The US Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and Peace Corps first came to Kyrgyzstan in 1993. Volunteers worked in most former Soviet countries, for several years at least, but now Kyrgyzstan is the last Central Asian country where Peace Corps serves.
The Peace Corps seeks to promote world peace and friendship (lofty aims, indeed) via three goals:
Goal 1 – To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
Goal 2 – To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
Goal 3 – To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
For me, Goal 1 translates as team-teaching in a Kyrgyz secondary school while training English teachers in EFL methodologies. English is taught in almost every secondary school in Kyrgyzstan, and while there’s a huge demand for young English speakers, the Kyrgyz government has invited Peace Corps volunteers to come and work to improve the system for teaching English. Volunteers are doing this at every level: everything from preparing university students to become English teachers, supporting young English teachers to build a curriculum, following-up with mid-career English teachers to make sure they’re continuing their professional development, to encouraging experienced English teachers to share their best practices with fellow educators – we’re on it.
Goal 2 might be the most fun part of my work: celebrating American holidays with locals, talking about Minnesota with my Geography Club, playing American card games with host siblings, watching sitcoms with Kyrgyz friends. All of these count as “work,” and it’s been incredible to witness diplomacy and cultural exchange at this level.
The bulk of my Goal 3 work comes in the form of this blog. By writing about my travels, about the tiny details of daily life, about work, about whatever, I’m trying to help Americans learn more about Kyrgyzstan and its culture.
Serving in the Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment. If you’re interested in applying, check out their website here – you may have heard stories from volunteers in the past about how many years of their life passed between filling out page upon page of application documents, waiting to hear anything from a recruiter, and then waiting even longer to depart. The application system has changed significantly since then, and it’s a much speedier process nowadays. I applied under this new system, so if you have any questions about Peace Corps’ work in Kyrgyzstan or how to apply in general – be sure to get in touch.