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While the Peace Corps has grown and developed drastically over its 50 years of existence, one thing has remained constant — the organization’s impact on the lives of its volunteers. In 1961, the year the Peace Corps was established, Earle Brooks, then 28, and his wife Rhoda, 26, left their home in Minnesota to serve in the small village of Manta, Ecuador, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.
“Right from the beginning, we believed in the spirit of the Peace Corps,” Rhoda said. “We weren’t idealists. We knew that there were going to be hardships. But we didn’t look upon it as a sacrifice; we saw it as an opportunity.” She laughed before adding: “Well, maybe we were idealists.”
The StarTruibune said the young couple was prepared for the culture shock they’d feel upon arriving in Ecuador, but Rhoda said what they experienced “was almost surreal.” There was for example no water or sewer system in Manta. But the harsh conditions didn’t stop the young couple from falling in love with their new home and the people of Ecuador.
“It gave me a zest for life that I don’t think I would have realized had I just stayed in Minnesota,” Rhoda said of her Peace Corp experience. “The impact on our lives was not something we anticipated when we joined.” Earle and Rhoda adopted two children during their service – Rico was 4, and Carmen 2, by the time the couple returned with them to the United States, according to the StarTribune.
On September 22, 1961 Congress approved the creation of the Peace Corps, launching the movement to “promote world peace and friendship.” To date, the Peace Corps has had more than 200,000 volunteers serving in 139 countries. A more recent volunteer, Lauren, shared her Peace Corps experience on a blog she kept throughout her service in South America.
On September 29, 2004 Lauren’s first blog post is titled “Preparing for the adventure.” In the entry, Lauren expresses excitement to start her Peace Corps journey in Honduras beginning January 2005. “Now that I know where I am going, I have been slighly distracted since I absolutely must google every Honduras related thought that runs through my head.
Common Google searches include ‘Honduras what to pack’, ‘Honduras pictures’, ‘Honduras safety tips’, ‘Honduras scuba diving’, ‘Honduras peace corps stories,’” Lauren wrote. In 2008, after her service, Lauren posted a reflection on her time in Honduras, conveying how much the Peace Corps meant to her.
“I miss so many things about Peace Corps…the freedom, the rich experiences, the laughs, the adventures, the adoration, the humiliation, and everything that makes up a wonderful Peace Corps experience. If you are considering it – DO IT. I hope to do it again someday!”
Lauren is among the many Peace Corps volunteers who use blogs to document the sights, people, and events that comprise their two years away from home. On the online community, Peace Corps Journals, countless volunteers write about their experiences around the world.
Patricia’s latest entry, written on September 17, speaks about a Saturday morning in Bulgaria. “Today I wanted to go for my usual, longer weekend morning walk in search of treasure.” Her writing provides evidence that the Peace Corps experience enrich volunteers with new perspectives, simple admiration, and perhaps even greater introspection.
“This is the first time I’ve picked walnuts and hazelnuts off of trees. I never realized that walnuts grow inside a big green shell (kind of like coconuts do) or that hazelnuts are like peas in a pod…” To celebrate the accomplishments of Peace Corps and the many lives it has touched over the years, various events will take place Sept 21th through the 24th in Washington, D.C.
According to the StarTribune, Earle and Rhoda Brooks knew they wanted to be apart of the big celebration. They have watched the Peace Corps grow into “one of the world’s most influential aid operations.” The couple plans to make the journey to D.C. to share with others how much the Peace Corp enriched their lives, 50 years ago.
If you would like to Volunteer, call the Peace Corps toll-free at 800.424.8580 to speak to a recruiter in your area. You can also apply now and get started on your application by going directly here: Join The Peace Corps
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacecorps/