NPCA on the Peace Porch!
By Jonathan Pearson on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
When asked if transferable technical skills were a requirement for Peace Corps service, National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley (Thailand 76-79) reflected back to his studies before service and quipped, “I had done my masters degree on James Joyce’s Ulysses, which doesn’t provide you with any technical skills!”
On the final day of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, Kevin along with NPCA Vice President Anne Baker were the featured speakers at a session titled “Sharing the World with the United States”. And while there was discussion about NPCA and its member efforts to bring the world home through service, education and advocacy, Kevin and Anne also did what any good volunteer would do – listen and adjust to the audience.
In the audience were some of the most important people the ten-day festival attracted: citizens learning more about the Peace Corps and strongly considering service.
There were questions about training, the age of volunteers, language proficiency and more.
But, back to Ulysses for a moment. While technical skills play an important role in service, Kevin noted that “Often, if a professional skill is too highly specialized, a person may not be able to adapt…It’s not just technical skills. Social skills are just as important…as are motivation, flexibility, adaptability.”
Kevin’s education and social skills led to an extended three-year assignment which included teaching at a teacher’s training college and helping to set up a regional training program for Thai teachers of English.
For Anne, it was her background in physics that landed her a teaching position in Fiji from 1984 to 1987. Not only did she start a Peace Corps trend within her family, Anne’s service started her on a new career path that would benefit many back home. ”Peace Corps turned me into an educator.” After a number of years in the classroom, Anne told the audience she joined the staff of NPCA to “help bring global education resources to classrooms and communities here at home.”
Among those on hand to listen to Kevin and Anne was Cedar Mathers-Winn, a recent graduate from the University of California – Santa Cruz, who is interning at the Smithsonian. His interest in service was enhanced by learning “how personal and life-changing (Peace Corps) can be.” Seeing the variety of Peace Corps projects on display at the festival also broadened Cedar’s understanding and appreciation of service possibilities.
A young woman identified as Princess S, formerly of Charlotte North Carolina and currently living in Washington, also took part in the discussion. She started her Peace Corps application a year ago. ”I guess (the Folklife Festival) rekindled the flame.” And what did she learn? ”I was excited to know Peace Corps is looking at the whole person, not just what’s on your resume.”