Chicago RPCV Speaks in Schools to Fulfill the “Third Goal”
By Brittany Clark on Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Imagine being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lithuania in the late 1990s, arriving at your host family’s home for the first time, and being cheerfully greeted by 50 of your new and curious Lithuanian neighbors. Michael Blasi shared this exciting “movie star” moment from his service with school children back home in Chicago. He is a participant in Speakers Match, a program that brings Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) into America’s classrooms, allowing them to share their extraordinary stories and inspire the future generation of global citizens.
Despite what some people may think, the job of Peace Corps Volunteers doesn’t come to an end when they leave their host countries. In fact, perhaps one of the most crucial services that Volunteers provide is their adherence to the “third goal.” The Peace Corps mission states that RPCVs are to “help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”
Michael Blasi and other RPCVs strive to instill this lesson of cultural understanding during their classroom presentations, so that students know how to operate more positively in our global community. Blasi tells his audiences that “there is not always a right and wrong way of doing something… I usually say to them, ‘In America we learn American things; time is money; you must have plan or a goal… baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. These are not bad things but just something we value. The rest of the world does not want to be told what we do is the right way.’ I hope the audience can understand that message.”
Through Speakers Match, Blasi has spoken with young people ranging from 7th graders to 25-year-old college students. They all react with interest and enthusiasm. Students are curious to learn firsthand what a day in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer is like. They want to know the rewards and challenges of living in a different country and being away from home. What exactly do PCVs eat? Blasi answers all varieties of questions that many students, not having had much exposure to the Peace Corps, are excited to have the opportunity to ask.
“I would hope the sharing of my stories to an audience would open a door or show someone a door,” says Blasi, who may have already helped to inspire a new generation of Peace Corps hopefuls. By leaving behind the importance of cultural understanding, Blasi’s lessons are a success. He hopes he can help reduce the fears that some students have about traveling to foreign countries, or help them recognize the “universal similarities we all share regardless of our many differences.”
After seeing its benefit, Michael Blasi says he would be happy to participate in Speakers Match in the future, and would also serve again in the Peace Corps. Programs that bring the Peace Corps home to America’s youth are a great way for Volunteers to begin working on that essential “third goal”—the one goal that makes sure the job of a Peace Corps Volunteer is never done.
Speakers Match is a Peace Corps program that brings Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) into classrooms to present their service experiences with students. To enroll or request a speaker, go to Speakers Match.