Well...Im not entirely sure what clicked and made me decide to pursue Peace Corps exactly. I think doing the various Alternative Spring Breaks (ASB) throughout Drexel precipitated the decision. ASB are an alternative to that traditional college spring break of going to some exotic beach. The trips are organized by different student organizations and offer to volunteer time and labor during spring break to help with NGOs and non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, etc. While on one ASB trip to Galveston Texas to help with Hurricane Ike relief efforts, we worked extensively with AmeriCorps Volunteers. It was here that I learned alot of the different volunteer organizations.
AmerICorps was also an option that I pursued. There are plenty of Americans that can use assistance. So why not just do AmeriCorps, you may ask? Well AmeriCorps is only a 10 month commitment and although there is alot of diversity in our country, it was not enough for me. And while I have absolutely no problem helping our country, I feel as though I will be able to do that for the rest of my life through numerous volunteer opportunities. However, Peace Corps, a 27 month commitment, would be a once in a life time experience. The older I get, the less likely it would be for me to pursue the Peace Corps, with the financial obligations and the like that go with having a real job and life. Now was the time.
It just made sense. Yes I have a masters in Materials Science and Engineering and I "could have a great job" but to me, it didnt seem to matter. The difference I would make by volunteering my time to help the less fortunate in a foreign and developing country would significantly outweigh what I could offer here to our country and people by getting a typical job. Education is extremely important, not just for me and you, but for everyone.
- If I can teach one child that math is important and they can do more than what is at their fingertips then I have achieved my goals.
- If I can show a child or a community their true potential and/or be a resource to them in achieving their true potential then I have accomplished my goals.
- If I can come back to the States after my service and explain to you X,Y and Z that I learned that you did not know, or that you thought was completely out of the question, then I have fulfilled a dream.
- If I can go to a foreign and developing country and show them that we are not all rich and famous, and we have problems to, etc etc. then I have succeeded in my purpose.
- I want to experience new cultures.
- I want to try to eradicate prejudice, misconceptions, etc. both about Americans and about the culture in which I will be living for 2 years.
- Obviously, help others that are less fortunate. But I dont want to just go there and say this is how it is done. Rather, I want to work with the people in the community in which I will be living. Work along side them, and guide them in community owned projects. I want to be able to leave and know that I have helped them help themselves. Essentially, it must be a sustainable exchange.
- I want to inspire and encourage the people I work along side. I want to help them realize their potential. Only this way can change be ever lasting and sustainable.
- I want to use skills I gained while obtaining my engineering degree.
- In addition to helping and inspiring, I would gain new skills, new-found characteristics about myself that could only be realized when challenged and put in totally unfamiliar situations. I will learn a new culture, new language, new food, new way of living. Everything about "new life" is inspiring for me.
I think that about sums it up.
It has been brought to my attention, that "we just cant understand why you are so devastated by not going to Lesotho."
Well, I think that I would feel this way about any country, especially if I had mentally prepared myself for going there, and then with no warning, was told TWO WEEKS before departure that I was no longer going, as was the case about Lesotho. But why Africa? Why Lesotho?
To me, Lesotho and the program I was invited to (Education, but more specifically, Secondary Math Education) was a perfect fit for me. I had been tutoring math for a year in a low-income under-priveleged elementary school in West Philly. I know MATH. I like math. I love teaching. It was a perfect match for my skills and strengths.
- Lesotho was also a great match. It is an entirely different country and culture. A culture that is not well understood by Americans, in a region of the world that is often forgotten about. I wanted to go there and come back with so many amazing stories that would make you think differently about Africa.
- Lesotho is in another hemisphere. It would be cool to have Christmas during Summer. And my birthday (January) in summer; I have always wanted a summer birthday.
- Lesotho is in a different time zone.
- Lesotho is basically on the complete opposite side of the planet.
- Lesotho is the Kingdom in the Sky. It is very mountainous terrain. I was looking forward to having to HIKE everywhere I went, or possibly riding a donkey to get around.
- I was looking forward to the challenges that living in a severely under developed country would bring:
- No electricity: No computer.
- No running water: Taking a (cold) bath out of a bucket.
- No flushing toilets: Using a hole in the ground.
It didnt matter to me that I was going to a country that had the third highest rate (~30% of the population) of HIV/AIDS. That was just another challenge. There is just a certain stigma about Africa, both good and bad. I wanted to enhance that "good" image, and hopefully reduce the "not so good" image.
In the end, it doesnt matter where I go, just that I am helping someone. I will learn from the people, no matter who they are or where they are. Because ultimately, their life experiences are wholly different from mine.
Who knows, I still may end up in Africa at some point in my life.
Hope this clarifies my motivation and inspiration a little bit. Understanding is all I ask for.