LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
I made a fool of myself for international understanding.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Feb/01/RPCV.jpgThat is me in the homemade sandwich board. On Wednesday I walked Jayhawk Boulevard for 1.5 hours between the Kansas Union and Hock Auditoria trying to catch the noon hour rush from class to lunch. I was looking for a few good volunteers. Being many years older than most people on the street I got lots of strange looks.That RPCV on the button stands for Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I was one and like so many others it was a fantastic and life changing experience. I served in Paraguay which is also part of another U.S foreign policy program called Partners of the Americas. Like Peace Corps, Partners was another President Kennedy initiative. Paraguay is partnered with Kansas and that partnership is still going strong after 40 years but more on that at another time.The event I was trying to get students interested in was Thursday evening and included recruiting for Americorps and Teach for America as well as the Peace Corps. There may have been as many RPCVs there as recruits. That is because it is such a powerful experience that most RPCVs want to share their experiences and encourage others to do the same. One recently returned volunteer served in Turkmenistan and as a result came back to seek an advanced degree related to Central Asia. One volunteer in my group is now working in a not for profit housing organization on the south side of Chicago using his Spanish learned during his service in Paraguay. These are just two of thousands of stories.I talked with several young people who were interested and showed with their questions that they were apprehensive. Twenty seven months away from friends and family in some country with another language is quite a commitment. Yet every RCPV related wonderful stories of learning a language, adapting to another culture and making friends that became family away from home. One person who served in the 1970s told of continuing to visit 'family' in Central America more than 30 years later.Programs like the Peace Corps and Partners of the Americas may be the most effective United States foreign policy programs. Not that volunteers have a large impact on another country but because people in one country come to understand those in another. I was once told that Senator Fulbright said that he favored any foreign policy program that reduced nations to people. I agree.