2010.08.04: August 4, 2010: Peace Corps Volunteer "JBrown" writes: I left Peace Corps, and that's OK.
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2010.08.10: August 10, 2010: Peace Corps Volunteer "JBrown" writes: Why I Made the Decision to Leave Peace Corps :
2010.08.04: August 4, 2010: Peace Corps Volunteer "JBrown" writes: I left Peace Corps, and that's OK.
Peace Corps Volunteer "JBrown" writes: I left Peace Corps, and that's OK.
"The Peace Corps is a wonderful organization with the capability to enact change all over the globe, but it is also severely flawed. This post will be followed by another explaining the tumultuous series of events that led to my unfortunate decision. Let it be a warning to Peace Corps applicants with grandiose ideas of their future employer. There is a dark side to the development organization with the cuddly name. I will do my best to tell the story as it happened to me, and then I will give you a story about my last days at my site and talk about the people I left behind. In the end, it's about people; Peace Corps administration interactions with Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Volunteer interactions with host communities are just two examples of important relationships that must form for a successful Peace Corps experience to ensue. When individuals are treated like numbers, problems arise. I am not just a number, which is kind of what I felt like during my time in the Peace Corps."
Peace Corps Volunteer "JBrown" writes: I left Peace Corps, and that's OK.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I left Peace Corps, and that's OK.
To all my friends and family, to all those who stumbled upon my blog and decided to support me, to everyone who took the time to learn about my life and the lives of others of which I tried so hard to meld my own with, I want to say thank you for following me on my journey. I find myself back in the United States after making the agonizingly difficult, gut-wrenching decision to leave the Peace Corps after 7 months in Guatemala. It had been a dream of mine for several years, since my freshman year in college at the University of Delaware, to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. To realize that the dream that you have held onto for years is crumbling, the pieces of a once idyllic image sifting through your hands like grains of sand, is very, very difficult to swallow.
Ultimately, what it came down to was a health hazard and a shocking unwillingness to provide any support on the part of the Peace Corps administration. I stand by my belief that I was placed in a site that was not ready for a Peace Corps Volunteer. Through many efforts to make the situation better and exhaust all my options prior to leaving, I came to the realization that it would be harmful to my mental and physical health to remain in such a situation.
I am disappointed by the outcome and saddened that I was forced to leave my community, but, given the circumstances, it was the best decision for me. Maybe it is a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because I believe that the Peace Corps experience was for me; I believe that I had much to offer, and I will continue forward searching for the next opportunity where I can do my part to make the world a little better, a little brighter.
The Peace Corps is a wonderful organization with the capability to enact change all over the globe, but it is also severely flawed. This post will be followed by another explaining the tumultuous series of events that led to my unfortunate decision. Let it be a warning to Peace Corps applicants with grandiose ideas of their future employer. There is a dark side to the development organization with the cuddly name. I will do my best to tell the story as it happened to me, and then I will give you a story about my last days at my site and talk about the people I left behind. In the end, it's about people; Peace Corps administration interactions with Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Volunteer interactions with host communities are just two examples of important relationships that must form for a successful Peace Corps experience to ensue. When individuals are treated like numbers, problems arise. I am not just a number, which is kind of what I felt like during my time in the Peace Corps.
Posted by JBrown at 5:27 PM
Labels: guatemala, Peace Corps, peace corps problems
Hi Jordan, You say that you were forced out of Peace Corps? But, I heard that you quit, right? You talk a lot on your blog about health hazards and unhealthy food, but what really happened? PC focuses on safe food preparation in training right? And, you say site was not ready for a PCV, but I saw on the internet that other PCVs have worked in this site in the past and worked with community to develop cave tourism. What really happened? Its ok if you didnt want to be a Volunteer, but why blame staff?
August 4, 2010 11:57 PM
I am going to explain everything in another post, and you can be the judge if I made a good decision or not based on the facts. I never said that I did not want to be a Volunteer. In fact, I wanted very, very badly to remain a Volunteer.
August 5, 2010 8:15 AM
I sympathize. I'm in Armenia, (It's about the size of massacheusetts, connecticut and rhode island, between Russia, Turkey and Iran) just finishing up PCT. I'm going to my site tomorrow, leaving my wonderful training family who run a small-scale organic farm and have indoor plumbing and a hot-water shower for a family whose toilet is a metal box under the desert sun, but reading about what you're going through makes me feel better. (I get my own room, and electricity). I'm sorry you had to leave, but you're a great writer and I'm sure you'll find awesome stuff to do in Latin America. Anyone who can learn an indigenous American language has my respect.
August 5, 2010 12:44 PM
Jean B said...
I've been following your blog for a while although I have never commented. I am very interested in reading about the events that led up to your leaving the PC. It is important to hear both the good and the bad that comes from the PC experience. I understand approximately a third of PCVs do not complete their service. There must be a reason (or many reasons) for this. Your story will be helpful to current PCVs and people considering the PC. Thanks for your honesty.
August 5, 2010 2:19 PM
Word, JBrown. We were all sorry you left us in Alta, but you definitely made the right decision for yourself. I wish you all the best in your next adventure. And for all interested in PC policies, I'm sure Jordan will express well the truth of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Guatemala. However, I would urge everyone not to be quick to judge or think they know what it is like to be a volunteer in Jordan's site, especially "anonymous" that posted above. Peace Corps sites in Guatemala alone are very different depending on the region/area in which they are located. Jordan Brown did his best with the situation he was given. Jordan, we all respect you for your work here and hope you will come back soon to visit! SIIII PUUUUEESSSSSS!
August 5, 2010 5:29 PM
OK, thanks Witney. But, I really don't want to judge. As a former PCV the organization is very important to me, and I just don't like it when there are accusations against PC staff that are made and not detailed. The blog entries mentioned a lot of things like health hazards and lack of privacy in the site. But, this sounds like most sites in the PC world. It also really, really hurts me when there are accusations that sound like Jordan didnt get the health care that he needed. PC health care is awesome and I would really like to see that part especially cleared up. For example, Jordan talks about his acid reflux and then later he talks about eating a chile. Something is strange with all of this. I think about how I would feel if someone made accusations about me when they knew that I could not respond. I'd also like to state that this is nothing personal, I dont know Jordan or anyone else that has posted here. I just love Peace Corps and want it to be treated fairly. If there is something wrong with the organization, OK, there are other forums to deal with that, but if Jordan wants to do it on his blog, there are a lot of readers wanting to know what happened....Thank you and good luck in your service.
August 5, 2010 10:44 PM
Just found the blog. You must have been hiding it! From what I've read your living standards weren't up to PC standards and weren't changed, which is a problem for PC Safety and Security. It has to be reported. Maybe ask for a re assignment when they figure out it was PC's fault and they did nothing.
PCs health always is dangerous, but without housing standards you might as well check into the hospital for life.
I will be reading the next post and recommend you take action to solve the problem for the next people. Call PC DC and have them look into it.
August 5, 2010 11:51 PM
my son is in the peace corps in guat.he has no electricity or running water and is in the jungle there.the corps put him in a jungle without any accesss to even a fan when heat index is 108.i am surprised as well that the corps has no regards for the health of these young enthusiastic volunteers. there is a documantary being made called WAGING PEACE;LETTERS FROM THE PEACE CORPS. and it is about the living situations the corps puts people into.kids die in service here.they are sent alone to dangerous places. someone should check into this.
August 6, 2010 11:19 AM
If the housing is sub standard, there are requirements like doors, locks, etc. Write/email the Office of Inspector General and explain. It is not necessary to argue with the Host Country Peace Corps. If you are going to sue and that is the only thing that will compensate you with the PC(the OIG never will), get a lawyer right away.
The last report is a volunteer who died after a month in the hospital. They didn't want to pay for the medevac.
The dangerous places is due to not evacing in countries that have military coups, etc. For example, Fiji is a military coup, no courts and media suppression; but PC waives the foreign aid ban law and provides foreign aid funds anyway. There are other examples and the excuses are to pay the host country staff and keep numbers up.
It is too dangerous and PC knows this. Uganda was just luck. They would have been there. It will just get more dangerous as PC forces countries to open and stay open. Safety and Security is not at the top of the list.
As far as being alone; PC needs to require two PCs per site. This was done in the past for Safety and Security. It will also get their numbers up.
If anything happens don't rely on PC. They have a game they run for about everything and it's not in the PC's best interest. The PC has to get a lawyer.
I will watch the documentary. It's needed.
August 7, 2010 11:47 PM
Benjamin Barnett said...
Been following the blog - I live in Guatemala City (I'm American)...looking forward to the followup post.
August 9, 2010 9:07 PM
In all of Jordan's blogs I don't see anything that talks about his house being unsafe, in other words there is nothing about it being dangerous in terms of being at risk for burglaries or thefts. There is only mention of some preventable health issues that his host family was going through...and some issues with noise, etc. that are pretty minimal for a site out in the "campo". I wonder why the other posters keep bringing up the issue of going to PC Washington, etc. when there does not seem to be anything that went against stated PC security policies?
August 9, 2010 11:05 PM
De la abundancia del corazon habla la boca - YOUR WORDS ARE A WINDOW TO YOUR HEART.
You have written in past entries: "Peace Corps Volunteer interactions with host communities are just two examples of important relationships that must form for a successful Peace Corps experience to ensue" yet you expect the indigenous community to take you in and make you one of their own when you think of them, judge them and openly make fun of them: "the story I wrote for the Peace Corps Volunteer newsletter. It won the best submission award, because it is the funniest thing you will ever read… Enjoy
my host mother walks by topless, completely shattering my concentration…. Doña Paulina is in control and is not afraid to manhandle a youngster.
host sisters… Catalina begins to sing, and she is shockingly terrible… I think the prerequisite for being a church singer in Guatemala is that one must be able to sing horrendously. Catalina succeeds wildly at this. Her screams escape from her mouth and scatter around the room.
….she is carrying a baby. She turns around, and I realize that she is breastfeeding a small child. She continues to breastfeed her child during the entirety of her 3-minute remarks, because, of course, that is what you do in church".
Reading everything - YES...EVERYTHING - MAKES ME SEE THROUGH YOUR CORE. And I see a man finding excuses and easily finding people to put the blame on. And YES.. I am Guatemalan..thank you for making fun of the people you swore to help. I can now see past your fancy words and fake victimization. BRAVO, YOUR WRITINGS ARE QUITE AMUSING but your life testimony doesn't even make it close to "It is when you give of yourself that you truly give" Erase that quote from your profile, you are not fitted to brag on it!!!
August 11, 2010 8:05 PM
For all of the poster hating on JBrown, get over yourselves. For starters, if you haven't been in Peace Corps you opinion doesn't count. Sorry it's true.
Moving on to those negative responses from volunteers. Peace Corps staff totally blows it all the time. I can't believe anyone is even trying to defend the staff by making them appear perfect. Do they mean well, probably, but that doesn't mean they are firing on all cylinders. Many of them are so inept. Also, a major problem is that the vast majority of staff are host country nationals, and frankly they have a different definition of peace corps and what volunteers should and should not be doing. Then there are the cultural differences between staff and volunteers. Given these circumstances there are conflicts that arise. A lot of the problems in my opinion are due to a lack of resources. But trying to blankly claim that the staff is perfect is naive.
The comment trying to address JBrowns character for his comedic post is ridiculous as well. Volunteers always joke amongst themselves and poke fun at the host country nationals, just as host country nationals poke fun at volunteers. I can understand how an outsider my misinterpret it but again they are an outsider. While I may joke around about my host country nationals, I don't actually mean it, I love being where I am and the people I'm with. Its akin to playground antics, I can make fun of my mom but you can't. We live it everyday, some of the cultural differences are comical (like wise some of the things we do are funny to them) and its a stress reliever to joke about them.
Quite frankly, in my opinion peace corps is a terrible run organization, top to bottom. I've lost so much respect since joining its sad. Truthfully I'm not alone. The vast majority of my fellow volunteers feel the same way. And I am in what is considered a top performing country.
That being said, I love being in peace corps and wouldn't change it for anything. Nor would my fellow volunteers. I actually would want to work in peace corps one day to help change it because there is a lot of potential its just that in its current state its a fraction of what it could be.
Peace Corps is a very complicated organization and you don't realize it until you have lived it.
Keep writing JBrown, I hate it when someone such as yourself makes such a large personal sacrifice to apply, wait and join peace corps, only to be poorly set up and ignored.
I am a PCV that has no connection to Guatemala or JBrown. When I reference peace corps staff, I'm referring to my experiences in my country, all countries have different situations but based on talking to friends in other countries and reading blogs I'd say they are all pretty damn similar.
August 18, 2010 9:13 PM
I haven't read your following posts yet, but let me say so far that I totally agree with you and sympathize. I was a PCV in Tanzania and I left after 9 months for some similar reasons. There were widely-known about problems with incompetent PC staff there too. A lot of us volunteers lost a lot of faith in the organization despite how much we loved being in TZ. There was just not enough support at all. So I agree, you can't know what it's like unless you've been in PC. I'm going through the same thing of dealing with guilt for leaving/really missing it and trying to come up with something new to do after abandoning my whole 2 year plan. So I feel ya. I'm sure you made the right decision.
September 24, 2010 7:33 PM
Links to Related Topics (Tags):
Headlines: August, 2010; Peace Corps Guatemala; Directory of Guatemala RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Guatemala RPCVs; Blogs - Guatemala; Early Termination
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The Peace Corps has always neglected the third goal, allocating less than 1% of their resources to "bringing the world back home." Senator Dodd addressed this issue in the "Peace Corps for the 21st Century" bill passed by the US Senate and Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter proposed a "Peace Corps Foundation" at no cost to the US government. Both are good approaches but the recent "Comprehensive Assessment Report" didn't address the issue of independent funding for the third goal at all.
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