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2/7/09 The Three Goals of Peace Corps

2/7/09 The Three Goals of Peace Corps

Though it's not talked about much, in this post-idealistic age, the actual mission of Peace Corps is to "promote world peace and friendship". Hard to believe, isn't it: the United States government actually pays me to promote world peace and friendship. Lhumdullah! I must admit, the very existence of Peace Corps makes me proud of my government. :)

More often discussed are the "Three Goals" of Peace Corps.

Goal 1: Provide technical training.
Officially: Help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

Back in the day, this meant that Americans did jobs that needed to be done, from teaching English classes to digging wells. These days, that has come to mean "capacity building", or teaching Host Country Nationals (HCNs), aka Moroccans and Ukrainians and Togo-ans and other citizens of the countries where we serve, the skills they need to do those jobs. We hold workshops for teachers, teach grant-writing so our HCN partners can fund their projects, and demonstrate new practices for farmers...just to name three examples.

Goal 2: Share American culture.

Officially: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

This is where I get points for chatting with people. Heck, I get points for living here. Everything I do, say, don't do, don't's all interpreted as What Americans Are Like. This is reinforced and expanded when I explicitly talk to people about American culture, whether it's describing Christmas, or inviting them to a Thanksgiving feast, or sharing my excitement over the election. There are huge misunderstandings of America and Americans, and I'm working bit by bit to identify and remove them. Some are complimentary, like my host mother saying (after describing a mean ex-husband), "There are no bad men in America." Would that it were true, Ama... Others are uncomplimentary, like when a neighbor from my CBT village said, "I saw a documentary that said all Americans are fat." Since there were five of us living in his village at the time, I was able to point out that such a thing couldn't be true, and that in fact, we're not the only five skinny Americans. And still others are neutral but inaccurate, like my host-auntie saying, "No Americans get circumcised. Only Moroccans do that." She was inclined to doubt my assurances that circumcision is common in America - after all, as an unmarried girl without brothers, how could I speak with any authority? - but I reassured her that I've changed enough little-boy diapers to be sure. (I knew all those years of babysitting would pay off eventually!)

Goal 3: Share world culture with Americans.

Officially: Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

And now we come to the purpose of my blog. All the entries not specifically dealing with prospective applicants, anyway. :) The third goal of Peace Corps is to bring the world a little bit closer together, by letting all Americans - not just those of us who get to live abroad for years at a time - learn more about our fellow Earthlings. Every time I share about Moroccan culture, whether it's in this blog, in an email, in a letter to the school I correspond with through the World Wise Schools program, or even in a phone call, I'm supporting Goal 3. Dear readers, every time you check my blog, or read an old post that you missed, or tell a friend something I shared with you, you're supporting Goal 3, too. So if you're still reading this, thank you! :D


  1. " She was inclined to doubt my assurances that circumcision is common in America "

    Yes, even Americans mutilate genitals of the helpless. Nothing to be proud of.

  2. I'm glad to help out w/ Goal 3. People love my stories about your life and what you're doing.

  3. Congrats! You're the "Peace Corps Blog of the Day" on the National Peace Corps Association's Twitter Feed.

    When you have a chance, check out our new website at and sign onto the social networking area, Connected Peace Corps. It's a great way to interact with members of the Peace Corps Community. Family and friends of Peace Corps are welcome too!

  4. I wonder if you'll have opportunity, and desire, to explain some of the vast differences we figured out between us during your days here. I still remember you being scandalized when I considered your students' lives pretty standard, given my hometown.

    I like that you understand living somewhere is a presentation of yourself and culture, often in the face of some crazy stereotypes that other people project onto you undesired. I didn't understand it for a long time since I was in grad school, on the far side of the state, before I ever really dealt with it.


  5. @ Anonymous: That's the beauty of cross-cultural dialogue. You can share and learn things whether you like them or not.

    @ Abby: Thanks! :D It's wonderful to hear that my ripples are reaching farther and farther out!

    @ Erica: Wow! Thank you, I'm honored! :D

    @ Aramis: It can be hard to feel like a walking billboard of "America", but that's all part of the game. I address this more here:


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