Change Yourself…Change The World.

How to Save the World
November 17, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: Paraguay

“I want to save the world.”

This is not a proclamation by just Peace Corps Volunteers- it is a common phrase uttered by many. It’s an extremely cliché and undefinable expression, but I think this is really at the core of most people’s desires to join the Peace Corps. I even admit it- sure, I’ve worked in development long enough now to scoff that ‘saving the world’ is an impossible statement- but through the haze of political correctness and a tad of arrogant ‘been-there-experienced-that’ preaching, the message is still in the underlining of everything I do. And so us Peace Corps Volunteers take this ‘saving the world’ business as literally as possible by throwing ourselves into the craziest of experiences, living in the question for two years of our lives- can we save the world? Can we make it a better place?

I think Peace Corps Volunteers find this answer in their service, and it tends to go one of two ways: the first way is that no, we cannot save the world. How can we make the entire world a better place if we cannot even make our community of 45 freaking people a better place? It is here where we start to really look at this statement in a different way- “hey, what does ‘save’ really mean anyway? And how arrogant are we to really say that WE should ‘save’ the world? How am I going to ‘save’ my community if I can’t even get the most basic project going, because no one wants to show up? How can I improve my community when it seems that no one wants to move forward with me?” The Peace Corps Volunteer hits a dozen brick walls and gives up, leaving their service jaded and disillusioned.

So I admit that I do feel that sometimes, and while I’ve been experiencing the lows of the Peace Corps recently, I’ve felt it more often than not. But the lows bring me to the second answer, which is a lot more important: YES, we can save the world. And we may not be ‘saving the world’ by doing the most awe-inspiring things in our community- but I must say, when you hit a lot of brick walls and want to scream with frustration, those successes you feel, no matter how small, are incredible. They taste sweeter than rain, hit you in the chest where you really feel it until you are overwhelmed and extremely humbled. Even if that success is defined as walking 2 hours to the campo to help your fellow Peace Corps Volunteers on a world map project- the excitement and curiosity of all the Paraguayan kids who watch us as we draw all of the countries on a giant white wall- that is something that feeds me, that keeps me going. We never know what sort of imprint we will be leaving on the kids here: an inspiration to travel, to learn more about the world we live in, to study harder, to become something BIGGER than what they envisioned before.

Since the Paraguayan summer is starting up, the business class I’ve been teaching in my community is going to be paused until school resumes again in March. In a mere six weeks, I have seen a definite change in my students. Wherein the first class I had major problems getting people to stand up and speak their mind or present to the class, by the end every single person was participating and sharing their views on business and how it can be applied in our community. Last week during an exercise, a student got up, stood in front of the class, and delivered a 5 minute passionate speech on why customers should buy his product; it was very inspiring. Students have told me repeatedly how much they’ve learned in just six classes- even the President of the school mentioned that nearly all the students have perfect attendance. To top it off, three eager students want to come with me to the Peace Corps National Business Camp.

Is this ‘saving the world’ in grandiose terms? No. But I’ve inspired 15 teenagers to look at the world in a different way, and to use business tools to help better their community. The students have inspired me by helping me realize that I really enjoy teaching youth. Who knows where I will be in 10 years as a result of them? Who knows where these teenagers will be in 10 years as a result of me?

What does ‘saving the world’ mean? Through the Peace Corps, I’m finding a definition. It doesn’t mean Utopia: it means working together to achieve our greatest potential. The successes I’ve been experiencing may be small, but they’re real. And that, to me, is big.

4 Comments so far
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Great post. I feel exactly the same. Gotta take the little things. See ya on monday!

Comment by Taylor

At least we have pineapple shaped like chicken legs to gnaw on when the times get tough.

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

Good post keep up the good work.

Comment by thegeeman

My fienrd Julie, who is an artist who lives here in Heath, lived in Guatemala for, I think, fifteen years in the 60s and 70s. She just came back from a trip there, and she told me some stories about changes that have happened in Guatemala since those days. They were incredible and somewhat difficult to hear, particularly about the gangs that have moved in more recently, boys who are attracted to selling drugs and some of the desperation of the poor–and how the quality of life has gone down in that particular city in the last 15 years or so. Much of it has to do with the way first-world culture has influenced people all over the world, in ways we’ve seen before. Anyway, it was all fascinating and a bit heart-wrenching, I wish you could hear those stories. She said that in the years she lived there, it was close to paradise…all the things you say here, and more.

Comment by Mohamed

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