Nicaragua: The Peace Corps Volunteers

peace corps

Did you ever consider joining the Peace Corps?

When you graduated from college, did you dream of living in the jungle, miles from other educated Americans and without a mini-mart on the corner?

Did you hope to learn a new language by immersing yourself into a culture you didn’t know and then spend time trying to explain health care problems the culture never thought about?

Was your idea of a good time talking in a foreign language to high schoolers about starting their own business?

And would have you have welcomed time spent with people from a faraway land who needed you to explain to your neighbors why they needed to look at a little red light on a machine?peace corps

If so, you might have had what it took to join us in Nicaragua while working with the Peace Corps!

Begun 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has sent over 200,000 Americans to 139 countries around the world.

Often working in primitive conditions– though not always in the jungle, my own godson spent two years in Moldova in a tiny village where water didn’t run seven months out of the year—Peace Corps volunteers often teach on health education, small business development and environmental issues.

peace corpsWe had the good fortune to work with five Peace Corps volunteers while in Nicaragua.  We could not have run our eye clinics without them. Thank you Tucker, Carrie, Tess, Hooper and Shona.

Their personal knowledge of the Rio San Juan area, their experience with the locals and, most importantly, their language abilities smoothed our communication with the people we served.

Their intelligence and willingness to step in, particularly when one of the St. Mark Lutheran Church crew was mangling the language, was essential. They brought good cheer, insight and plenty of smiles.

In turn, we fed them, gave them a place to stay and indulged in long and interesting conversations about flora, fauna, politics, religion, books, health and anything else that came up over dinner.

Our crew consisted of folks in their 20’s. Hooper teaches classes to young people on small business management and entrepenurism.

The four women are health care teachers, trying to increase understanding of HIVpeace corps issues and help women recognize domestic violence does not have to take place. Several of the women regularly visit and help at the Casa Materna homes in Sabalos and San Carlos.

They came for various reasons. Adventure and the chance to become fluent in a foreign language headed the lists.

Spending two years on a health care initiative will be good experience for graduate school in public health. The desire to serve those less privileged also factored in.

peace corpsThey’ve learned to sleep in hammocks, ate all our salad at restaurants, joshed with the children and explained local customs and politics when we asked.

There’s no grocery store along Rio San Juan. The only bank is in San Carlos—a two-hour bus ride for Hooper and Carrie, boat rides for Shona and Tessa.

Hooper was very excited when I gave him a box of granola bars. We probably should have left all our reading material with them as well.peace corps

What would it take to get you out into the jungle?

If you don’t want to go on a mission a trip, you can always join the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps doesn’t have an age limit.

One of the more famous volunteers, President Jimmy Carter’s mother Lillian, was in her sixties when she went to India as a nurse.

You can learn more about the Peace Corps, and the application process, here.

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