Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Month Away

It's the one month mark to my leave date! This past Monday, I attended a Peace Corps meet and greet event at Busboys and Poets. The more I talk to former volunteers, the more excited I am for the 27 months to come. Yet, for the moment, I'm wrapping up loose ends, reading everything about small businesses, "learning" Moroccan Arabic, and getting involved with The Center for Arts in Natick. Time is slipping through my fingers. And then again, my leave date can't come fast enough.

To take a step back, I should explain why I'm joining the Peace Corps. Didn't I read "The Road to Hell?" (which explicitly stated the surmounting challenges in international development) in GVPT354?! Wasn't I the big skeptic when Jenny started the application process? The following paragraphs reveal a glimpse into my reasons why.

Once a week, I had the joy of facilitating a discussion on human rights in a DC public high school. The class consists of 9th through 11th graders who only have a 1st through 3rd grade reading level. One lesson came after the students finished taking their PSATs. The difficulty of the exam greatly frustrated the students. During that lesson, I asked the students to draw a picture of themselves or something that represents them. Cheyenne drew a picture of a flower. She said, “Flowers represent beauty. That’s what I’d like to become.” Though years behind her peers in reading, Cheyenne understands the true challenge set before every individual.

My college journey has been an experiment on how I can best be a catalyst for social change. I pursued Economics, hoping to learn the magic models and formulas that can eradicate society’s problems. I eagerly delved into international issues with a hungry appetite. I took advantage of the resources in the university and DC to gain an understanding of social justice work in practice. Through the process, I realized the importance of reevaluating who I am. In the summer of 2006, I took an informal course entitled, “Alternatives to Violence” with Professor Coleman McCarthy. He constantly stressed the importance of our daily actions. During one session, a student asked how we can nonviolently end the Darfur genocide. He responded, “Shut the door gently behind you.” Undoubtedly, individuals can organize, educate others and pressure elected leaders, among other tools. However, our next immediate action is leaving the classroom. We should use even the smallest of actions as opportunities to be a beautiful person.

My internship with Coop America reinforced this notion. As their corporate research intern, I continuously investigated the environmental and social consequences of corporations. I saw how my everyday actions, in particular consumer choices, were linked to larger realities. What statement am I making with my dollar vote? Is that consistent with the values in which I firmly believe? How can I be someone beautiful, even when I’m not writing a letter to free an innocent prisoner?

To answer that question, I see how much I need to grow. My perspective is heavily western. The Peace Corps not only offers an opportunity to work for social justice, but also provides the type of abroad experience I wish to have. Being a Peace Corps volunteer requires an understanding of local culture. I’m excited to step outside of my box and immerse myself in an unfamiliar environment. There is something to be said when individuals work for the recognition of human dignity. There is something even more beautiful when both parties learn and grow in the process. I want everyone to realize their inherent beauty. Hopefully my flower can bloom more brightly as well.

1 comment:

Marissa said...

As-Salamu `Alaykum!
Well written! I look forward to reading about your experience in Morocco. Good way to put it, "heavily western" perspective. I was seeking a better understanding of the greater world as well, and although it wasn't immediate, one year into Peace Corps and I feel I've found it here in Macedonia.
Of course...we always keep learning:)
Bon voyage.