Dear Future Volunteer
A couple of months ago I was asked by Peace Corps Colombia staff to write a letter addressed to the new group of PCVs that will arrive in August. This letter, along with a few others, will be included in the future volunteers’ invitation packets.
I remember the crazy sea of emotions one goes through when opening their invitation packet—-the packet that not only reveals what country you will be serving in, but provides valuable insight about what future volunteer life may entail.
After a year and half in country, it was rewarding to sit back and reflect on my time here in Colombia. Here is what I had to say:
Dear future volunteer,
Congratulations and welcome to the Peace Corps Colombia family! You are about to embark on an incredible, roller coaster of a journey. A journey where, like all worthwhile things in life, the more you invest (both emotionally and physically), the more benefits you’ll reap.
The Colombian coast is a lively, vibrant place. I think Colombia’s public relations team said it right by stating the country’s best resource is its people. Colombians are loving, good intentioned, so very rhythmically gifted and always down to fiesta.
I live in the small coastal city of Santa Marta, surrounded by stunning beaches and beautiful mountains. My school is big, lively and chaotic—in many ways it reminds me of a circus. Cotton candy and hot dogs are even sold during recreo, or recess. I’ve come to see the disorder as character and charm. I look forward to stampedes of sweaty hugs and kisses from the little ones and weekly teacher workshops with the secondary teachers. I work with a range of teachers from primary to high school. Co-teaching and co-planning is hard work, but you will find that even the smallest victories will garner big smiles and a sense of personal accomplishment.
My school, my personal circus, is my community where I am supported, loved and blessed with a majestic view of the mountains. I love the banter in the teacher’s lounge and walking around the school with a celeb-like status, everyone knowing who I am and what I’m up to.
Peace Corps service offers something unique: time to develop secondary projects that are both driven by community need/interest and volunteer passion. Two projects that make my heart smile are my Girls’ Leadership and Empowerment group (Samigas Liceo del Norte) and Santa Marta’s competitive gymnastics team where I help coach and choreograph.
As mentioned, you will be challenged, pushed to your limits and sweat more than you ever thought possible. It is likely you will experience soaring highs and dismal lows. But you will always have the biggest cheer squad right there behind you: fellow volunteers, PC staff, your Colombian community and friends and family back home.
All the sweat and occasional lows are more than worth it. They give you a platform to inspire, make a difference and grow as a person.
Welcome to the Peace Corps Colombia family! We are so happy to have you.
(Now go hydrate yourself with a big glass of water. Hydration is key and you can never start too early!)
Sammy Merkle, CII-3