I’ve met a lot of volunteers. Inevitably, somehow this one question always comes up.
“Why did you join the Peace Corps?”
It’s the question we’ve been asked since the moment we decided we wanted to join. It’s the speech almost committed to memory. It’s the spiel we gave our parents, our friends, our guidance counselor and wrote on our application to join. But the bottom line is, only 6 types of people really join the Peace Corps.
Número Uno: The Hippie
This is what people seem to imagine when you say “Peace Corps Volunteer.” This stereotyped idea of someone who wants to put flowers in their hair, only use roots and herbs and be one with the earth. That is a terrible stereotype and not quite right. This person just doesn’t want to go with the flow of graduating college then working a corporate job. They don’t want to be a paper pusher. They want to truly find themselves. They know they were born to be free and Peace Corps is helping them do that. They have fully accepted living without and within the means of the people.
Two: The Resume Builder
This person sees the benefits. It’s eyes on the prize for them. Yes, they want to serve but they also know two years is just a blink in the grand scheme of life. They have full intentions on meeting the right people, going to the right events, and taking advantage of every resource. They’re doing themselves a major favor and making it alright by helping others along the way.
Thrice: Mother Theresa
This person is strictly here to be the change they want to see in the world. That’s it. The are the ones leading the charge for solutions. They are right there in the heat of it. Whether it be war, no clean water or encouraging education, they are where the problems are. They are touching lives and giving all the love they have to every person they meet. They seek no credit or want any assurance other than uplifting the people they encounter. They want to see life through the eyes of another.
The Number After Three: Researcher
This person is here for data. What I mean is, they take the Mother Theresa approach with the Resume Builder outcome. For example, a volunteer has a degree in Public Policy, comes to Tanzania to study their policies and how it affects the people. They finish their two years of service and return to the states to write and implement a bill to resolve the issues found with policy between Tanzania and the States. This person is trying to play I-Spy with their little eye, every possible problem to resolve it with American resources.
This person is just what I called them. The Legacy. They are following in their father’s, mother’s, uncle’s or mentor’s shoes. They knew someone who did the Peace Corps before and as a result of their stories and personal impact, they knew they would do the same thing. This person knows all the tips and tricks to having a fulfilled service. From, “always carry toilet paper with you” down to “you will get parasites at least once.” They packed the lightest and came with the most confidence. They knew what they were in for and they were ready.
VI. The Wanderer
This person just wanted a free ticket somewhere new. They have the bug of wanderlust. They’re impulsive and addicted to traveling. They go through life doing anything to go somewhere new. They have unrealistic ideas of what the Peace Corps is and what it will be like. They usually don’t make it through the 2 years.
IIIIIII. The Soul Searcher
Who am I? Where do I want to go? Why am I here? All questions this volunteer is looking to answer somewhere in their 2 years of service. No better time to discover who you really are, when there is literally nothing to distract you.
Personally, I think I’m a Mother Theresa type mixed with Resume Builder. I literally joined because I wanted to be selfless and help people but gave my parents the spiel about how great it was for my future so they wouldn’t worry I was wasting 2 years of my life. I am amazed by all the things I take for granted in the States and try to look for avenues to serve others in every way. I think most volunteers are a mix of two or more. As with most things in life, it’s hard to fit into just one box. Know a Peace Corps Volunteer, or are one? Which type are you? Comment and let me know.