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Peace Corps Veterans tell their stories

Isaiah Herard

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Tuesday night, Western Illinois University hosted Peace Corps volunteers, who shared stories from their service. The returned Peace Corps volunteers had served in a number of countries, including Morocco, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

According to Peace Corps recruiter Jake Hamilton, the three main goals of the Peace Corps are to teach technical skills to people abroad, promote Americans and American culture to people abroad and come back to the states after service and educate Americans on the people and cultures of other countries.

“One goal of Peace Corps is to help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans,” said Hamilton. “Since March 1, 1961, over 225,000 United States citizens have served in over 141 countries, promoting peace through education, recreation and culture sharing. From my experiences in Morocco, the people in the community I served used movies they had seen on TV to form their perception of Americans, so I wanted to give them a more accurate, vivid portrayal.”

Hamilton dived deeper into his experiences in Morocco, explaining how tough it is to live in a foreign country and emphasizing the concept of adaptation.

“Your first three months, you stay with a host family, and the following two years you live on your own,” said Hamilton. “There was a point in time in which I had some clothes, specifically underwear, with holes in them. My host mom is doing my laundry and I get back from language lessons. She sits me down and tells me that she feels embarrassed that somebody living in her household doesn’t have sufficient clothing. The fact that she cared so much was heartwarming.”

Arden Caffrey, a Peace Corps Fellow at Western studying Public Health, detailed her experiences in Mozambique.

“My first year was really rough. (My house) broken into eight times, and within those eight times the majority of my stuff got stolen,” said Caffrey. “After the sixth time, we decided that we were going to leave the Peace Corps because we can’t handle the high levels of thievery anymore. The principal at our school knocked on our door, which was very unusual, and said what amounted to, ‘Pack up your (expletive), we’re leaving.’”

Caffrey continued with her presentation, iterating the amount of humility she gained from her experiences in Mozambique.

“I realized that I wasn’t being culturally competent enough, open enough and understanding enough to realize getting broken into is just what happens there,” said Caffrey. “Struggle is what happens and being able to look past that and see the little things underneath is really where the hospitality was happening. People were taking time to help us move and that really changed my service and how I looked at my service.”

Before closing the presentation, Hamilton emphasized that the Peace Corps’ primary objective is to emphasize the kindness in human beings, regardless of their cultural background.

“Kindness is universal,” said Hamilton. “The kindness we show people will go a lot further than the words we say to them. My host mom showed me that kindness, and it was because of her that I truly believe I had a successful service. A lot of other Moroccans made me feel welcome and wanted as well, but she truly went the extra mile of having me in her home. When I go back, I’ll have a place to stay and that will be the first place I go.”

For more information on the Peace Corps, follow the Peace Corps weekly activities on their Facebook page. For information in regards to recruitment, contact Hamilton at pcprep@wiu.edu

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Peace Corps Veterans tell their stories