The official mission of Peace Corps is, believe it or not,
“to promote world peace and friendship.”
Call me an idealist, but I love this. I love that this is my job.
However, a little more concrete, and more often referred to, are the Three Goals. I haven’t written about them yet, but they are a big deal to our bosses in Uganda and to Headquarters back in DC – as you can see by their proper noun status. Everything we do in country is supposed to fall under one of these three statements.
1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
Education! Health outreaches! Youth work! Reproductive health workshops! Literacy! These are my day to day activities, and all of this is considered Goal 1. We treat our projects not just as a way of transferring information, but as a way of “capacity building” (major PC buzz word), or equipping locals with skills and filling them with knowledge that will eventually create personal and national independence.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
I accomplish Goal 2 by simply living in my community, giving visibility to my identity as an American, and talking about it. Easy, right? Getting my host family hooked on PB&Js, showing my students how to play frisbee, chatting with my co-workers about the customs of Halloween and Thanksgiving… all of that goes here.
I am the first American that most people in my village have ever seen, let alone have had a relationship with. (I’ve had quite a few babies burst into tears at the sight of me.) Every conversation is important because everything I do or say, or don’t do or don’t say, is interpreted as This is What All Americans Are Like. We just don’t come around these parts enough for that not to be the case.
There are both positive misconceptions (There is no one suffering from poverty in America. / There are no bad men in America.) and negative misconceptions (All Americans are fat. / Americans brought AIDS to Africa to keep its population in check.) about Americans. And it’s part of my job to talk about them all.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
As the complement to Goal 2, they also want to see us telling people at home about our experiences here. It’s a way to bring the world a little closer together. Not everyone can live abroad for 2+ years, but everyone should understand as much as they can about their fellow Earthlings.
This blog is an example of Goal 3; it even goes in my quarterly reports to my boss, which is kind of cool. Other ways I accomplish this: calling or emailing friends, sending local dried pineapple to my brother Sean, guiding my Dad around Uganda during his visit, and writing back and forth with an elementary class from my hometown.
These second graders are the best pen pals I’ve ever had. They draw me pictures and ask me adorable questions like: Why are there so many bananas? Do you miss junk food and wifi? Why are your students sharing chairs and desks? We may have some Peace Corps Volunteers in the making in that classroom!
By the way, every time you read this blog, you are helping us achieve Goal 3. Thanks for that : )
However far a stream flows,
it never forgets its origin.
[African Proverb – Nigeria]