Kennedy kids

One of the beautiful things about Peace Corps is the irony of the whole experience.

We move into villages where we stick out like a sore thumb, and Peace Corps tells us, Integrate into your new neighborhood, PCV [enter name here]. Get to know your community- learn names, places, jobs, resources. Identify issues, change behaviors, formulate plans and maps and lessons and projects and find local counterparts to work with. Make sure it’s all sustainable so your impact can last long after you’re gone even though the process of development is unfathomably slow and you only have two years. Oh, and if you need any money to get your work done, you’ll have to find it yourself. Good luck!

At the beginning it can feel impossible. We find though, that over time, as long we keep showing up, keep doing good work, and keep the faith that what we are doing is making a difference then eventually the changes start happening. Our neighbors become our friends, coworkers become counterparts, and things start falling into place. But what may not be so obvious from an outside perspective is that most of the changes that happen, happen within the volunteers themselves.

In a serendipitous accident we landed here on this island in the Caribbean – idealistic Americans who think they can do anything. Many of us accustomed to due dates and deadlines are checked into a reality ward when we realize that something as simple as rain can stop all progress. Inevitably, we’re ailed with bouts of homesickness and are forced to cope with the painful fact that the lives we left behind go on living without us. It’s in these moments that the questions arise and the frustrations lead to doubts. Yet, overcoming these obstacles with a combination of acceptance and the determination to move forward uncovers a strength that was just waiting to be realized. And while our idealism becomes sobered by the reality of life here, it is never really extinguished. Rather, it’s validated and fueled by those who share in the dream of a better world – and the crazy Americans who left it all behind for something different, to inspire change with this thing called the Peace Corps. The Kennedy Kids.

As a few of us walked through the streets of Kingstown the other night, it entered my mind that a cruel joke in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer is this: the closer you get to really finding your footing, the closer it becomes time to leave. Now that a year of this journey is behind me, time seems to be speeding up as I feel my feet grounding into the earth beneath me. Yet another storm of irony and beauty rolled into one. But what’s made this lesson even more beautiful was realizing that finding my footing with these people are really just the first steps of a journey that will last forever.

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Copyright © 2010-2012 Camille Aragon

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