I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. Most of you know that and are familiar with the ups and downs and twists and turns in my life journey that deposited me here, halfway across the world, 6,000 miles distant from family and friends and my dog and my ‘stuff’ – all the ingredients that I thought completed me and defined me for fifty years. It has been a challenging, ego-deflating, doubt-laced, confusing, but ultimately totally worthwhile adventure.
Because, you see, I feel like I am finally acting in a manner that aligns with my oft-spouted beliefs. I am attempting to do good in the world in a way that does not accrue benefits specifically for myself or my immediate circle (i.e. “volunteering”) because I believe that the impact I can have will ultimately afford me a bigger reward – personally and in my relationship to the world. I believe in community. I believe that human beings are intrinsically and indissolubly connected. And, by the end of my tour here in Moldova, I will know it in my soul because I will have lived out this experience.
The second goal of the Peace Corps (we have three) is to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. And one thing that I truly appreciate about my fellow citizens is their unbridled willingness to jump in and help. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. This number includes public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues. I worked for one of them for 20 years. And it never failed to inspire me how many Americans give of their time, money, labor, and heart to support causes and people which ask for their help.
Unfortunately, the idea of “volunteering” has a negative connotation in Moldova that is just now beginning to shift. You see, many men were conscripted as “volunteer” soldiers for the border skirmishes that have beset this tiny nation for a goodly portion of their existence. The good news is that there are many people here – from the European Union, America, and Moldova itself – who are making great efforts to change this perception. Non-profits are proliferating and youth, especially, are becoming increasingly invested in their own nation and its well-being. But they still need help. And they profit immensely by meeting volunteers and becoming more familiar with the personal goals, commitments, and philosophies that drive their efforts
To celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Peace Corps Moldova, a group of us are setting out, on foot, to visit 31 towns and villages along two 150 km routes winding through the countryside. At the end of two weeks, we will meet in the capital for a big, public celebration. We want to share our stories and encourage the people we meet to engage with their communities, to assist their neighbors and others in need, through the selfless – but hugely gratifying – act of volunteering. We hope to lead by example and make a small difference here by fostering the spirit of giving that brought all of us to this country. We want to illustrate the benefits that accrue to both the giver and the receiver in the volunteering experience.
SO. And here is what I am truly after – can you help? We have applied for a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant that matches money donated by Americans with funds raised in Moldovan communities in order to make this walk a reality. The beautiful thing is that American dollars go a lot further in Moldova – even $5 would make a big difference.
If you believe in community and in the efforts of volunteers to build and sustain them – in your own neighborhood and throughout the world – please consider supporting this project. I will be posting pictures and stories from the walk, so you will be able to join with us virtually and cheer us on.
Click here to go to the Peace Corps page where you can donate securely and read more about the project. Your contribution is, of course, tax deductible.
Thank you, so much, not just for the money you might give but for reading and encouraging me during this amazing journey. You sustain me.