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Memoirs of a Peace Corps Volunteer



Editor: Last year I arrived on St. Vincent. It was a last minute redirect, since my original papers said I was going to Dominica – however, after the past year I can think of no place I’d rather be other than St. Vincent. From the moment I left the airport I was introduced to Spring Village and culture a that was totally new to me.{{more}} I was a complete outsider and subject to the closest scrutiny by every pair of eyes that saw me. I made it a point to meet all those eyes that saw me and introduce myself before the comess got too far.

Rolling up my sleeves, I got to work tirelessly to support community organizations. That road has been extremely rough, but I held on and did my best. Additionally, I got involved with student study programs, traditional drumming, teaching computers literacy, banana farming, tourism development, and so many other things. I made it a personal goal to get involved with my community and I’m so glad I did. I never saw a cricket game before coming here and now I follow our village teams to every game. A year later, I can honestly claim that Spring Village has become my second home and the many people who have opened themselves to me have become like an extended family. I was pleasantly surprised when a few people agreed and told me that my skin was white but that I’m a black heart man. I took that as a great compliment.

I have only spent a year here and find that I’m required to leave service early, certainly not to my liking. This past year seems to have gone by so quickly, and as I look back, I wonder if my second year would have gone even faster. As I write this in my final days, I feel as if I am clawing to keep every last minute I can; I don’t even think that two years here would be enough to bring closure, and so much of you, St. Vincent, has become imprinted upon me.

As I leave, I wanted to offer a few last remarks. For those who know current volunteers or may meet them in the future, know that they are here because they want to be here and can leave at any time. We don’t get paid for what we do and truly live up to the name volunteer. We depend entirely on our communities to gain our roots, so if you see us then take the time to get to know us. All of the volunteers are different with our own skills, strengths, and weaknesses. So when one volunteer leaves and another comes, please understand not to expect the same things from the new volunteer. We will all work hard to support our communities and Vincentians in the capacities for which we were called to service. Every volunteer’s experience is unique – as unique as the individuals that live in each and every village of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Everyday that we live among Vincentians and others who reside on this blessed land, the people we interact with become a part of that experience for better or worse. So let me raise the challenge to all who read this to meet a volunteer (Peace Corps or otherwise) and take a positive moment with them. We have a long and rich history here on St. Vincent and I’m glad to have become a small part in this large and growing tradition.

Having become a member of Spring Village, I have had the honor and pleasure of working alongside a few of these remarkable people who graciously serve their communities. Grant me a moment to recognize these people and show my appreciation to them in no particular order for anyone named. Sheila ‘Kay’ Jeffrey, Sonia Millington, Reginald ‘XC’ Jeffrey, Walter Porter, Yoland ‘Teacher Pat’ Maring, and Sellwyn ‘Selly of Rose Hall’ Patterson – your constant time and devotion to Spring Village (and Rose Hall respectively) and willingness to dive in on nearly any occasion despite other personal on-goings has been a pillar of strength that I looked to when things were difficult for me. Renwick ‘Ren’ Williams Benard ‘Liquid Steel’ Matthews, Althea Jordan-Richards, Maurice ‘Mauro’ Davis, and Simone Mason-have all contributed greatly with asking nothing in return. Lenif ‘RasBen’ Hector, Garfield ‘Charlo’ Charles, and Kenneth Holder-are winding down a bit after years of service to their communities but still participate and have provided me with wonderful sagely advice during my time here and I am thankful for that. To Rosemay and Linson Keil, whose kindness by taking me in for my first seven weeks here and continual support afterwards has truly been a keystone of my Vincentian experience. I applaud you all. I am sure there are additional unsung heroes that I was not able to work alongside or hear of your activities; I know you are out there and I take my hat off to you all as well.

People of Spring Village, other Vincentians I’ve known, fellow Peace Corps and other volunteers – thank you for what has been one of the most amazing years of my life. I know life here will thrive long after I leave and I look forward to when I can return to these shores and see how St. Vincent has bloomed.

Shawn Janzen,

U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, EC78