Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Peace Corps: Just somewhere for hippies to postpone "real life"?

In the past few weeks since officially accepting my assignment as a Sustainable Agriculture Systems Extension Agent to Panama (That's a long way of saying I'll be working in Agribusiness), my excitement has bubbled over to whoever will listen.  For once, I've actually been looking forward to the common, "So, what will you be doing after graduation" question.  

When I give the short answer, that I will be moving to Panama, Central America to work in agribusiness with the Peace Corps, most people are incredibly supportive.  I've been blessed to receive offers of prayers, support, and even the contact information of some friends-of-friends living in Panama City.  Unfortunately though, not responses have been so positive.  

"Eventually you will have to get a real job... like where you'll actually have to do work."
"You're just gonna go and sit in the sun with them all day long, huh?" 
and my personal favorite
"Ha.  So you're trying to go make world peace or something.  Good luck with that."

Sadly, those are three real replies from three separate people.  I was shocked, but also sad and a little bitter that these statements were not meant as a jokes, but as honest opinions that reflected the way these people seemed to look down on me and my decision to accept a position with the Peace Corps.  

Each time, I took the opportunity to tell these people a little about the incredible work that Peace Corps volunteers across the world have accomplished and are continuing to accomplish.  I told them about the work that I would be doing- which was, in fact, real work- and how I would be bringing the skills I gained in agribusiness development and management back to my future career in the United States.  I told them about how living in a Panamanian community would help me to integrate into their culture and allow me to best "teach them how to fish," so to say.  I also told them that while world peace is great, the volunteers who make up the Peace Corps aren't just a bunch of hippies running around holding little childrens' hands (Although I'm sure there will be some of that too.)  

We are a complex and diverse group of people with training across many disciplines that allows us to serve communities across the world in sectors like business development, health, environmental protection, and even energy conservation.  We are dedicated and passionate about making a difference, and we're doing more than just posting about it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.  We are going out there and actually doing it.  

Though I'm not yet a Peace Corps volunteer, I am so proud to join the thousands of past and current volunteers this coming summer.  I know that my work will matter, and I hope that slowly but surely we can use our results to show people like the three from my example above that the Peace Corps truly exhibits the American spirit of hard work, ingenuity, and compassion.

To all of you that have supported and continue to support me in this next chapter of my life, thank you.  


  1. Well said, Abby. Sorry you've had to deal with naysayers. I had a bit of that when I left my job to pursue the Peace Corps but none since then. It's very annoying and sometimes hard to respond to.

  2. "Peace Corps aren't just a bunch of hippies running around holding little childrens' hands (Although I'm sure there will be some of that too.)  " this made me lol

  3. I could not be more proud of you and your willingness to contribute to the Peace Corps. And I look forward to future updates about your experiences!

  4. Those people have NOOOO idea what they are talking about. Don't even pay them any attention. :)

    Mary Beth RPCV Panama 2010 - 2012