Country: Zambia

Research, Women's Groups

New Colors

January 11, 2014

In less than three weeks, I will be departing for a great and unknown, yet well-trodden adventure in the U.S. Peace Corps.  My country of service: Zambia.  My packing list: nearly complete.  My emotional preparation level: zero. 

In preparing for these 27 months of service, the average volunteer (myself included) does a lot of soul searching.  Why am I doing this? What will I gain?  What I will I lose?  Sometimes, we forget to ask ourselves a more important question.  What is the value of my service to others, and to myself?  There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs, books, and other writings from past volunteers discussing this question.  The value of my service to others will be something that I answer day-by-day as I live out my 27 months as a rural aquaculture volunteer in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Once I leave my service, it will be hard to know how my time in Zambia has impacted the people there.  The value of my service to myself, however, is something that will continue on for the rest of my life, and is perhaps a question I can never fully answer.

A few months ago, I came across a wonderful article from, written in response to a letter from a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who was strugglign with re-entry to their life in America.  You can (and should) read the whole article here, but I've pulled a section from the author's response that really resonated in me, and especially in my desire need to serve.

"The work was good, too. When it went well, anyway. Our projects were complicated sometimes, and they were always being carried out in low-resource settings. It could be frustrating. But seeing a village pull together, as I got to over and over again, was a delight. I could go to bed at night, dehydrated and exhausted, truly emptied out, and feel so much joy. I intend to chase that feeling for the rest of my life, and I will follow it anywhere.

This feeling is like having this whole other element in my life, like a color I had never been able to see before my Peace Corps service, or like an entirely new way of putting the same old words and thoughts together, an entirely new way of living. It came every day, but some days more than others. The best days were the days that were full of work and people. The best nights were the nights when I went to bed sunburned and sore, with a light heart, a full stomach, and the knowledge that I had done a good thing well. I remember thinking: This is all I want. Let me not live a day past my ability to feel this way. Not an hour."

 - Op-Ed by Cary Tennis 

As you go about your own life, what colors do you see? How has service impacted the way you look at the world? Deciding what we want and how we will serve, and then striving to fill our lives with it every day, every hour, is the essence of what makes us happy. May your service bring you that same joy.