Have you ever had a moment of doubt about the Peace Corps?
While watching Maria Full of Grace, which takes place in rural Colombia, I had one of these what the hell am I doing moments.
The movie begins by showing the protagonist, 17-year-old Maria, working as a thorn remover in a rose plantation. She goes home to her cramped, multi-generational household. The little money she makes goes to her family. After quitting her job, she has few options because she is uneducated. And she’s pregnant besides. Yadda, yadda, yadda, she gets involved in drug trafficking.
My point is this: while watching the movie, I tried to picture a PCV living in this community. What could a (relatively speaking) rich, young, American, have to offer? What makes us qualified to go into countries as foreigners and “fix” things?
I know it’s more complicated than this. We go into a community. We get to know people. We make change based on what the community wants. But regardless of how well we integrate, we’re still outsiders. We still have a steady (albeit small) paycheck. We still have savings. We still have a comfortable home back in the states. We still have a way out.
How can I, a 22-year-old outsider, get someone like Maria out of her crappy situation?
I still want to be a PCV, but I have to question how much change I can actually make in a community. I have to question if my community will accept me as one of them or reject me as an outsider. I have to keep questioning why I’m doing this.