Our Stories

/Our Stories

  • 21 May 2019 by Patricia Halpin

    [This story is part of our series on the people behind the International Calendar. Meet Pat Halpin,  RPCV Botswana 1978-1981. If you ever left a voicemail message on our main number (in the footer of each website page), she either calls you back or forwards your call on to the right person.]


    My world was small growing up on a family dairy farm. College was only about 30 miles away and my first teaching job was in the same town. It is not much of a stretch to say that Peace Corps enlarged my world many-fold! Going to Botswana in 1978 was my first need for a passport.

    Teaching domestic science (home economics) in a secondary school was my Peace Corps job. School buildings, teacher’s quarters and student hostels were all on the same grounds. For me, teaching in Botswana was much more rewarding than in the U.S. Students understood the value of their education. Secondary education was only open to some as there weren’t enough spots for everyone. There were challenges as a teacher. The biggest problem was losing students to pregnancy. That ended a girl’s opportunity for any more education. For a young woman this was sad. There was no allowance to go back to school after the child was born.

    My students were all girls. We did individual projects outside of class. This is where the young women felt at ease in asking all kinds of questions. Learning from these students was the most valuable thing I took away from Peace Corps. It was so rewarding to hear them thinking about their future and how they could make it better. These young women knew what they could fall into or what they could make plans for. It was eye opening for me to see what they faced as teen aged women. They also had all the same wants and desires of most other young woman in the world. We are all the same.

    Peace Corps is an extremely valuable experience. I think the value is in what we as Americans learn about the world. For most of us our world is small compared to what the real-world entails.

     

  • 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!

  • 06 Mar 2019 by Ronald Geason

    The People Behind the Organization

    Ron Geason, RPCV Uganda 2016-2018

    The vision that pops into your mind when you think of a Peace Corps Volunteer is one of a twenty-something saving the world through heroic and optimistic hard work. Charging the barricades if you will. 


    I am part of a sea change in the world of volunteerism. Older Americans with good health, free time due to empty nests or good fortune, and a desire to do good work in the world are serving in the Peace Corps in increasing numbers. My service was a mixed bag. Aside from marriage and having kids, it is among the most satisfying and fun things I’ve ever done. 
    I experienced a number of obstacles, some obvious, some more subtle. You become aware that physical abilities are not evenly distributed among volunteers. Does this trail ever end? How far is the latrine? Is it true that older people are often challenged by learning new languages? 

    [Language Study Group]


    On the positive side, I felt I had a broad perspective gained from years of experience. I was able to focus on tasks at hand and make progress. Sharing my faith seemed easy and natural. Being a white guy with white hair in a patriarchal society that honors older people did not hurt. I had credibility when I stepped off the bus. Others had to earn it. It felt great to have younger volunteers seek out my opinion. I loved sharing my adventures with colleagues back home thinking that no one was doing anything nearly as cool as serving in the Peace Corps. 


    Within my cohort group of 45 volunteers, I served with three fine gentlemen over the age of 55. We named our group “The Three Fossils” and celebrated life with unique T Shirts, elaborate, secret ceremonies, fine cigars and the like. We were Brothers in Arms and benefited greatly from prized seats on buses and other blessings along the way.