Peace Corps’ Third Goal is a Charm

Peace Corps Honduras 1985-1987

This article originally appeared in the Peace Corps Hotline on 5/15/2010. It has been updated to reflect my past decade of work/life.

The Peace Corps has remained on my mind now for 30 years, fresh as the memory of the first homemade, thick, warm, corn tortilla that I ate with crude salt or the first taste of green mango with hot sauce, lime, and (more) salt!  Looking back, I realize that I have been involved in various Third Goal activities both formally and informally since my volunteer service in Honduras from 1985-1987.  I guess you really never stop being a Peace Corps Volunteer! For those of you unfamiliar with the Peace Corps’ Third Goal, here are all three goals of service with this US government agency: (Peace Corps, N.D.)

To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

My actual first Third Goal activity was while I was still serving in Honduras.  I submitted a quilt to the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. The quilt was designed as a flag, with each stripe an arm, reaching out to help someone.  The arms got progressively shorter as the ‘collaboration’ was made with the receiver, and the last arm ‘shook’ the hand of the recipient. The design signified governmental agencies’ past efforts of distribution of goods and services, in contrast with the Peace Corps’ effort of working with host nationals to bring about change.

When I returned home from service, I asked that my family hold a reunion.  It was a great way for me to share my experience and give them all the gifts that I had brought back.  I didn’t’ realize it at the time, but I influenced one of my nieces to join the Peace Corps. Her name is Rachel (Rogers) Miller, and she served in Lesotho from 1999-2000. You really never know who you might persuade to serve, even at informal gatherings. In my case, I returned in 1987, and my niece volunteered 12 years later.

While pursuing my masters in teaching, I used a poem that I’d written about my Honduran neighbor, as part of a dance/spoken word performance I choreographed for the theater department.  If my Honduran neighbor only knew the profound impact she had on me with her small-framed presence, smoking her hand-rolled cigar, sitting quietly in her backyard among the banana tree fronds! It was such an honor, not only to participate as a choreographer but also to share my Peace Corps’ experience visually and orally with the university students.

After I became a teacher, I would share my Peace Corps’ photo album which included trinkets and a copy of Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” with my elementary students in Los Angeles. I’ve used it many times in the classroom. In addition, I shared my story with the whole school by organizing other returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to collaborate on a display for career week. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recruits former RPCVs for their bilingual skills, so at my school in East Los Angeles, there were three of us. The display case had photos and souvenirs from each of our countries of service. The students really enjoyed learning about their teachers’ work in the Peace Corps.

I’ve blogged about my PC experience on this WordPress site. I also attend Peace Corps informational events at my alma mater to answer questions and encourage others to join. Most importantly, I stay in touch with my fellow Honduran RPCVs not only to reminisce about the past but also because they became such good friends. PCVs become like a fraternity of friends because of the shared experiences and closeness that serving in a foreign country brings, especially during the hardships of second language learning and working in an underdeveloped country with norms very different than your own.

In closing, I don’t go around talking about the Peace Corps all the time.  Instead, I’ve embedded it into my life, work, and artistic endeavors.  As Shane Townsend (RPCV Bolivia 2003-05) said in a previous Hotline article, “The pursuit of the Third Goal is much like the Peace Corps’ experience itself; you’ll get far more out of it than you can imagine.” Part of that has been realizing that the third goal has been a charm for me. The Peace Corps is firmly a part of who I am even now.

References

Peace Corps. Retrieved from https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/

Join Your Professional Organization

(This blog was previously posted in 2010 on Blogging4Broke, a nonprofit career advice blog.)

My professional association

A simple and dynamic way to reconnect with your career choice is to join the professional organization associated with that type of job. For example, I’m an educator who specializes in teaching English, as a second language. The professional organization associated with my career is called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). For less than 100 dollars, I renewed my TESOL membership. Since then I’ve been able to learn about the latest research in the field, training opportunities, and job announcements.

When I first joined, they asked me to select from various interest sections, email listserves. I signed up for several and was flooded with emails. Then I went back and revised my areas of interest to get more specific information that pertained to my needs. That’s when I read an announcement from an individual looking for assistance in moderating an online, volunteer TESOL professional development session of the Computer-assisted Language Learning Interest Section (CALL-IS). I responded immediately and took the necessary moderator training to teach the session. I taught the six-week session and felt pleased to be a part of my professional organization once again, even as a volunteer.

Secondly, you often feel isolated from peer interaction when you’re looking for work. By joining TESOL, I connected with peers from around the world via the listserve, training, and now through teaching. I’ve learned from my peers via informal training, and also took a formal course offered for a certificate program. It’s been wonderful to add new technology skills and reevaluate my teaching methodology to include that of the online facilitator. Furthermore, the experience forced me to revise my job search documents related to my teaching philosophy, resume, and cover letter.

Thirdly, professional organizations provide you with access to conferences regionally, nationally, and internationally. Most professional conferences hold a job market during the convention. Last spring, TESOL, offered reduced rates on what they called their “stimulus plan.” TESOL plans to offer membership deals in the future. Perhaps your profession offers reduced costs to attend their conferences or free webinars. You won’t know until you investigate. At least, look into joining an organization and read about their perks on the membership page. Maybe you think that $95 is too expensive right now since you’re unemployed…I’m here to tell you that it has really paid off as an investment in my career.

Furthermore, the mentor of our online training asked the trainees if anyone would be interested in presenting on the volunteer experience and the outcome of the session at the TESOL conference. Once again, I jumped at the opportunity and used my airline rewards miles to travel to the conference for free. While I was at the conference, I also collected free resources, volunteered, and attended as many presentations as possible. Plus, I was able to reconnect with former employers! This series of events came about simply by renewing my membership with my professional organization. I urge you to do the same. Good luck!

Here’s a link to the various TESOL Interest Sections: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=161&DID=550

Sandra Annette Rogers, PhD

Volunteer for the Peace Corps

Sandra Rogers sitting beside Rutilia Lopez in San Jose de Copan, Honduras
Peace Corps Honduras 1985-1987

Dear Teachers and Students,

In recognition of all the displaced workers, especially recent graduates, I’d like to share my experience of volunteering for the Peace Corps.  It’s an alternative to the 9 to 5 job and can lead to an international career.  Given the current economy, looking for work outside the US may be the right move for you! When I graduated from college, I joined the Peace Corps in 1985.  I remember how many of my friends and even professors thought that it wasn’t a good idea for my career.  In fact, I had difficulty finding references for my application because my professors didn’t approve of my decision.  One professor did; she told me that it would be the best decision that I ever made.  She was right.

How was I selected to go?  I had received my bachelor of science in clothing, textile, and design and was accepted to work as a nutrition educator because many of the volunteers in this branch were also working with clothing cooperatives, as income generating projects for destitute women.  I also grew up with the Spanish language spoken at home.  I served in a small village in the state of Copan in Honduras, Central America.  I was a nutrition educator and worked with the local nurse and school teachers to give presentations on health and nutrition, as well as arts and crafts.  Besides working in the village, once a month, I assisted another volunteer in teaching some children in a remote village where there was no formal schooling.

I received three months of language training in Tegucigalpa, as well as cross-cultural communications and nutrition classes.  All the volunteers lived with Honduran host families to help us acculturate to our new setting and learn the language.  We even attended language classes on Saturdays.  Training was extremely stressful but also a wonderful time to meet other volunteers from all over the US.  After passing the language exam and being sworn in, I was placed in San Jose de Copan.  It was an impoverished village with dirt roads, no electricity or indoor plumbing.  However, my village was better than most because past volunteers had worked there and implemented several projects.  The history of collaboration between the Peace Corps and Josefinas (as the villagers were called) contributed to my success as a volunteer.

I continued working with an existing clothing cooperative but provided more authentic designs for the products.  I incorporated the Mayan Indian designs from the nearby ruins of Copan.  In the past, volunteers have helped the villagers produce embroidered clothing with tourist motifs such as palm trees, setting suns, and hibiscus.  I was able to improve on the design of the clothing by utilizing my degree. After I felt comfortable in my new setting, I started other artisan projects.  There were several women who worked with different mediums: clay, seeds, guacales (gourds), and loofahs.  It was such a great experience to work with these women and market their products.

During my two years’ service, I also made great friendships with the Honduran families in my village.  I like to read literature and write poetry and was able to do both of these, as there was nothing to distract me.  I wrote about the characters in the village.  Even after I left Honduras, the images, smells, and music remain with me.

The Spanish language has stayed with me, as well.  When I returned to the US, I was able to teach Spanish to pay for my graduate studies, as a teaching assistant.  I received tuition remission and a stipend plus teaching experience at the college level!  My professors were amazed!  I had to take a few advanced grammar classes to professionalize my speech because the majority of my Spanish language interactions in the village were in the local dialect and not formal speech.

Fortunately, I’ve used Spanish as part of my work since that time.  I  became a bilingual elementary teacher and used my Spanish to educate children in East Los Angeles to become bilingual.  I also worked for an educational publisher that produced Spanish and English as a second language books and materials.

I didn’t realize what irreplaceable gifts I’d receive from serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The gift of interacting with a culture different from your own; the gift of learning a second language; and the gift of having served others!  I first got interested in the Peace Corps when noticing a poster on the wall in my college.  It said, “Peace Corps, the toughest job you’ll ever love!”  They weren’t kidding around.  It definitely is difficult on your health, your mental health, and your long distance relationships.  Check out these links for more information:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatispc

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.returned.thirdgoal

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.  The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Sandra Annette Rogers, RPCV, Honduras, 1985-87