Go! Serving in the Peace Corps as an Older Volunteer

Go! Serving in the Peace Corps as an Older Volunteer
07 May 2019 by Michelle Possin

This post is part of our series on the people behind our group. Michelle and Chuck Possin served in South Africa 2010-2012.


In 2010 my husband and I began our PC training in South Africa. We couldn’t wait to dive into a new culture. We had adventure traveled for years, often with improvised destinations. While this approach unsettled most, we were in our comfort zone. Imagine my surprise when I freaked out during week 3 of training! I cried and cried. Why was I selected to be a Health Outreach Coordinator? I didn’t have any health background! What kind of impact would I have? Would I be accepted? How in the world would I learn Zulu? Several trainees quit within the first few weeks, “maybe they know something I don’t?” But, we pressed on and spent 3 months learning about how HIV and TB co-infection had an enormously negative affect on an entire generation. We learned about the rich Zulu culture, Apartheid history and the lasting impact of institutionalized racism. And we felt comfortable greeting in Zulu.


I was placed as a HR Mgr in an NGO which provides home based and inpatient HIV and TB prevention and treatment. I had a real job with responsibilities. We formed HS clubs, organized community events, wrote grants, created a gardening project & a running club -all the PC projects you expect. We were busy every day, all day!


At the end of Yearr One I couldn’t imagine leaving. We were just getting started!. I began my mornings listening to the nurses sing. I loved my Zulu co-workers and spending my days with them. I experienced sheer awe daily, no matter if we were hiking on dusty roads or shopping in the market. I loved strolling through the village, always curious how everyone knew which goats and cows belonged to whom. I ran every morning, first alone then with kids or co-workers.


The two-plus years I spent living in KZN were the richest, most enjoyable and most purposeful years of my life. My friendships other PCVs are still deep. It changed me to my core. Even though I was a middle-aged woman, my confidence strengthened immensely. What I consider important evolved. So often people say to me “I wanted to go into the PC so badly after college, but just never went”. I always say “GO!” Go Now! Go Anytime, just GO!