Video postcards from the Peace Corps
On the occasion of the Peace Corps’ 50-year anniversary, the Opinion pages ran several Op-Eds celebrating the volunteer organization and its enduring legacy. On its accomplishments, Stanley Meisler wrote:
It's possible to cite the pounds of fish sold or the pounds of honey produced under volunteer projects. But how do you measure the influence of an inspiring teacher? Or the effect on an impoverished teenage boy such as Alejandro Toledo, who, with volunteers' help, goes on to college and becomes the president of Peru?
Maureen Orth, a 1960s-era volunteer who’s continued her work in educating Colombian children all these years later, also chimed in. “I think I echo thousands and thousands of people who can thank the Peace Corps for setting us on a path to a more interesting and fulfilling life,” she wrote.
As did Jonathan Zimmerman, who said: “The real legacy of the Peace Corps is its effect on human friendship, tolerance and understanding.”
Amid the reverential tone, however, there have been cynical takes about the Peace Corps, suggesting that it’s a summer camp for privileged white kids. Volunteer Jessie Seiler, who’s currently working on the “Stomping Out Malaria in Africa” initiative, had heard the stereotypes before she joined the Peace Corps. She begged to disagree in an Op-Ed she wrote about building much-needed latrines in West Africa.
On Wednesday, Orth weighed in on the topic again, this time with Peace Corps Postcards, an interactive website that chronicles the varied experiences of today’s volunteers. Each video “postcard” (about four minutes long) takes the viewer on a journey -- to an orphanage in Mongolia, a school in Costa Rica, a small village in Morocco. But beyond giving glimpses into remote corners of the world, the postcards also share the volunteers’ motivations and the tangible impact they’ve made. They’re teaching, counseling, farming and building toward the common goal of empowering people who are otherwise disadvantaged. And in the process, says volunteer Jayson, they’re helping clear up misunderstandings between our cultures and, hopefully, making the world a more peaceful place.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Screenshot from Peace Corps Postcards.