In February, Peace Corps Dominican Republic celebrated 50 years with el pueblo Dominicano. We had a pretty big shindig in the capital, which included the presence of the worldwide director of Peace Corps, Aaron Williams (also a former volunteer in the DR). I was on the Communications team working before and during conference. Check out my articles:
So after 50 consecutive years, how has Peace Corps impacted the Dominican Republic? And after 50 consecutive years, why are we still here? I’ve pondered that question over and over during the last few months in helping with conference prep, and I think the answer lies mostly in intangible victories. The women who are empowered to transform their hobbies into home business; the teenage girl who learned how to say no to societal pressures to have premature sex; the young jóven who now has a insatiable appetite for science; the family that now knows to wash hands before eating; the teacher who now knows how to plan a lesson for each class. Development work isn’t always quick or measurable in figures, and that fact isn’t as encouraging as constructing buildings or dropping off money, but the results should be more lasting and more far reaching.
But if that is the case, then why are we still here? On the one hand, I think our world, that is becoming flatter every second, continues to bring new challenges to life security and opportunities for growth with every new technology and every new or resurfaced disease. On the other hand, perhaps we as volunteers need to do a better job of training how to train. That is, not only teaching how to fish, but teaching how to teach how to fish. I think it’s a bit of both hands, and the latter requires us to embody even more patience and a greater spirit of service than is sometimes comfortable, in an already-foreign, already-time-restricted experience. But being aware of both hands may be the only way that Peace Corps won’t be needed in the DR anymore.
I spent some time conversing with the volunteers of yesteryear, some of whom were in the very first training groups in 1962. They had some incredible and fascinating stories to share. One of them, a warm-hearted man, now fattened by his many years of consuming the post-Peace Corps American diet, encouraged current volunteers to return to the 100th Anniversary of PCDR. It’s my hope that we won’t have to.