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Author Topic: Challenges In The Peace Corps  (Read 3466 times)

Offline pabula90

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Challenges In The Peace Corps
« on: May 26, 2014, 12:42:07 PM »
Hello everyone, I'm a recent applicant and I am just wondering if any current PCV or RPCV would care to discuss some of the challenges they may have faced during their assignments, specifically becoming a racial minority, dealing with changes in societal gender roles, and finding new ways to handle stress. If these issues were encountered how did they effect you and how did you cope?


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Re: Challenges In The Peace Corps
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2014, 07:00:14 AM »
Don't worry. Everyone in the Peace Corps is a minority, so you'll have plenty of company.  ;)

Offline George

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Re: Challenges In The Peace Corps
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 12:23:14 PM »
Just be your self and go with the flow.  Don't take too many exectations with you.   You're joining someone else's society and you'll have to live by their norms.  Be patient.  For instance I was in a very rural village (1971-1973) in West Africa, no electricity, no road, water from a will about 1/2 mile away. I was initially frustrated trying to set up meetings with village chiefs or elders who had a different concept of time.  I was the only one who had a watch so the concept of mid morning for someone who got up with the sun varied greatl;y from mine.   Once I understood and adapted to their norms we were fine. 

Offline PeaceCorps1

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Re: Challenges In The Peace Corps
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2014, 04:44:08 PM »
The questions asks about becoming a racial minority. Sooooo--do you think that all volunteers are white--not already minorities in the USA?

"If it were not for the reporters, I'd tell you the truth"', President Chester A. Arthur

Offline libby

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Re: Challenges In The Peace Corps
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2014, 06:55:46 AM »
My cohort isn't "average" then. We had 2 couples (I'm half of one of them and I am over 40. My husband is 50+), we had 8 women 50+ and two of them were african american. We also have asian americans, african americans, and other ethnicities of more "traditional" age represented.  As a group, we are diminished now. We began as 44 PCTs, we're down to, I think, 22.

If you're a white volunteer in rural South Africa, as I am, you will be the "racial" minority in your village. Ditto if you're Hispanic or Asian, or etc. In fact, though, in whatever way you do or don't look different from the people in your village, you will the minority in terms of your cultural views and sensibilities. We are all Americans serving, and the cultural divide can be quite wide at times.

That said, we are the first white people many of our learners and the villagers had ever spoken too. We don't get harassed too much, because we're older and married, but I still hate being called umlungu. Gender roles: There are some rather fixed gender roles here, but I see young people challenging them. If your experience is at all like ours, you'll find that as an outsider, you're going to be strange in so many ways that people won't be too concerned about you flouting gender roles. My husband openly helps with the laundry and no one bats an eye. For the stress, try as many different strategies as you can for cultivating patience. Things can be frustratingly slow or never happen at all. I'd get really upset at the inertia, but after almost two years, I am *finally* learning just a *bit* of patience and have fractionally improved at letting some things go.

Offline Steve S

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Re: Challenges In The Peace Corps
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2014, 08:51:28 AM »
Libby and others provided some anecdotes about the PCV's status inconsistancies that can lead to stress. A common challange (post-initial cultural shock) is low level stress sometimes magnified by physically challanging living conditions. Although; support networks, short vacations,exercise,Skype calls,loving relationships,art,message, music, or other therapy, etc. can relieve some of the symptoms of this stress the structure of service make this a general issue.