Peace Corps Week is a celebration of the best of service. It highlights that as Peace Corps volunteers, we were theoretically able to make a difference or, dare even say, change the world. I don’t believe I changed the world, but I think I made intentional relationships and created space for youth to learn.
My valuable memories include the community bike ride/trash clean-ups we organized, the groups of students we brought to GLOW camps, most leaving the province for the first time. I cherish the times when I did yoga with the elderly and supported the community’s holiday events. Most of all, I remember when a few of my students cried when I told them that I thought they were smart, beautiful, and community leaders. I cried too.
Yet, I have a lot of regrets about my service. I regret the moments that I haggled over $1 in the market, the times when I got frustrated at people on the bus just wanting to practice their English, and the days where I’d rather be in my bedroom than at the community funeral. I regret the money I spent on a Peace Corps dog and trips around Thailand, the pictures I posted on FB of my community events, the moments I complained about the 10-mile bike ride to get peanut butter, and every single minute that I felt sorry for myself during service.
I believe that Peace Corps needs significant changes. What change looks like, everything from abolishment to reassessing the goals, is still contentious within the RPCV community. But something that we can each do this week is evaluate how our privilege impacted our service, positively and negatively. The regrets above are rooted in the privilege I held as a PCV and how I was not responsible for using it to benefit the Na-Or community in Thailand. I urge you to think back this week and say them out loud.
We aren’t perfect, but our best indication of morality is to no longer hide behind the delusion of absolute altruistic intent as volunteers. Join the conversation by sharing your story. Please leave a comment below or share on social media using #RPCVLessonLearned