The thing about returning home from 27 months living and working as a Peace Corps Volunteer is that everyone wants to know what it was like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Anyone who has returned from traveling knows that it is impossible to summarize everything you have seen, learned and experienced after a trip but here is an attempt to answer some frequently asked questions.
What is the Peace Corps?
Founded by John F. Kennedy in 1961, Peace Corps is a United States government agency that promotes peace around the world by sharing one of America’s greatest resources: volunteers. (Read more about how Peace Corps started here.)
Today there are over 8,000 volunteers serving in 76 countries. The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:
- Provide trained women and men to interested countries
- Help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served
- Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
What did you do in the Peace Corps?
I was a health and community development volunteer in Rwanda, Africa.
I was part of the first group to reenter the country since 1994. After three months of intensive language, culture and technical training we were assigned Rwandan host organizations.
We worked on a variety of projects from strengthening health systems to conducting basic trainings for health service providers and community members on various health topics. I worked mainly with People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) focusing on HIV prevention, treatment and care with rural and vulnerable populations in my district.
More importantly, the exchange of culture between my community and me was my main job.
Rwandans gained a better understanding of American women and I gained an understanding of Rwandans. Without trying too hard I became a role model, a diplomat and a representative for the United States just with my presence in a rural village in Rwanda.
What is a Typical Day in the Peace Corps?
I was recently in an interview when I was asked to describe a typical day as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The best and most frustrating part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is actually just that… there is no such thing as a typical day.
I can say, however, that it is a rewarding experience.
When I first entered the Peace Corps, I was worried I would not be able to pick up the language and how would I could I possibly use a latrine for two whole years.
It is always the things you worry about most that are the easiest and the things you never thought about seem to be the most challenging. There is no typical experience as a volunteer, so if you join the Peace Corps, your service will be unique all on its own.
How do you apply to the Peace Corps?
You must be a US citizen to apply to the Peace Corps. You must also possess previous volunteer experience and/or education that coincide with respective program.
For example, as a health volunteer I had to have previous experience and the education in health related disciplines in order to be considered for the health program.
Before you apply do your research!
Attend information sessions, check out current volunteers blogs (where you can find lists of blogs from every country volunteers are currently serving) and talk to RPCVs, (returned Peace Corps Volunteers) like myself, who have lived it. We can give you a good idea of what you are getting yourself into and if it is the right choice for you. If you are convinced that you want to be a Peace Corps Volunteer, then apply.
To apply you must first fill out an application that is posted on the Peace Corps website. The website is very user friendly and will explain step-by-step exactly what you need to include in your application.
Soon after you send in your application you will have to go to a Peace Corps branch to be interviewed by a recruiter. Then you wait to see if you will be accepted and then where your assignment will be.