Peace Corps Volunteers know that service isn’t a bucket list item; it’s a life-long dedication. Once you are part of the Peace Corps family, you are always a member. No one knows that better than Lindsay Carrera, a Hartland, Wisconsin, native who recently completed her service in Uganda.
Joining the Peace Corps was a jumping-off point for Alison Feurerstein. Two service-filled years in Nicaragua propelled the Madison, Wis. native into a dynamic public health career, opened her eyes to a new culture and led her to her life partner.
But Feurerstein found more than just love within the Nicaraguan culture – Peace Corps changed her perspective on family, community and relationships. When looking back, it all started with the leap.
As an African-American Peace Corps volunteer, David Goodloe had a lot of superficial notions about what going to Africa for the first time would mean. He imagined a vivid Hollywood-like scene: walking off the plane and being greeted with “Welcome home,” or “It’s so good to have you back.”
CHICAGO – The newly formed Black Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (BRPCV) group met last month for their monthly meeting in the Chicago area. The group meets regularly in an effort to stay connected with Peace Corps and other RPCVs, despite busy schedules and busy lives.
“The BRPCV Chicago group recognizes the need for African American and Black Returned Peace Corps volunteers to have a supported community that’s well-versed in living abroad as an African-American/Black Peace Corps volunteer,” said Natalie Felton, diversity recruiter for the Central Region and returned volunteer of Vanuatu 11-15. “The group aims to supply a support network for returned volunteers re-integrating into Chicago and provide and create platforms to share the African-American/Black Peace Corps experience with potential volunteers, as well as other returned volunteers.”
Kelly Schmidt can’t remember the exact moment that she knew she wanted to join the Peace Corps. It was always an idea, a lingering goal that was filed away in the back of her mind. Three months after the 26 year old completed her service in the Philippines, she reflects on how much her Peace Corps experience has helped her find her path.
Returned Peace Corps volunteer Rachel Savane has ties that cannot be broken to Guinea. After all, it’s where she served in the Peace Corps for two years, where the inspiration for her jewelry designs came from and where she met her husband and father of her children.
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
“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”→