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Peace Corps has identified 9 characteristics that successful volunteers possess and use during their service: adaptability, patience, skill, self-reliance, positive attitude, flexibility, resourcefulness, responsibility, and a sense of humor...*
Adaptability: Having the ability to adjust to the many new and different situations you encounter as a Volunteer allows you to be responsive to the people you will live with and serve. You may be as exotic to your new community as your new life is to you, and you will need to adapt to a much less private existence than you probably had back home. It may seem like you're living in a fishbowl.
Patience: This is not a job for people seeking quick fixes or instant gratification. Instead, you will need to work creatively to develop relationships with community members, and to build trust and motivate the various stakeholders. This all takes time.
Skill: Being selected as a Peace Corps Volunteer means you have the technical experience and education needed by a host country. The Peace Corps will additionally prepare you by providing language, cross-cultural, and project-specific training. Continuing to hone these skills over the length of your service will enable you to make a meaningful contribution to the community you serve.
Self-reliance: Although you may feel like you are never alone as a Volunteer, you may also feel very much "on your own." You are likely to be the only Peace Corps Volunteer in your community. You will face language barriers and the challenge of finding your way around a new neighborhood. You can expect to be well-received by the community, but initially you will be dealing with things as simple as learning people's names. Having a strong sense of self-reliance will help you navigate through moments of doubt and challenging situations.
Positive attitude: The structure of your job assignment and the work itself will probably be less defined than what you have experienced in the U.S. There may be times when the work flow feels chaotic or times when it is slow. A positive attitude can ease the transition.
Flexibility: As a Volunteer, you will likely be placed in an environment very different than anything you've experienced in the United States. Letting go of expectations and being flexible will assist you in handling whatever comes your way. For example, Volunteers live like the neighbors they serve, so there may be varying access to running water, electricity, or other resources. Housing is safe but may be basic. Also, in many countries, the way you dress is seen as an expression of respect. To be accepted, you may have to conform to the standards in your host country and community.
Resourcefulness: As people adjust to new environments and cultures, they go through certain predictable emotional states: loneliness and isolation, insecurity and uncertainty, homesickness, and doubts about their commitment to serve. By being resourceful, working with what you have, and keeping an open mind, you will be able to overcome these challenges and thrive.
Responsibility: As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are a vital part of a larger team assigned to your country of service. Not only are you responsible for quality work, but you will be required to adhere to a structure designed to keep you safe and healthy. For example, while a Volunteer, you will not be able to drive a vehicle, nor may you leave your community without notifying Peace Corps staff. There are reasons for the policies Peace Corps has put in place and following them is a must.
Sense of humor: Having the ability to laugh at yourself and at life's little surprises goes a long way. Your service will be a continual learning process. Keeping a light view will help you learn from your mistakes without judging yourself harshly. Besides, laughter is universal.
*This section borrows heavily from "What Peace Corps is looking for in a Volunteer applicant", http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/howvol/lookingfor/
|Meleia Egger (RPCV Malawi 2007-2009) wrote this poem in the summer of 2011 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps.||Kyle King on being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, 2014.|