On ‘Live Like a Peace Corps Volunteer’

I stumbled upon this awhile back: ‘Live Like a Peace Corps Volunteer’

The premise is as it sounds: it challenges people to take away some basic luxuries like hot showers, private transport and even cable TV to “give those participating in the Challenge a small taste of Peace Corps life, hopefully while having some fun”.   Depending on interests, participants can choose a country and extremity level (rookie to hardcore), and have at it.

And it seems like fun, and a good way to create some buzz about Peace Corps and help us establish some field cred.  But at the same time, I think it makes it point but misses the big one.... 

I sound like an old crank going on about this, but it’s important to think it over.  There’s no doubt the intention of the creators (fellow PCVs in Mongolia) and the participants to the challenge are good, well meaning, and light hearted.  I’m not against it, but the authors could also do more to raise conscious that this is not just a ‘PCV thing’ for two years, but also it’s peoples lives.

I’ve written about it before, but we as volunteers choose to live how we live.  We’ve agreed to live in hardship (I had to sign a contract, I believe).  We have willingly agreed time and time again to undertake whatever hardships (application, interview, waiting for the invite, invite, waiting to go to staging, staging, training, service) that we encounter during our service.  And we can choose not to go, or to leave at any time.  Seriously. One phone call and you can go.   The people we live with; we work with; those whom we grow close to will all stay and ‘rough it’.

Goal #3 of the Peace Corps states;

“Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans”

So by participating, maybe people will indeed gain a basic understanding how it is to live like the majority of the world.  But even then, the game is focused on the volunteers, which misses the point of Goal 3. 

Lastly, it also creates a novelty of the sub standard living conditions our communities face.  Not having access to water, let alone potable water, is a big deal in many countries including the leading cause all kinds of stomach problems and bacterial infections.  So much, in fact, it’s the #1 cause of death for  5> year olds here in Peru!  (Note: upon research, it got bumped to #2.  The new champ is repertory illness). People don’t willingly choose to fetch water for a day when they have a running tap in their house.  They do it because they have to.

And I don’t mean to crank on, and sound like a Debbie Downer about the program.  I think it’s an interesting premise, and might gain some notoriety, with friends/family and on some of the campuses that send a large number of volunteers year in and year out.  You might even see a Peru page up sooner or later, but it’s important not to loose sight of the bigger picture.


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