assignment–especially for me, since I have been wanting to serve in the U.S. Peace Corps since completing graduate school over 40 years ago. Kathy was not able to join me in Jamaica, and we found that it was very difficult to be apart for two years…especially at our age.
Please know that I have valued every day that I spent training and working as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. I have the highest degree of respect and admiration for my fellow Peace Corps – Group 81 Volunteers, most of whom are still serving all over the island of Jamaica. Check out our Group 81 – U.S. Peace Corps page on Facebook and you will gain a sense of all the constructive and positive projects and programmes (Jamaican spelling) we have been working on with and for Jamaican school children, communities, and environmental trust organizations.
It has been a very tough decision to return to Oklahoma now, but given personal and security considerations, it was a necessary action that I had to take at this time. I have made so many new and lasting friendships with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), Peace Corps staff members and Jamaican citizens, and I intend to keep those friendships alive. I plan to maintain contact with PCV and Jamaican colleagues, and at least electronically, will continue to occasionally write about the daily economic, social, political, and related environmental struggles occurring in this vibrant Caribbean nation. Daily life for Jamaicans can be especially difficult now, and “No problem, Mon,” really means that in spite of all obstacles, Jamaicans will persevere. During the great economic challenges facing all nations at this time, island countries have been especially vulnerable to economic trade imbalances, lost jobs or no jobs at all, environmental degradations, and rising crime waves.
Before I joined the U.S. Peace Corps, I was a teacher. I have always known that sharing accurate and honest information and knowledge about our own nation and other countries is both a great privilege and personal growth opportunity. So in the months ahead, if you are interested, return to this blog to read about continuing efforts to “confront” lionfish invasions in Caribbean waters, new attempts to create functioning fish sanctuaries in at least nine Jamaican coastal areas, and Jamaican and American environmental struggles that are being lost and occasionally won. Sometimes, from a distance, observers can remain more neutral, fair-minded and insightful than those who are too closely connected to the daily political, economic and social in-fighting within a community or nation.
In many ways, I have a micro rather than macro view of what each of us can do to evoke positive change both at home and abroad. Often our best educational work is done one-on-one with another learner. If I was able to help successfully educate and encourage just a few new marine biology interns, work with high school students at the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, offer talks and environmental presentations to grade school, secondary and college-students, as well as to international visitors to Jamaica’s first national marine park, then I believe my time in the U.S. Peace Corps was well spent. I know it is not necessary to go to Jamaica or to Lesotho (where a young Peace Corps volunteer was tragically killed this week) or to Afghanistan (where some of our best citizens are being wounded or killed each day) in order to find great societal needs and problems to tackle. In every American community, there are critical social, economic and political ills to correct and/or resolve, too.
Truly staying engaged in the resolution of societal challenges must be a commitment for each of us as American citizens. In the end, our greatest responsibilities are to our own family members and friends. Of course I am an idealist, but also a pragmatist who has come to realize that we may not all be able to change the world, but we can all make a positive difference in a few peoples’ lives and livelihoods. That is what citizenship and friendship are all about.
So, it is great to be back home in Oklahoma. Happy Labor Day, (Jamaicans celebrated their Labour Day earlier this year), to family and friends and those of you reading this blog.
All the Best,