“What is Peace Corps?” RPCV Responds to Students
By Brittany Clark on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
“While it amazes me, so many Americans have NEVER heard of us!” says Nancy Gehron, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) of Falls Church, VA, who served in Togo from 1983 to 1985. Nancy participates in Speakers Match—a program that brings RPCVs into classrooms to teach students of all ages what Peace Corps is, and why it’s important. “I love talking to kids about Peace Corps and my experiences,” says Nancy, “Since the day I came back from Togo, I’ve been recruiting the next generation of Volunteers.”
Years ago, Nancy spoke at several schools, career fairs, and classes studying Africa at the request of Peace Corps and the schools’ administrations. Since returning from work in Madagascar and Tanzania as an Administrative Officer in 2008, Nancy has been contacted by the Speakers Match office to reach out to more kids about the Peace Corps experience. She has spoken in an after-school program for economically disadvantaged students (some of whom were actually from Africa) and to classes studying the 1960s. “I talked about how while my dad was serving in Vietnam, I’d see the Peace Corps advertisements during the news hour and I always knew that Peace Corps was going to be how I would serve my country.”
Nancy makes her Peace Corps experience come alive for the students, who are mostly middle school kids, by bringing in props and maps and telling stories about giant bugs and interesting foods she has eaten. “In my village, dogs were a prime source of protein,” says Nancy. She discusses with kids the difficulties Togolese students face in crowded schools with little resources, and what it’s like to live with no running water or electricity.
It’s fascinating for the students at home to learn how people their age are living in other parts of the world. They have a chance to hear personal stories about issues they have only read about in books, such as colonization, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and poverty. Nancy says, “If I’m talking about challenges to development in Africa, I try to look at the number of students. I’ll say, for example, if we were in Tanzania, out of the thirty students in the room, three of you would have AIDS, all of you would have suffered from malaria at some point, etc. The more you know about the class size and what the subject is, the better you can prepare on the subject to make it meaningful.”
RPCVs and teachers can enroll in the Speakers Match Program to bring the Peace Corps experience into America’s classrooms, so today’s kids grow up knowing exactly what Peace Corps is and why it is needed.
To learn how you can speak to students about your Peace Corps experience–or to request a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Speaker–visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/wws/speakersmatch/