Wisdom Wednesday: Janet
The number one question I always get is: Why did you join the Peace Corps? The first thing that pops into my mind is "why not?" And of course I give my whole origin story of how my tiny little heart was inspired by an elderly lady in the poor countryside of Vietnam at the young age of 7. However, you don't need a reason to be good. You shouldn't need to have something happen to you before you want to help people. Another thing I knew about Peace Corps was that it would change my life. And it has. After serving for only a year now, I have learned a lot about myself, Ukraine, and America.
As a youth development volunteer, it is my job to help youth in Ukraine develop professional skills as well as personal skills such as leadership, volunteerism, and social awareness. We are here to inspire people and provide support through the translation of American values. However, I often find myself inspired by the very people I am supposed to serve. I see myself influenced by such young minds eager to make a difference in their lives and in their communities.
Go study abroad. Go volunteer abroad. Learn a new language. Become pen pals with someone across the world. I urge everyone, no matter what age you are, to learn more about the world around you. But most importantly, take that information back to your community and teach someone else.
After the election results in America, it was mentally challenging to do my job. I cried for hours thinking, "how can I represent a country that can't represent me?" However, Ukrainians here showed compassion and understanding. Some related to me referring to the tragic events of their most recent revolution in 2014, Euromaidan. They understood. In those moments, we weren't American or Ukrainian, we were just people finding solace in each other's company. This made me realize that my job here wasn't done. Not only are Peace Corps volunteers supposed to spread American values, but we are supposed to bring back culture and awareness of the countries we serve in. Why? So that Americans can learn to be more tolerant and open minded to the globalized world we now live in.
So as I preach to Ukrainians here, go. Go study abroad. Go volunteer abroad. Learn a new language. Become pen pals with someone across the world. I urge everyone, no matter what age you are, to learn more about the world around you. But most importantly, take that information back to your community and teach someone else. Because before people become tolerant, we must learn more about each other. So please, don't let fear of the unknown get the best of you.
About the Author: Janet Nguyen