World Travelers Change Lives
Former Peace Corps members share experiences.
You never know what you might have in common with your neighbor. Molokai residents Ken Gonzales, Rick TenCate, and Tom DeCourcy wear a piece of the native dress from the countries they served in as Peace Corps members.
By Jennifer Smith
For nearly half a century Peace Corps members have changed lives all around the world. Celebrating Peace Corps Week, three Molokai residents talked story last Wednesday night about their adventures serving in Third World countries.
With pictures of Ecuador, the Philippines, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the presenters painted a moving and realistic picture of life in the Peace Corps. They admitted the work is not always ideal, but agreed that the two years spent volunteering were life-changing and worthwhile.
"It doesn't matter where you served, everyone pretty much had the same experience," Philippines Peace Corps Member Tom DeCourcy said, explaining that members develop a completely different perspective of the United States.
An optimist sees the glass half full, a pessimist sees the glass half empty, a Peace Corps member sees the glass and thinks how he could take a bath with it, Molokai R.N. Ken Gonzales said. According to him Peace Corps members learn to appreciate and maximize the use of resources.
Gonzales served in Ecuador during the late 1980s. As a health-program volunteer, he provided treatment to the sick, and educated communities about health issues. Gonzales said he was proud to see the establishment of a rural town’s first girls’ basketball team.
"I came out of that having learned so much about life from these people," Gonzales said.
"I can honestly say your life becomes changed."
Rick TenCate joined the Peace Corps on a whim, during a weekend trip to Northern California. Several months later, and after hundreds of hours of Farsi language classes, he found himself in Iran.
TenCate served as an agriculture volunteer during 1964-1966, and said he hopes to return to Iran someday.
Sharing pictures, memories, and cultural paraphernalia from around the world, the three Peace Corps members looked back with no regrets on their time volunteering. Each member had stories of friendships made, hardships endured and communities changed.
President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961. Members are expected to learn about another country, teach the other country about the U.S., and return to share stories about the country they worked in.
For more information on the Peace Corps visit www.peacecorps.gov or call 800-424-8580.