It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Peace Corps, mostly because I don’t think much about it beyond my efforts of continually to funding and administering a website I created called ThirdGoal.com.
Peace Corps’ Goals
Most Peace Corps experiences last two years or less. The volunteer arrives to a country, gets trained, moves to a small village, and spends two years attempting to make a difference at a very local level.
The efforts of most Peace Corps volunteers likely accomplish two of the Peace Corps three goals very well while they are in service:
- To help the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained workers
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
The third goal of the Peace Corps, however, is mostly unobtainable to the average Peace Corps volunteer during their term of service, which is to…
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
Sharing stories as they happen
It’s easy to understand how difficult it is to actively share your experiences as a volunteer to Americans when you are located thousands of miles away and are subject to intermittent power and water.
As an information technology volunteer for the Peace Corps, however, I had regular access to internet connected computers and managed to share my story as frequently as possible to as large of an audience as I could reach. I did so by blogging about my Peace Corps experience, posting photos, and producing MP3 recordings for people to download (a rudimentary podcast of sorts). I did all of this in 2002 from Georgetown, Guyana.
A sustainable experience
During training, one of the lessons that the Peace Corps tries to instill in its volunteers is to offer their local community a sustainable experience. This means that the community should not become dependent on the services and skills offered by the volunteer, who is scheduled to return to the states in two years. Instead, teach those skills so that they may continue to help themselves long after your departure.
What I find interesting about all of my efforts in promoting “a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans” by posting as much about my Peace Corps experience as it happened — even to my own demise — is how sustainable my efforts in 2002 have been.
ThirdGoal.com continues to receive more than 2,000 unique visitors a month who spend on average more than three minutes reading about the experiences of other Peace Corps volunteers. And while the quantity of phone calls and emails received regarding my experience and early departure have all but vanished, the community blog that I created at ThirdGoal.com continues to retain a steady and sustained pattern of use.
Peace Corps Wiki
In the past couple of months I have exchanged a series of phone calls and emails with Mike Sheppard and Will Dickinson, two individuals who are also interested in better organizing the wide and growing volume of content that more and more Peace Corps volunteers are posting to the web.
They have built PeaceCorpsWiki.org, a community-driven website focused on serving as a collaborative institutional memory for Peace Corps volunteers.
While I am not directly involved in the project, I am serving as an adviser of sorts. Recently, Mike and Will were interviewed on their efforts, during which they commented on ThirdGoal.com and my objectives.
“Jason encountered problems in 2003 when first started pod casting from Guyana; this lead to his early departure from PC. When he returned to the states he started “Third Goal” and the site has continued to grow over the past few years and is a terrific example of a sustainable Peace Corps project. It certainly meets “Goal Three” of Peace Corps ! “Thirdgoal.com” the first Peace Corps related website to my knowledge to successfully make use of Web 2.0 technology.”
Will’s quote reminds me of what Patrick Joyce once said to me while he was still serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana; “Jason, while your Peace Corps service may have been short lived, ThirdGoal.com might become the most sustainable thing the 20 of us will ever do.” Patrick was one of the 20 volunteers who I served with in Guyana and was a good friend.
I wish Will and Mike the best as they work to better organize and document the knowledge hundreds of volunteers contribute all over the web.