasy students in Vondrozo planting trees.

 
malagasy student planting fruit tree vondrozo madagascar peace corps
Malagasy student in Vondrozo planting a fruit tree.



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3 comments:

  1. You are doing such a great and inspiring job! I believe that volunteering will bring a world of rewards you might never have expected. I've recently read this article http://www.agsinger.com/how-to-travel-and-help-people/ about various volunteer programs, which may allow you to travel around the world. What do you think about those programs? Which of them are worth trying?

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