Three Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Lesson in Community by a Burundi PCV

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Three Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Lesson in Community by a Burundi PCV

Three Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Lesson in Community by a Burundi PCV

Three Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Lesson in Community by a Burundi PCV

Three Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Lesson in Community

For Peace Corps Volunteer

I had traveled unpaved roads from the capital for 14 hours, riding a bus crowded with chickens, children and increasingly nauseous adults. I was headed home to my post for market day, my only chance to purchase food and supplies for several days. Red dust from the clay roads blew in the windows and coated my skin. I sat next to a goat. All the while, the radio blared Zairian music. I finally arrived, hungry, hot and tired, only to find the market closed.

Returning to my house, I felt utterly alone. That's when Mama Neri, one of my neighbors, came by and brought me three hard-boiled eggs. This woman who made less than $200 a year, who had no husband, and who supported two grandchildren, wanted to share her food with me. I realized then I'd finally become a part of my new community.

As a fisheries volunteer in the Province of Cankuzo (pronounced Chan-koo-zo), I had come to Burundi, a small nation in East Central Africa, to help Mama Neri and her neighbors learn to grow and sell fish--a more reliable and nutritional food source.

My background as a psychology major with a minor in biology, in addition to my Peace Corps training, had prepared me to teach villagers how to build their own fish ponds, raise, harvest and even cook high-protein fish. I'm certainly no believer in the Back to Africa Movement, but because I'm a black woman, I assumed I would be more readily accepted by Burundians than I was.

I soon learned that while my skin may have been the same color as theirs, my Western attire and actions were definitely unfamiliar. I was also surprised to learn that I was the first black Peace Corps volunteer in Burundi. The Burundians openly stared when I arrived talking about fishponds. Some laughed outright.


I had to ask myself, why had I come here? For me, the Peace Corps just seemed like a good way to combine my interests. After college I wasn't sure I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but I did know I wanted to travel. I had always enjoyed meeting new people and volunteering. I also wanted to see the ecological wonders of African before they were lost.

When I traveled around East Africa and talked to people, they often asked why they seldom met black American volunteers. I told them that many minorities are not aware of the opportunities to volunteer abroad, that often we feel pressure to stay home and deal with the problems in our U.S. communities.

For people, minorities especially, who might be thinking about joining, I encourage you to move to the next step and apply. Overcoming the challenges of service taught me I can do just about anything I set my mind to. Earning the friendship and trust of Mama Neri showed me I had made at least some small impact on the world.

To find out more about joining the Peace Corps, call 800-484-8580 x1 or visit .

--Hannah Hamilton, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey, is working on an MA in Mass-Communication at the University of Florida with Ann Perrelli, Public Affairs Officer for the Peace Corps Southeast Regional Office.


Free transportation to and from your country of service

Medical coverage

A small living stipend

Possible student loan deferment or cancellation

Graduate school scholarship opportunities

Intensive language, cultural and technical training

A $6,075 readjustment allowance after close of service


Peace Corps continues to make great strides to recruit more minorities. Since its inception in 1961, thousands of African-Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers. Of those currently serving, 14% are minorities and nearly 200 are African-Americans.

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