March 1, 2013

Peace Corps Nomination

Thirty years ago, I called the Peace Corps office to ask about applying. Instead I took a job as an engineer in Kansas City. But over the years I have continued to think about joining the Peace Corps. Twice I even started filling out the application but always chose something else. The funny thing is that with all my travels, everyone assumed I was already somehow part of the Peace Corps. But after I came home from Mongolia, again the thoughts of the Peace Corps kept coming up in my mind. Some credit should come from my friendships with several Peace Corps volunteers in Mongolia, especially Travis and Bonnie. In January I finally filled out and sent in an application.

On February 6, a day before my 55th birthday, I had my interview what went extremely well and I was nominated to be a "Secondary English Teacher Trainer" to leave in October. I've been pre-medically cleared and sent in my fingerprints for an FBI background check. Now everything has been sent to the Placement office in Washington DC and I am waiting for my "official" invitation that will tell me where I will be going. So you could say this is the start of the next chapter in "Wandering the World".

I thought I would share one of the essays I was asked to write for the application:

Motivation Statement: Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. Please provide a statement that includes:
  • Your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and 
  • How these reasons are related to your past experience and life goals. 
  • How you expect to satisfy the Peace Corps 10 Core Expectations.
When I was much younger, my mother used to gather up my other three brothers and I, to do volunteer work, usually delivering food to shut-ins. I was too young to understand her commitment to helping others less fortunate even though we were not much better off than those she helped. But now, much older and hopefully much wiser, I see I have come full circle. For the last four years as a volunteer ESL teacher at a Buddhist Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and before that as a Physical Therapist Assistant working with the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, I know how I help others on a daily basis is much more important than money or things. In Mongolia I discovered that helping others toward their hopes and dreams was a vocation and not just a job. My only aspiration is to continue to be of help to others, in any way possible, for as long as possible.

I have been fortunate to meet many Peace Corps volunteers in Mongolia and count a few as good friends still. What always impressed me was how the Peace Corps training and organization helped individuals make huge contributions to the places in which they worked. With 50+ years of experience with almost a quarter of a million volunteers sent worldwide, I see the Peace Corps as an organization that can help people like me help others in ways we haven't even thought about yet.

Although I have traveled a lot and done many things others only dream about, my experience in Mongolia was like starting fresh because instead of just traveling through a country and experiencing a people and its culture, I was actually living there experiencing it first hand every day like the Mongolians themselves experienced it. From a western standpoint, Mongolia, like many developing countries, has its difficulties with so many things we take for granted. And for many foreigners, it's a huge lesson in frustration. But what helped me most was learning from the Mongolians themselves on how to take what came along with grace and patience even though it was just as frustrating for them as other things were for me.

My past experience tells me that if I am invited to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, I know I will probably receive more than I give. But that just makes me want to give even more, both to the people and communities I would serve but also as a tribute to my mother and those like her back in the America, who strive everyday to help others in need, for no other reward than the giving.

I would also like to thank Ani Gyalmo, Deb Ward and Travis Hellstrom for writing my recommendation letters. I know they were another factor in my nomination. Thank you.

So, stay tuned for my next adventure. [smile]