2006.09.20: September 20, 2006: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Des Plaines Journal: Mike Fitzgerald reflects on his service in Paraguay

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: 2006.09.20: September 20, 2006: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Des Plaines Journal: Mike Fitzgerald reflects on his service in Paraguay

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Mike Fitzgerald reflects on his service in Paraguay

Mike Fitzgerald reflects on his service in Paraguay

"Before I had joined the Peace Corps I had wanted to be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. I wanted to contribute to society and then wanted to wash my hands of service. I thought I could just come home after my service and continue to live my life as I had before. I found out that could not be the case. My desire to help people and work in extreme situations has only grown. My work as a Peace Corps volunteer has helped me develop a love for life that I can't quite articulate. Today, I can't help to wonder if my contributions have shaped my community's experience, or if this experience has shaped me? The opening and closing of doors throughout my service has only led me to believe that experiences can shape us and we can also shape our experiences."

Mike Fitzgerald reflects on his service in Paraguay

Great Accomplishments

Des Plainesite, Peace Corps Member Reflects On Volunteer Work, Making A Difference In Paraguay

(Ed. Note: The following is a story written by Des Plaines resident Mike Fitzgerald who has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraquay the last few years. Mike has written previous accounts of his unusual experiences which were published in the Journal. He recently completed his volunteer stint.)

By MIKE FITZGERALD

Now that I have completed my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, South America, I can recall many incidents of feeling small and big. One night I finished my dinner and opened my old wooden door to step outside for some fresh air and a little change. As I stepped from my old broken down house out onto my patio I can remember being overtaken by the vast size of the universe, I felt small, very small. The stars scattered above me throughout the large Paraguayan sky gave me a feeling of insignificance.

As I stood there looking up into the sky at the overwhelming amount of stars I couldn't help but think about how I am such a small part of this world and its processes. The past two years of my service I had created a computer center for students and teachers to use, most of whom had never even touched a computer before. I had helped families with gardening, agriculture, and honeybee keeping techniques. I had worked with teachers to improve their math, reading, science, health, and communication skills. I had become the hit of the town. I was famous within my community. I felt big and important. My projects had brought much joy and an improved standard of living to my community. These projects opened doors for many individuals and helped others contribute significantly to their community.

As I stood under the stars, I started to feel as if my community projects may not have as much significance as I had originally thought. I had felt confident that my projects would continue after I left my site, but those stars made me think differently. Had I really made a difference? Is my work sustainable? These questions bothered me as I reflected on my past two years of service as a Peace Corps volunteer. I felt small and insignificant as I pondered these questions under Paraguay's large sky.

I couldn't help but to think about my time as a volunteer and whether if I had made a significant difference. I experienced many challenges, bad times, good times and crossroads that would change my life forever. Were those two years of service worth it? Had my service been of any benefit to myself or to others? For a moment, standing under those stars on that clear, beautiful night did not make me feel as if my time had been worth it.

Sitting down on my front step and contemplating these questions, admiring the big sky and its beauty, I came to the realization that what I had accomplished was something of great significance. Despite the success and sometimes failures of my projects, mine and my community's effort, desire to change and willingness to try made my two years of service alone worth it. The interactions which stimulated change, thought, and growth within my community and me easily justified my time spent in Paraguay.

Within the world of sustainable development one must learn that sustainable development is a long process. Change happens slowly and one must realize that one person, one project or a single effort is a small part of something much larger.

My service proved frustrating at times because I did not always get to see a tangible reward or event. I had to learn that my effort might not become significant, a hard reality to come to terms with. However, to know my effort will contribute to something larger is a reward in itself. This is not an easy reward to recognize; many individuals do not appreciate this kind of reward and choose to pursue other simpler, easier rewards.

I learned as a Peace Corps volunteer to be happy that I am contributing to something much larger than myself. I am a very small part of that process but nonetheless a part of it and my contribution does make a difference, as do all of ours. I realized that my significance was like playing a role of a single star in the sky. One star is insignificant but together the stars can create a galaxy.

Before I had joined the Peace Corps I had wanted to be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. I wanted to contribute to society and then wanted to wash my hands of service. I thought I could just come home after my service and continue to live my life as I had before. I found out that could not be the case. My desire to help people and work in extreme situations has only grown. My work as a Peace Corps volunteer has helped me develop a love for life that I can't quite articulate. Today, I can't help to wonder if my contributions have shaped my community's experience, or if this experience has shaped me? The opening and closing of doors throughout my service has only led me to believe that experiences can shape us and we can also shape our experiences.

The process of change I experienced in Paraguay has led me to believe in change and its benefits. This change in who I am has brought a change in what I can do. Sometimes that change is minuscule, sometimes it's massive, but change always occurs and I stand in awe of that reality. I would encourage all of you to seek this change and continue to strive for opportunities for yourself and others. Change shapes and reshapes who we are, resulting in a better world.

I would like to thank the Journal & Topics Newspapers for the opportunity to share my stories, as a Peace Corps volunteer, with all of you.





When this story was posted in October 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


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Story Source: Des Plaines Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay

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