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Life As An Older Volunteer

June 10, 2013

I recently posted this on a Facebook page for future volunteers 50+ and thought you might find in informative as well.

Q:  For all of us PC hopefuls, can any of you current or returned Peace Corps Volunteers  give any advice or suggestions, especially for “older” volunteers to make our PC experience the best it can be?

A. They say that everything changes once you’ve been at site for a year. For me that’s been so true. With increased language ability and the credibility that comes with time, both the people in my village and those working on the PC staff seem to trust me more. And with trust has come more real conversation and brainstorming of ideas.

So here’s my take on being an older volunteer in the Peace Corps:

1) The PCs going to treat you like a 20 year old and micro-manage everything you do. You’ll face more rules, regulations and yes, scoldings than you’ve received since you were 20. So get over it.  A twenty year-old need rules and in fairness, those  rules need to apply to everyone.  So, make it easy on yourself.  Just  smile and say, “Okay, I’m sorry.”

2) Life will be so much easier as an older volunteer. People in your host country will treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve and will seek your wisdom, through talk and observation. After a while, you won’t want to return home and face a life feeling irrelevant.

3) Young people in their twentys grow up fast in the Peace Corps and those who got on your nerves in the beginning will at some point in your service, become your good friends.

4) Your friends back home will live vicariously through your posts and blogs. You’ll become well-known among people you’ve never met and the subject of any number of dinner conversations.  Your name will be brought up in a whole bunch of new ways such as,  “If you don’t pay more attention to me, I’m going off to join _(your name)_____ in the Peace Corps!”

5) Though they might be initially unhappy with your decision to serve, your kids will become proud of you and if nothing else, they’ll have stories and pictures to show their kids about the time when Grandma lived in a grass hut and helped people. and finally,

6) Life is tough in the Peace Corps even in a place like rural Thailand, considered to be the “posh corps.” You’ll sleep on a mattress harder than a terrazzo floor, pick bugs from your nose and your toothbrush, curse your neighbors who party loud enough to make your teeth rattle  and plot the destruction your community’s stray dogs who bark all night and then chase you on your run the next morning.

But hey, you’ve lived through mortgage payments, job losses, child birth and raising teens. How bad could it really get, right?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Kropp permalink
    June 10, 2013 1:57 pm

    Kathleen:
    You are once again demonstrating how ioncrediblily wonderful you are. YOu are also a excellent writer. I can’t wait to read your book on your adventures whenever you decide to finish your tour(s) with the PC
    Karen Kropp

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 11, 2013 8:32 pm

    Kathleen, yes I do live vicariously through your posts and blogs. You are such a wonderful and interesting writer. Because of you, I am more familiar with the Peace Corps and Thailand.

    I certainly could not do what you are doing. So, you certainly won’t get any advice from me. It is nice to see you are enjoying yourself so much in your assignment while making a contribution to world peace and understanding.

    Frank Mutz
    Atlanta, GA

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