It’s time to hit those last few letters as the #atozchallenge winds down. Today’s letter is V, and I’m writing about:
A huge part of my identity lies in having been a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ve only been back to the States for about 4.5 months, after two and a half years of living in South Africa as a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps. Though I’m now back in the States, actually being paid to do work I enjoy, rather than doing it for free as a volunteer, I will never underestimate the power of volunteering.
There’s something about giving up your time and energy to help others, something that you’ll miss out on by giving money alone. Yeah, you’ll probably be tired after an afternoon of volunteering, or your head/back/anything might hurt. But it’s immensely satisfying to know you’ve done your part to make your little corner of the world a little better.
Being a full time volunteer is a little different. There’s no “going home and couch potato-ing” at the end of your day because you’re always being watched. The eyes never leave you. A simple act becomes a spectacle! And there’s not always a place to go and blow off some steam when life gets difficult. And it will get difficult.
But when you live among the people you are trying to help, and you learn their language and try their food, you shift attitudes. You change expectations and shatter stereotypes. The simplest acts, like doing your laundry, can have a profound impact on your village. Everyday life begins to break down racial and linguistic barriers. And suddenly you belong.
Being a Peace Corps Volunteer has been undeniably tough, but overwhelmingly rewarding. And I will treasure many, many memories from my time in South Africa.
Never will I underestimate the power of volunteering. You might think you are helping others, but you are also helping yourself.