At the age of 61, with a rich and satisfying life behind me, I set off to fulfill my long-held dream of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. It’s something I had thought about periodically for more than 40 years – almost twice as long as the lifetime of most volunteers.
What Older Volunteers Bring to Service
To my delight, there is no upper age limit to serve in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps family welcomes the experience and insight older volunteers bring to assignments overseas. In fact, a few volunteers are currently serving in their eighties. Good health, strong motivation, flexibility, maturity, and relevant skills are far more important than age.
These were all attributes I applied as a small business volunteer in Morocco. Compared to the average Peace Corps volunteer, I had many more years of life and work experience to use as resources for my personal and professional journey. I had created my own small business in textile arts, taught English in Thailand, directed a nonprofit, and worked as a public health educator. Any one of these professional experiences would have qualified me for Peace Corps service.
However, it was my work as a small business volunteer that truly was the most satisfying professional experience of my life. I don't know if I could have succeeded as well when I was younger. I was glad to have so many years of accumulated knowledge and experience to carry me through. And I was awed and inspired by the strength, commitment, and resilience of the younger volunteers.
The Benefits of Peace Corps Later in Life
I can’t imagine a better transition into the retirement years of my life than Peace Corps service. I was able to play to my strengths and provide myself with a most rewarding experience.
While there were many challenges to overcome – such as learning to communicate in an unwritten dialect of Arabic – I remained grateful for more things than not. The work I was doing to help a local women’s artisan group start a business was very satisfying and led me to never doubt the value of me being there.
Plus, all my basic needs were met. I had a strong support group consisting of my host family, other volunteers, and Peace Corps staff. All my living expenses were covered by my monthly stipend. My medical and dental needs were met in a timely and efficient manner. It was a relief not to stress about my job or money.
I had the culture and language training I needed to successfully integrate into my community. And most importantly, I had time. I was able to experience the two most satisfying years of my life without rushing!
On a personal development level, there was much value in living a life “out of context.” It encouraged reflection and strengthened my spirit. It also provided me with an opportunity to de-clutter life and focus on what was truly important.
How to Begin Your Own Journey with the Peace Corps
I thought I would retire when I returned to the States, but the only job I would consider was a recruiter position with the Peace Corps. Now, as a Regional Representative for the Peace Corps Northwest Regional Office in Seattle, I get to tell my story to others looking to have their own life-changing experience.
Developing countries need the expertise of older Americans. Since I work with hundreds of people interested in applying to the Peace Corps, I see firsthand the competitive edge older volunteers have by offering years of practical experience.
To serve with the Peace Corps, you must be a U.S. citizen able to serve abroad for 27 months. By visiting the Peace Corps website – www.peacecorps.gov – you can read more about where volunteers go, what they do, the skill requirements for each program, the core expectations of volunteers, and other useful information.
Currently, applicants with skills in education (especially ESL classroom experience), agro-business, natural resource management, forestry, public health, Spanish, and French are in high demand.
To make a positive change in your life, call 800.424.8580 to speak with a Peace Corps representative in your area or begin an online application at www.peacecorps.gov/application.
How many chances do you get to know, without doubt, that you have really made a difference in the world? With no upper age limit, I may just do it again…