Peace Corps Holidays

Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows Volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. Below, we highlight stories from Peace Corps Volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas. From one Peace Corps Volunteer to another, these Volunteers share their advice to those embarking on their first festive season in service.

Attend our Holidays Away From Home online event Monday, December 19th to hear more about serving overseas during the holiday season. 

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Peace Corps Holidays: Cameroon

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas.

The year 2015 marked a year full of many things, but for Peace Corps volunteer Colin Korst, 2015 was a year of working in the rural communities in Cameroon to educate youth and families about malaria prevention – and 2016 will be no different. Korst, a Wheaton, Ill., native, is serving as an agribusiness volunteer and will be meeting his sister and mother in South Africa this holiday, after being separated for nearly 15 months.

“Last year I spent the holidays in my village. They celebrate Christmas and New Year’s by having massive feasts and moving from house to house eating along the way,” said Korst. “I ate a lot… Especially chicken, that is the main dish. This year will be different since I won’t be in my village which is a bit sad, but I’m very excited to see my family.

Peace Corps volunteers like to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Last year we had a great potluck dinner with a banana cream pie that almost had me in tears, and we talked a lot about football.”

Colin Korst (right) has been serving as an agribusiness volunteer in Cameroon. This holiday season, he will meet his mother and sister in Africa.
Colin Korst (right) has been serving as an agribusiness volunteer in Cameroon. This holiday season, he will meet his mother and sister in Africa.

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Returned volunteers from Peace Corps Indonesia stay connected through holiday tradition

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The 2010-12 class of Peace Corps Indonesia volunteers and staff are still connected, three years after completing their service.

Each year, through the simple gesture of a holiday card, the 2010-12 class of Peace Corps Indonesia is reminded of their friendship and its origin. The cards act as a remembrance of their time in Peace Corps and of their bond, which remains intact three years after completing their service in Indonesia.

Since his group returned to the U.S., Travis Bluemling, a returned volunteer and Peace Corps diversity recruiter for the Midwest Recruitment Office, creates and sends an original holiday card to the group he served with, the Peace Corps staff in Indonesia that were there at that time and the current staff. He sends the cards with someone who is traveling to Indonesia, like a new volunteer embarking on their first year of service or a staff member returning after a break. He mails the rest of the cards to the returned volunteers and their families who are spread out across the country. Continue reading “Returned volunteers from Peace Corps Indonesia stay connected through holiday tradition”

Peace Corps Holidays: Ethiopia

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas.

Peace Corps volunteers Samantha Stacks and Dara Doss are both serving in Ethiopia, yet the way they spend their holiday season will vary this year.

Doss, an education volunteer will be spending the holidays with her fellow Peace Corps volunteers, while Stacks, a community health volunteer will travel back to the U.S. to spend this holiday season with her family after spending the last holiday season away from home.

Samantha Stacks, a native of Rittman, Ohio

Last year, some volunteers came to my site and my site mate and I hosted Christmas,” said Stacks. “On Christmas Eve, we had a bonfire and drank hot chocolate while trying to explain to her neighbors the story of Santa Claus and flying reindeer with hilarious results. Christmas morning we woke up and exchanged gifts like bracelets, powdered drink mixes, and toilet paper before heading to my house for Christmas brunch. We made delicious breakfast burritos from care package contents and drank tea and mimosas (sweet white wine, orange juice, and selzer water). It was a lot of fun!”

Samantha Stacks is currently working as a community health volunteer in Ethiopia. This holiday season, she will travel home to visit her close friends and family.
Samantha Stacks (above) is currently working as a community health volunteer in Ethiopia. This holiday season, she will travel home to visit her close friends and family.

Continue reading “Peace Corps Holidays: Ethiopia”

Peace Corps Holidays: Mexico

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas.

This holiday season marks the second year of Peace Corps service in Mexico for volunteer Cassie Hoffman. But this season will be quite different from last year’s. This December, Hoffman will travel home to Cincinnati to spend a week with her friends and family. While in the U.S., Hoffman, a natural resource management volunteer, will take the opportunity to talk about her service and share traditions and culture of Mexico.

“This Christmas I am traveling to Cincinnati to spend a week of holiday break with my parents and sisters. I will give a recruiting talk with the support of the Peace Corps Midwest Recruiting Office and will hopefully bust open a piñata on Christmas day!”

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Hoffman showed her family around her site in Mexico last year for the holidays, but will be heading home this year to see her family again.

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Peace Corps Holidays: Thailand

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas

No day is similar for Peace Corps volunteers, Julie Walker and Jennifer Wininger, who are both serving in different roles and villages in Thailand. Whether it’s working with local government officials, teaching English to children or traveling for presentations, both volunteers are fully immersed in their Peace Corps service. Wininger works as a teacher collaboration and community service volunteer and Walker works as a youth development volunteer. Below, Wininger and Walker describe how they will spend the holidays this year and some of their favorite Thai traditions.

Jennifer Wininger, native of Indianapolis

Jennifer Wininger (middle) works as a teacher collaboration and community service volunteer in Thailand. This year she will spend the holiday season completing her scuba certification in Thailand’s southern region.

Last year at this time, I was eagerly awaiting the beginning of the holiday season,” said Wininger. “Like many Americans, Thanksgiving for my family is the kickoff of this exciting time of year. It is usually a time filled with family and friends and always surrounded by great food. This year is a little different. Not only am I miles away from family and friends and the comfort foods I love, the tropical climate doesn’t feel like the typical Midwestern holiday season I am accustomed to. Thailand is predominately Buddhist so the holidays I typically associate with this time of year are not celebrated in my rural village.

“But, all these differences allow me to use this time of year in a unique way this holiday season. I think it is important to be thankful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t. This vastly different holiday season, I have the opportunity to explore a completely different country,” Wininger said. Continue reading “Peace Corps Holidays: Thailand”

Peace Corps Holidays: Nicaragua

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Because Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, it allows volunteers to celebrate the holiday season in their host countries and participate in new traditions and customs, while also sharing their own. From now until January, we will highlight stories from Peace Corps volunteers who share their experiences spending the holidays overseas

“Wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.” This Christmas carol resonates deeply with Peace Corps volunteer Emily Nilsen, a Thompsonville, Ill., native who is serving as a secondary education English teacher trainer  in Nicaragua. Her husband, Andrew Nilsen, is also serving as a secondary English teacher with her. Together, they embark on their second holiday season away from home, creating their own traditions along the way and sharing Nicaraguan cultures and customs with their family, who will be visiting from the U.S.

Emily Nilsen and her husband Andrew Nilsen spend this holiday season serving together in Nicaragua.
Andrew and Emily Nilsen are spending this holiday season making a difference in Nicaragua.

“Last year for the holidays, we had just arrived to site and were at the beginning of our Peace Corps service. This meant that we could not have visitors, nor visit home.  While a little homesick, we were able to observe lots of local customs and traditions here in Nicaragua.  We even decided to start one of our own – The 12 Days of Nilsen Christmas – where we re-wrote the classic song to include things we could find and explore during the holidays. Continue reading “Peace Corps Holidays: Nicaragua”