Since 1961, the Peace Corps has promised the adventure of a lifetime while making an impact on a third world country of your choice.
Tiffany Tai knows the benefits of being a Peace Corps volunteer first hand and says there is no better time to join than now.
With ease and a clear genuine belief in the good of the Peace Corps, she led a “Live, Learn and Work Overseas” information session at the Pasadena Central Library last Wednesday.
Volunteers serve two years in a single community in one of 65 countries. The Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Middle East are among the most under-resourced places in the world, Tai said.
Once placed with a host family or in private housing, a volunteer will become immersed in that specific culture, language and focus: whether that is education, health, environment, community economic development and more.
For Tai, her business-oriented college education was put to use for a noble goal once she reached Uganda, her home for the next two years.
“In Uganda the focus would be HIV/AIDS, malaria, mother-child health,” said Tai.
According to Tai, the two main reasons for a large number of malaria cases are due to a community’s lack of access to clean water and mosquito bites. Tai and fellow volunteers provided the town with jerry cans to children who would walk at least three hours to reach clean water.
Tai was also able to bring down malaria cases by 90 percent after a mosquito net donation. Most Ugandans are unable to buy one on their $3 a day salary.
“I really feel like I was able to help people, increase the amount of knowledge they had, how to better their lives and the lives of their children,” Tai said. “Sometimes it was as simple as telling them the importance of washing their hands.”
The thought of one’s safety will undoubtedly be on potential volunteers’ mind, but Tai is confident in the safety of the Peace Corps’ volunteers.
During her assignment, Tai found herself two hours away from an Ebola outbreak. The Peace Corps immediately took action and relocated her.
“The safety of the volunteers is of the upmost priority,” she said.
Even in a poverty stricken country like Uganda, Tai found a companion of a lifetime in her dog, Charizard. Tai had noticed that Ugandans saw dogs as rodents as opposed to pets, but it was soon after adopting him that they began to change their attitude toward the town dogs.
Volunteers assigned in places like Ukraine when the Syrian crisis began were immediately extracted. Tai stated that the Peace Corps did a “full assessment of Ukraine, how the people were responding, what they felt about Americans, so the volunteers that are serving in Ukraine are in a completely different region.”
Linda Garcia, a Saint Mary’s college graduate in the Bay area, said the Peace Corps sounds like a “neat program going to the grassroots and making a difference within a small community.”
“It’s always caught my interest but over the past year I find myself pondering it a bit more and I feel like I’m ready to take the next steps,” Garcia said.
Volunteers range in age from 20 to 79, and it can sometimes be a different transition for the older demographic. Among them is Hans Parent, currently unemployed, from Highland Park who is looking into a career change.
“I’m definitely going to do more research and I’m going to apply,” Parent said.
Not only is joining the Peace Corps a rewarding experience, it can change so many lives, including your own, Tai said.
“I learned so much from them, culturally, to broaden my perspectives. Changed me as a person, made me more confident in myself and my skillset. But it also gave me an experience to bring home,” Tai said.