Discourse / Letters / February 26, 2014

From a “smitten” Peace Corps volunteer

I’m writing in rebuttal to Mydel Santos piece, “Peace Corps presents safety concerns” from the Feb. 20 issue of The Knox Student.

As a development agency, the United States Peace Corps has three goals:

1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Contributing to a nation’s economic development falls under goal one. The Peace Corps, invited by the government of the host country to assist in their development efforts, rigorously trains its incoming batch of volunteers in multiple disciplines depending on each site’s project plan.

In the Eastern Caribbean, our project plan emphasizes literacy and youth development.  Therefore, our volunteers receive training in literacy, special education, working in local schools and classroom management in addition to extensive training on maintaining volunteer health and safety on-site.

Most importantly, volunteers are trained to conduct a Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA). During the first three months of service, a volunteer focuses on compiling this report by working alongside community leaders and assigned community counterparts.

Together, the PCV and host country national (HCN) identify the community’s needs and create an action plan to address those shortcomings over the course of two years. Ultimately, the host country and a volunteer’s community determine what projects a volunteer undertakes during his or her tenure as a PCV.

While serving in the Eastern Caribbean, I have had my fair share of doubts and disconcerts with both myself and the agency I serve.  As I prepare to wrap-up my service this April, I look back on my experience and fully believe in the Peace Corps mission.

My motivations for serving included expanding my understanding of how development works at its most grassroots level as well as my ability to give back. Over the last two years I have worked on various projects, some within my scope and experience, and others that I had no previous training in but was asked to initiate by my community.

With my COS, close of service, around the corner, I’m constantly asking myself about success and sustainability of my initiatives.
Even though I’ve compiled seven trimester reports detailing my activities to my supervisors at Peace Corps headquarters, I can’t help but feel that my purpose extended beyond what I could detail in conventional monitoring and evaluation forms.

If you are considering volunteering in the Peace Corps, I urge you to contact Robin Ragan and Knox’s Pre Peace Corps Prep Program. Robin can connect you to current and past Knox PCVs who can help you better understand the Peace Corps Agency and the realities of being a volunteer abroad.

Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that Peace Corps prioritizes the safety and security of its volunteers. I have had every minuscule concern addressed by staff members personally.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like more details about the Peace Corps mission and how it operates in the countries it serves at shrutispatel.23@gmail.com.
Shruti Patel ‘11

Shruti Patel

Tags:  peace corps Peace Corps volunteer safety sexual assault

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