Better citizens

August 18, 2010

You take a group of people who lived in a developed western country for most of their lives and enjoyed comfortable lives with plethora of amenities. Send them to live in a developing country anywhere in the world where they learn to live a new way of life, learn to cook using local means, get around like most of their community members and eat foods they never imagined they would eat back in their home culture.

A great potential is unlocked even though every volunteer’s journey is as unique as he/she is…

We come from a melting pot of a nation. A rich tapestry of ethnicities. Different shades of color. Various socioeconomic backgrounds. Natural-born & naturalized citizens. We all came from the Old World during various waves of migration.

We may join for different reasons but we all chose to be in the host country we serve. Help in the ways we can. Share our skills and histories. Learn about the host community. Share what we learned about the host people and their communities when we return.

Our challenges may not be that different from what many immigrants face when they first arrive in the US. Sure, immigrants come from all walks of lives. Unskilled blue-collar workers. Professional white-collar workers. Their backgrounds are diverse; regardless of their socioeconomic status or ethnic background, they may feel isolated and alienated in their new home when they first arrive. They seek others like themselves who speak the same language, eat the familiar foods, and dress like them.

Peace Corps service may not just make us into better problem solvers, thinkers, mobilizers, and ambassadors but may also help us connect better with different groups of people back in the United States. Next time we’re in a grocery store and we run into a newly arrived immigrant who may mistake us for someone from their home, or ask us a question we can empathize with them. We were in their shoes. We know what it is like to be foreigners. Learn a new language. Adjust to different norms.

No, we don’t all have to be friends with every newcomer. We can on the other hand see the other person at a point in his/her journey which may not be too different from where we were. We can say hello in their native language, or maybe they can teach us how to greet.

We can connect with a different member of the human family in a way that makes them feel welcome. Show empathy. Become a better world ambassador. The possibilities of what the service can do are limitless. The only limiting factor is oneself. How far are we willing to go?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: