While it may seem silly in today’s world, the actual mission of Peace Corps is to “promote world peace and friendship”. That’s right, the United States government actually pays people throughout the world to promote peace and friendship. More often though, when speaking to a Peace Corps volunteer about their work, you might hear the “Three Goals” of Peace Corps mentioned.
Goal 1: Provide technical training.
Officially: Help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
Originally, this meant that Americans did jobs that needed to be done, from teaching English classes to digging wells. These days, it means capacity building, or teaching Host Country Nationals (HCNs), aka citizens of the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the skills they need to do their jobs better. PCVs here work with HCNs on grants, developing the skills to write them, work with english teachers to develop new teaching methods and help youth develop and carry out projects…just to name three examples. Providing technical training and helping developement is what I spend the majority of my time in Moldova doing and what I love most about my service here.
Goal 2: Sharing American culture.
Officially: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people’s served.
It is literally part of my job to talk to people. It’s part of my job to meet youths for walks, to help people I meet who want to practice english, its part of my job to represent america, to be a mini-diplomat. It also means that as they say during Peace Corps training, your job here is 24/7.
What you do here, can all be interpreted as What Americans Are Like, especially since many people in Moldova have never met an American before, much less worked, lived, talked or been friends with one. This is reinforced and expanded when I explicitly talk to people about American culture, whether it’s describing how race and religion are viewed in the United States, or inviting them to a Thanksgiving feast, or sharing my excitement over the US Olympic win.
There are some huge misunderstandings of America and Americans, and part of Peace Corps work is to remove them. Some of the most interesting misunderstandings I’ve heard are that 9/11 was orchestrated by the US Government, that Peace Corps Volunteers have to be spies, otherwise why would the US government pay to send them to Moldova or that everyone in America is fat. I try to speak as openly as possible about life in America, trying to explain how varied opinions, lifestyles, race, religion and weight can be there; and how that’s part of what makes America so great, our freedoms to live almost entirely as we please.
Goal 3: Share world culture with Americans.
Officially: Helping promote a better understanding of other people’s on the part of Americans.
Everytime I post on this blog about Moldova, I’m fulfilling this goal. The third goal of Peace Corps is to bring the world a little bit closer together, by letting all Americans – not just those of us who get to live abroad for years at a time – learn more about the world, on a personal level. Every time I share about Moldovan culture, whether it’s in this blog, in an email or on skype, I’m supporting Goal 3. Every time you check my blog, or read an old post that you missed, or tell a friend something I shared with you, or get the capital of Moldova right at trivia night, you’re supporting Goal 3, too.
As to fulfilling my Peace and Friendship goal – I think every time I attend a cultural event of one of the youths here or have a conversation with a stranger, I am fulfilling that. In terms of my best ‘peace and friendship moment,’ I think it was about two weeks after I came to Balti, when I was sitting with several co-workers and two of our nurses from a nearby village, drinking cognac at a 2p masa at work and one woman turned to me and said, “My father served with American soldiers in WWII, he always commented on how funny, honest and smart all the Americans were. I am so glad I’ve had the chance to meet an American in my lifetime.”
Hearing that from the nurse, and comments from other people here about me being the first American they had ever met, reinforces to me the importance of being an Ambassador for America. Whatever preconceived notions they might have about America, Americans, the west, hopefully I can make those even a slight amount more positive.