Adam and I are so excited to announce that we will be serving in Zambia as Peace Corps volunteers starting February 2018! We have been in the lengthy application process for 6 months and only recently had we officially been given legal and medical clearance. I added a menu to write about Peace Corps service on this website if you would like to join us on our next adventure.
Some may not be familiar with the Peace Corps, so here’s a brief overview.
*Since I don’t have photos to share myself, check out the Peace Corps media website photos by Zambia volunteers.*
What is the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. It was started in 1961 by President Kennedy to perform long-term service projects and promote world friendship.
The Peace Corps sends Americans of all ages and backgrounds to foreign countries to work in six main sectors: education, agriculture, health, community economic development, youth in development, and environment. Volunteers work for two years in host countries after three months of in-service technical and language training.
To date, over 220,000 volunteers have served in 140 countries. There are about 7,000 volunteers currently serving in 65 countries (as of 2017). About half are serving in Africa, but there are also posts in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
What are the goals of the Peace Corps?
There are three main goals, as stated on the website:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
So while one goal is to provide assistance where it is wanted and needed, the other goals are about world friendship and understanding. Adam and I have always been traveling with the last two missions in mind. Unfortunately, America does not have the best reputation in foreign countries, so we try to be representatives and show that not everyone is like what you see in the movies and on the news. Likewise, we like to share some of what we learn about the cultures and stories of people we meet with people back home. For example, the only thing many Americans hear about Korea is North Korea. I keep this in mind when I blog and share on social media: what do my readers get out of it? I aim to take readers with me and learn about the culture of wherever I am.
Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?
As some of you may know, I have been living abroad since 2012 mainly teaching English, but also doing help exchanges such as working on organic farms and learning about permaculture while living with locals in Asia and Australia. The connections are the most meaningful parts of travel. Every person I met has had an impact me in some way. I want to continue living abroad while doing meaningful work.
Nothing interests me more than learning about different cultures and the way people around the world lead their lives through firsthand experience. My host family dried cow dung to use as cooking fuel in Mongolia and in Thailand, they cooked banana flower fetched right from their tree. Even in Australia, there are little differences such as the way they wash dishes and the fact that rarely does anyone own a clothes dryer. Despite all of these small differences, however, I find that there are more similarities. We are all human and want to survive in this world.
My travels have largely benefited me as a way to grow and learn about the world, so I want to give back and dedicate myself to a local community for the long-term. Most of my volunteer experiences have been too short of a time, but I learned that it is possible to initiate projects that last after I leave (such as Gwangju Freecycle’s semiannual swap events). I am not naive and know that two years won’t save the world, but I hope to make an impact lots of small ways.
Lastly, while I enjoy teaching, I want to move into a field that I’m more passionate about: sustainability, community development, and food security. Working in the agriculture sector with the Peace Corps will give me the technical training and hands-on experience I need to make a career switch as well as open doors with the connections made.
Zambia? Where’s that?
We originally applied for Panama, but we couldn’t take the Spanish language test in Australia, so we got placed under consideration for Zambia based on our resumes. We didn’t know anything about Zambia and still don’t know much, but we will learn quite a lot as time goes on. Stay tuned!
For now, here are some quick facts:
- Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa
- It is neighbored by Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, DR Congo, and Botswana
- Capital: Lusaka
- Population: ~16.5 million
- Currency: Zambian Kwacha (1 USD = ~9.65 ZMK)
- Official Language: English, but there are dozens of local languages. We will be required to learn the local language, though we are not sure which one it will be, it is a good chance it will be Bemba.
- Zambia gained independence in 1964. It was formerly Northern Rhodesia
- Zambia along with Zimbabwe) is home to Victoria Falls, which is 1.6km long and over 100m high.
What will you do in Zambia?
Our official position is titled Rural Aquaculture Promotion volunteer. In other words, fish farming. We will be working with local farmers through the process of building ponds, growing and harvesting fish, and helping with the business side of things. We do not know the exact details of our post yet, though. Aquaculture can benefit the communities with a good source of protein as well as provide an income for farmers in sustainable ways that do not harm the environment.
While we don’t have direct experience with fish farming, we have relevant skills from volunteering in Thailand and Australia. Most RAP volunteers are not fish farmers by trade, but have skills that can be transferred. The Peace Corps provides three months of intensive technical and language training; the aquaculture training is known to be excellent and thorough, so we look forward to learning new skills. I’m also quite interested in aquaponics (growing food in water as well as fish in a closed loop system. Vegetables clean the fish poo and provides nutrients for fish and vice versa) so I hope to be able to experiment with that while in Zambia.
However, volunteers wear many hats. We are encouraged and expected to do side projects based on the local community’s needs and desires. HIV and malaria education and prevention, English education, female empowerment camps, etc. are some examples of what volunteers do in addition to their official job.
How long will you be there?
Training in Zambia is for 3 months and service for 24, so we’ll be there a total of 27 months. Sometimes, volunteers extend for a third year.
Do you get paid?
We will receive a small stipend for daily living expenses according to local wages. While we won’t be able to save, we won’t have many expenses either. Our flight, housing, health insurance, etc. will all be taken care of.
Where will you live?
We don’t know our assignment yet until training, so it could be anywhere in the country.
During training, we will live with a host family to get acquainted with the culture and language.
When we get our assignment and move into a village, we will be living in our own accommodation, likely a basic hut. Since our assignment will be rural, we won’t have electricity or running water. We might be a 30km bicycle ride to the nearest “main road” where we might have to hitch a ride to a “town” where we might get internet. It depends on the placement, though.
How does one apply for the Peace Corps?
Everything you need to know is on the Peace Corps website. The main requirements are that you are a U.S. citizen and are at least 18 year of age or older. Most volunteers are college graduates, but this is not a requirement.
The process is quite intensive and lengthy. Starting early is best because the whole process can take six months to a year. You will need to submit a relevant resume, a 500-word essay, and complete a 90-minute Skype interview. If you receive an invitation, you must submit fingerprints to initiate a federal background check as well as complete a long list of medical and dental tasks (physical exam, dental check-up, x-rays, and necessary treatment, blood work, certain vaccinations, etc. Depends on each person, though). I will be writing some tips about the whole process, so check my Peace Corps application page for updates.
Hope you’ll join our next adventures and learn about Zambia with us! Feel free to subscribe to e-mail updates when I write a post. Or follow us on Instagram!
The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the [insert host country name] Government.