Last week, Michelle and I spent a few days in Washington D.C. as part of Peace Corps’ “Blog it Home” contest hosted by the Office of 3rd Goal. We were honored and humbled to be selected along with 4 other Peace Corps Volunteers from around the world (Ethiopia, Mexico, and Thailand) for the ways in which we use our blog to share about our experiences and about our countries of service.
The 3rd goal of Peace Corps is:
“To help Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries. It is one of the three goals that support the mission of the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.“
What is humbling about the whole thing is that we were unaware of any contest until after we were nominated a few months ago. What I mean is that Michelle and I started our blog years ago to share with family and friends basic life updates, the occasional reflection, the latest adventure, and a few videos and photos here and there. Looking back we could never have imagined that we would be blogging about our Peace Corps experience in Jamaica and the opportunities that it would lead to.
For being selected, Peace Corps’ Office of 3rd Goal flew us to Washington D.C. to take part in two conferences and other special events. The first was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) career conference and a first-ever 3rd Goal Mobilization Summit. We also had an incredible opportunity to meet with different divisions of PC to provide them with feedback and brainstorm about our current service.
It was inspiring to meet so many RPCVs, staff and non-staff, who are so passionate about the mission of Peace Corps. Though each had their own personalized stories and experiences, it was hard not to feel a shared connection with everyone. We shared laughs about squished public transportation and lack of personal space. We traded stories about the strange and surprisingly tasty things we have eaten. We acknowledged how everyone has once looked to the sky questioning the purpose and 27-month commitment that is PC service.
It was like being with family.
During the 3rd Goal Mobilization Summit, we had the chance to share with RPCVs how we were using our blogs to accomplish the 3rd goal of Peace Corps. For many, the concept of a volunteer blogging was fairly new. For some, access to internet was not possible during their time of service. For others, blogging was only seen as a way of documenting about their experience, a way to express and analyze what they felt about themselves through their time as volunteers.
This is where we realized that blogging about our Peace Corps experience was about more than a journal and individual reflection.
Prior to our presentations, the “Blog it Home” winners got together to brainstorm and share ideas for blogging. Through our discussions, we realized the great opportunity, power, and responsibility we had as bloggers/volunteers to shape and change perspectives in our world.
Our new friend, Jessica a PCV serving in Mexico, pointed out in her presentation that the typical American perspective on Mexico was disturbing, inaccurate, and hurtful. She uses her blog to combat stereotypes and misunderstanding.
Sara, a PCV from Thailand, uses her blog to connect her readers with her community on an individual level. She reminds us of the great and beautiful diversity each country has within it’s people.
Jen and Josh, serving in Ethiopia, highlight the challenges and new appreciation for life without modern convinces such as indoor plumbing. They remind us through their experiences that many go without basic needs and comforts that those in 1st world countries often take for granted.
We, like our fellow volunteers, are trying to be intentional about what we write because we want to make a difference in the lives of our readers. We don’t want to simply report about our lives, we want people to learn something new. We want to challenge stereotypes and narrow understanding. We wanted to provide greater perspective and truth. We are hoping that when someone reads about our experiences in Jamaica, it will challenge them to think about what it is they know, and whether or not it is true.
We never thought that blogging about our lives would lead to an amazing opportunity to visit Peace Corps headquarters and make new friends. But more importantly, we came to realize the importance blogging can play in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer and the 70+ countries that all volunteers serve in. Peace Corps’ 3rd goal is 1/3 of a volunteer’s job, and blogging is one of the most effective ways to bring our experience home.