Rushville Republican

Features

April 21, 2007

View of Peace Corps changed as he serves

(Editor’s note: Brian Dunn is a 1997 graduate of Rushville Consolidated High School and is serving in the Peace Corps in Uganda.)

This isn’t your father’s Peace Corps! My idea of the Peace Corps before I came was that I would be living in a mud hut in a very rural African village a thousand miles from nowhere. One of my biggest concerns was what would happen to me if I became deathly ill and couldn’t contact anyone for help and would inevitably die from some strange African disease and my body not be found for months! Although each Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience is exponentially different from one another, my perception and my reality also differed greatly. For one, I have a cell phone which I use several times a day to send text messages to friends both here and in the U.S. I use my laptop on a daily basis for everything from e-mail, Internet, blogging (http://pervispc.blogspot.com) databases and to watch DVDs which I rent from my village. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that getting here – leaving friends and family, selling my home and truck- was much more difficult than actually being here (although being here has its own daily quirks, believe me), and that I have a rich network of support and friendship from the 70 or so other PCVs who currently serve in Uganda with me, as well as a top notch PC staff, including 2 nurses on call 24/7. The reality also is that, as one of the only Caucasians in my village, if I do get sick or something does happen to me, the villagers couldn’t help but take notice.

A part of the work that I do with Compassion International, the organization I work with via the Peace Corps, is Home Visits. The Compassion staff is required to visit all 285 kids’ homes once or twice a year to check on their living conditions and to see if they are using the items that Compassion has given them (mattresses, mosquito nets, etc.). Sometimes kids manage to sell the items they’ve received before they ever reach home! I both love and hate these visits. I love them because I get to see and do things that others don’t. No tourist gets this deep into villages and into homes. I hate it because I see what real poverty and desperation looks like. Entire families living in extreme poverty, which is defined as earning less than a dollar a day. Recently I went on one such visit.

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