Monday, March 31, 2014

Bringing the World Home (the Peace Corps Third Goal)

"The logic of the Peace Corps is that 
someday we are going to bring it home to America." 
President John F. Kennedy, 1961 

What makes Peace Corps service unusual (amongst many other things), is that service continues long after volunteers leave their host countries! I have written in previous posts about the goals of the Peace Corps that volunteers are expected to work towards - Here's a quick reminder:
1. Helping the people of the host country with technical skills.
2. Helping to promote to the host country a better understanding of Americans.
3. Helping to promote to Americans a better understanding of the host country.

Goals 1 and 2 were very much a part of my time in Morocco. I was able to take small steps towards Goal 3 during my service: through this blog, through time spent with visitors, through a pen pal program with a home school in Connecticut, and a few guest blog posts here and there. But the real work on Goal 3 started when I came back to the US.

A lot of Goal 3 seems to happen informally as we catch back up with friends and family, but I am also on the lookout for chances to speak about our experiences in larger settings, and Justin and I were recently fortunate to have our first opportunity to speak formally about Morocco; in this case, to the 8th grade class of The Emery/Weiner School from Houston, Texas! 

How did I manage to connect with 8th graders from Houston you might ask? Through my lovely friend Nishta, a high school classmate and teacher at The Emery/Weiner School. Nishta and I have been able to stay in touch through the wonders of Facebook and I even wrote a guest post for her fantastic blog while in Morocco. When I got back stateside, Nishta and I reconnected and set up a time to speak to her students when they came to visit Washington, DC on a class trip. So earlier this month, Justin and I put on our coworker hats once again and collaborated on a powerpoint presentation to deliver about our experiences - ranging from why we joined the Peace Corps, to the type of projects that we did, to some of the key lessons we would want Americans to learn about Morocco. We weren't sure how our presentation would go over, but to the credit of these mature, respectful, and talented students, we spoke to an excited and engaged crowd of 60 with tons of interest and lots of questions!

Huge thanks to Nishta and the wonderful folks at The Emery/Weiner School for the work that they do with these great students. We were really impressed by their interest in Morocco and the Peace Corps and questions that showed real thoughtfulness, but beyond that, when having a dialogue with the students about volunteerism and service, we were also incredibly impressed by the volunteer activities that these students were already doing back in their own communities.

Incredibly thoughtful thank-you notes from Nishta and her students.

It was truly a fantastic Goal 3 experience and we're looking for lots more of them! If you're interested or know of opportunities, please let me know. And if you're interested in seeing the presentation that we gave to Nishta's students, you can download it from here.