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Peace Corps Discovery

Friday, May 19, 2023

Peace Corps Discovery Thirty years ago, I was fortunate enough to embark upon an adventure that was one of the most formative periods of my life. As I entered the plane flying me to Miami and saying goodbye to family and friends, little did I know what sort of impact working in Belize, Central America would have on me. Of note, I didn’t realize how many times I would reflect on my varied experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer over the last 28 years! “While I was in the Peace Corps…”, I would wax, “I used to ride my bike 23 miles a day!”. Obviously, my stories have grown more and more “tall” the longer I’ve been out of the Peace Corps, but I often reflect on mountain biking with my friend Phillip at 4:30 am, drafting behind sugar cane trucks on the Northern Highway at a swift 30 mph, late nights of reading books about Gandhi, Mandela, and a British kid growing up in South Africa (still my favorite novel), bike rides to primary schools to teach kids physical education, or even hitchhiking half way down the country on Belizean Independence Day weekend. On second thought, maybe I did ride 23 miles a day! (I did make one very long ride one day - about 60 miles to Gallon Jug Village, from Orange Walk - and when I arrived, I was welcomed to the most exquisite, amazing community with wonderful ecotourist lodges and friendly Kekchi Indians. It was a trip within the entire Peace Corps experience that I’ll not soon forget.) Historically speaking, the Peace Corps was the brainchild of John F. Kennedy, who campaigned on the idea of standing against communism during the height of the Cold War in the early sixties. His idea was that if committed, enthusiastic and talented individuals took the field and worked with people in the developing world, then those countries in danger of falling to communism would be far less susceptible to such events. Fortuitously or not, when I entered the Peace Corps in 1993, the Cold War had ended. Nonetheless, my passion (mostly in soccer and teaching) served me well in the soccer-mad nation - and mostly on the grassroots level. I think Kennedy was right about the Peace Corps. For sure, it’s the one federal program that both Republicans and Democrats seem to agree upon.

The three goals of the Peace Corps are to:

  1. provide trained people in interested countries for creating viable intellectual and physical infrastructure in things like education, health and physical logistics.

  2. provide an understanding of Americans by the people served in various countries.

  3. Provide an understanding of other peoples on the part of Volunteers, and by extension, other American citizens.

Top photo: sitting in the middle of the Caribbean: “the toughest job you’ll ever love”.

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