As we all know our Peace Corps experience isn’t just about living and working in a foreign language in a small community on the other side of the world or about sharing our culture in an effort to foster better understanding between our host country and the United States. It’s also about sharing our experience with others long after we’ve returned and settled back into the lives that we left behind.
Peace Corps Week focuses, in part, on the effort to strengthen the 3rd goal of Peace Corps. A goal that is frequently reached through shared stories and anecdotes of our Peace Corps experience with friends and family, but admittedly receives less formal attention than some of us would like to admit. In fact, I’ve been home since October of 2007 and this past month was the first time that I formally shared my experience with a group of total strangers. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Megan Bowles, the troop leader of Troop 5815, a Girl Scout Troop based in Rockville, MD, reached out to Friends of Costa Rica looking for an RPCV that would be willing to share not only their Peace Corps experience but also their knowledge of Costa Rica. Since I live in the area and had some free time, I was more than happy to volunteer.
As an RPCV that served in Costa Rica, I was able to fulfill a double role for the girls as their guest speaker. Not only were they able to learn and ask questions about Costa Rica as a country, but they also earned the Thinking Day badge by meeting the requirement of learning about fostering change in the world through service. After some yummy snacks and pizza, we spent one lively hour learning about Peace Corps and Costa Rica. One of the troop members had visited Costa Rica recently, so it was great to hear her offering up her own facts as we worked our way through explaining Peace Corps, general information about Costa Rica, wildlife, the environment, tourism and even Girl Scouts in Costa Rica.
My interaction with Troop 5815 didn’t end there as I requested the opportunity to attend Thinking Day to assist the girls if needed and to see their final display and presentation. This past Saturday my experience with the girls came to a grand finale at Thinking Day, where not only did they represent Costa Rica expertly and beautifully, but also recited the Girl Scout Promise in Spanish in front of a group of over 150 of their fellow Girl Scouts and parents. Sharing Costa Rica and my Peace Corps experience with the girls of Troop 5815 was uplifting with a touch of nostalgia that served to remind me that while we finish our service and move on in our lives, we always carry Peace Corps in our hearts and minds.
As Peace Corps Week events kick off around the country and world, I encourage you to not only share your experience with people you know but also with those that you do not, especially children. Children have hearts and minds that are open to knowledge and new experience and it’s up to us to inspire future Peace Corps volunteers.