Sun Devil volunteers remember time in Peace Corps
Meditating at a waterfall. Bucket baths. Eating ant eggs.
For Peace Corps Week at Arizona State University, former volunteers recalled their most memorable experiences abroad in a pair of videos for ASU Now.
Their stories will contribute to a series of events across ASU’s Downtown, Polytechnic, West and Tempe campuses that will help interested students, faculty and staff learn about the application process, work programs and the daily life of a volunteer.
“I’m happy to meet with students, discuss their skills and interests, and answer questions,” ASU Peace Corps recruiter Breanne Lott said, explaining that a new application system allows perspective volunteers to apply for specific countries.
Lott, 27, points out that there’s no age limit for volunteering and that in some cases short-term assignments are available. She finished her service in 2014, and there’s no question about her best experience. “I married an Ethiopian.”
“Our wedding was Ethiopian style,” she added, saying “it turned into a giant community gathering. We had a whole goat roasted and flaming papayas for decoration.”
Jessica Hirshorn, a College of Integrated Sciences and the Arts senior lecturer who teaches a Peace Corps course each fall, served in the early ’90s. She talked about bucket baths and said her favorite spot in the world remains a small waterfall near her home in Micronesia where she would meditate in solitude. After 23 years, she’s planning a trip back.
“Thanks to the advent of Facebook, I’m in touch with everybody in my community,” Hirshorn said. After uploading a few photos, it seemed almost like “the entire island ended up Facebook friending me.”
Notable Peace Corps volunteers include Lillian Carter, mother of ex-President Jimmy Carter; Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings; novelist Paul Theroux and handyman Bob Vila.
The current class of volunteers includes 87-year-old Alice Carter, serving in Morocco.
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order more than 50 years ago to pair U.S. civilians — along with their education and skills — with underdeveloped nations that asked for assistance.
The first volunteers served in Ghana and Tanganyika, modern day Tanzania. Programs later opened in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Host countries must invite the Peace Corps and receive security clearance.
National Peace Corps Week starts Feb. 26. ASU organizers said the university is getting an early start to avoid conflict with the academic calendar.
Over 200,000 volunteers have served in 193 countries and as of last year more than 1,000 had been ASU alums.
Part of the experience is taking in local culture. Michael Sieng, a doctoral student in the School of Sustainability, remembers eating red ant eggs in Thailand, "it's actually really expensive, and so I was only able to eat a little bit — which was fine because it had a kind of interesting taste to it."