Thursday, April 14, 2011

So much Swearing... In

On April 13, 2011, Nate and I were sworn in as the 23rd group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Guyana. Additionally, this year is the 50 anniversary of Peace Corps. We had a two-hour ceremony that occurred in Georgetown were our host families, community partners, health and education ministers, US ambassadors and all Peace Corps staff attended. Together with another PCV, Emily Berling, we represented our group by giving the volunteer remarks. Below is the speech Nate and I wrote and I presented.

One of the first things we heard off the plane was that the Peace Corps service was analogous with riding a roller coaster. Submitting our application was like purchasing a ticket for the ride, waiting was like…well, waiting in line. Some had a fast pass while others waited years to snag a seat. The excitement and anticipation of arriving in our new home of Guyana was like buckling in and riding the coaster to the first peak. But with any rollercoaster there are multiple peaks and falls.

Kennedy’s promise mentions that we are here to serve even in conditions of hardship. As many of us have already learned, there is no hardship too small that does not require adjustment and further adjustment. Some of these adjustments can be as simple as learning to love the smell of Mozipel for the sake of saving your skin from mosquitoes, that digestive issues is just your body’s way of adjusting to fresh food, and that embracing “smalling up” is just another way to further integrate with your community. However some hardships require more of us than we can bear by ourselves, and those are the times that give us the opportunity to lean on one other in our new family. In the short time we’ve been here the relationships we have formed with each other, our training team, counterparts and especially our host families have given us the support and knowledge we will need to be successful in the years to come. In our effort to develop sustainable projects --- these relationships will be what sustain us.

Although it is useful to use the analogy of how the Peace Corps service is like a roller coaster to explain the ups and downs, perhaps the way our service is different from a roller coaster is more important to note. On a roller coaster everyone’s path is pre-determined, the same highs and lows are experienced at the same time, and the gratifying feeling of finishing the ride may only last a few minutes. In the Peace Corps, although community partners and volunteers are all working toward a common goal, each of us is challenged to determine our own path to address our community’s needs. Our mission as community development professionals transcends the categories of health and education and we are empowered by the bonds we make with our community partners to facilitate growth in all aspects of human well being.

In the last 50 years over 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries and no two experiences have been the same and not forever life changing and gratifying. Today the world is more interconnected than it was 50 year ago and therefore it’s never been more important to have relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. We are privileged with the rare opportunity to serve as representatives of peace and carry on our nation’s tradition of service. We are honored to be the 23rd group of volunteers to serve in Guyana and deepen the bonds we have just begun to form.

Once again we would like thank our host families, community partners, trainers, Peace Corps staff and fellow volunteers. This experience and celebration could not have happened without everyone’s support.


With our first host mom Eslyn. She surprised us and brought us some beautiful hand-woven Baskets.

With our second host mom Debbie and her sister Nalini.

With Dr. Millie, who kept me alive and was instrumental in keeping me healthy for the last two months.


Ilana's speech at our Peace Corps swearing in ceremony.

Till next time

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