Wednesday, May 31, 2017

As Time Winds Down

During your service in the Peace Corps, there are three major training sessions. The first and longest (about ten weeks) is the Pre-Service Training (PST) where they prepare you for how to be a volunteer, for living alone in your assigned village, and for performing your designated job. Mine ran from my departure in June 2015 through August 2015. Upon completion of PST, you are finally sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).
After your first year as a PCV, everyone in your class reassembles for Mid-Service Training (MST). Our MST was held in October at the Abbey where we spent our very first weekend in the Caribbean. It was great to be with my colleagues once again (my group's MST picture is shown above).
The third major training session for each cohort class is the Close of Service Training, known to Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world as COS. The COS for my class was held a few weeks ago on the island of St. Lucia (where the Eastern Caribbean headquarters for Peace Corps is located). Instead of the austere Abbey, the COS training was held in a nice hotel (although not beachfront, so they were still trying to be frugal) with a swimming pool (see photo above). Even though we have several months left in our service, they needed to hold our training session before they can get ready for the Pre-Service Training for the incoming group of new volunteers now arriving. Plus, there is a lot we need to do before we return to the USA.
It was great to be reunited with the amazing group of people (pictured above, the night we were transported to the beach for a BBQ dinner) that comprised our group, the 87th group of volunteers trained for assignment in the Eastern Caribbean (thus our designation as EC87). We had persevered through the arduous Pre-Service Training in June and July of 2015 on St. Lucia, and then were scattered to our four different islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, or St. Vincent and the Grenadines) on August 1 of that year. Our Mid-Service Training last fall was the only time since Pre-Service Training that we had been together as a group. It was wonderful to renew our friendships. There are truly some great people from across the USA who are in my class—and seemingly throughout the Peace Corps. As the time begins to dwindle for my 800 days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I went down to the inlet by myself on the last night to view the sunset. While there, I watched the ship shown below returning to the harbor—just like I will be returning home in a few short months. However, I still have a lot to get done before I head home, especially the construction of a playing court in late July (I'm still seeking donations for this project).
As we celebrate the centennial of President Kennedy's birth, I feel honored to be serving in his Peace Corps. I hope this federal program will continue for many years to come—however, the current President's budget proposal makes big cuts in America's service programs such as the Peace Corps. I hope that Republicans in Congress will realize that the Peace Corps is spreading much goodwill on behalf of America and that it is worth continuing at its present size, if not larger. It will be a shame if it is cut.

One final point about my COS training—on the way back home from St. Lucia to Dominica, the ferry boat (which is cheaper than flying, and the Peace Corps tries to keep costs down) made its mid-way stop at the French island of Martinique. We were docked across the harbor from a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. Some of you know that I almost went to the Coast Guard Academy after high school, so the Coast Guard has always been interesting to me. As we left, I could see the name on the stern was “Donald Horsley.” About a week after I was back home, I finally got around to do a web search on this ship.

It turns out that this ship had a busy week after I saw it. A few days later, it rescued six men from a disabled boat. Not long after this news story, there was another news story about this ship's arrival in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it offloaded over a million dollars worth of marijuana that it had seized. It was good to see this example of the American government performing visible work to help this area. It was also interesting to see that the commanding officer of this vessel is a woman. Finally, all this reminded me of the U.S. Navy hospital ship that was visiting Dominica when I first arrived. I feel it is important for the United States to help developing countries around the world, and the Peace Corps, the hospital ship, and the Coast Guard are good examples.

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