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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Greater Than Average

Thirty-three did not feel old until I cam to Peace Corps. I was a week into training when I mentioned  my age in a conversation with our Director of Programming and Training [DPT]. He immediately became empathetic, noting that people in their thirties and forties are incredibly rare in Peace Corps and that I should be sure to reach out if I end up struggling with generational isolation.

I was touched by Eric's concern, but not worried. I had worked summer camp as an adult amidst a sea of college and high school aged counselors. I returned to sailing and was frequently older than more than half of the crew. At Oliverian School, I was one of few unmarried staff firmly in my thirties. At AMC's Three Mile Island, I was the only employee in my generation. I was well equipped to handle this...


...as the ten weeks of training continued and again as all of the Lesotho PCVs stayed at a hotel in South Africa for three weeks, I understood his concerns. Happily entrenched in my thirties, the ways I relax, blow of steam, and even bond with people are different than they were in my twenties.

32 - Taylor Swift Parody from Kirk Larsen on Vimeo.

Additionally, many of the cultural and political experiences of my formative years were not part of those of the younger PCVs. 

The average age of PCVs worldwide is 28. Volunteers range from around 21 to well into the 60s and even sometimes older. Consider then, the sheer number of volunteers between 21 and 28 to keep the average age so low with four additional decades in the mix. In 2010, 84% of volunteers were under 30. Today, 8% are over fifty. That leaves another 8% in their thirties and forties.

In September, I noted that of the 80-90 PCVs serving in Lesotho, 5 were in the 50+ category, 0 in their forties, and another 5 were in their thirties. Everyone else was 22-29. Additionally, of the four training groups represented, only two had volunteers over thirty as the older volunteers in the other two groups had ET'd or terminated their service early.

The three 50+ PCVs in my training group had been aware of this too and had approached our Country Director [CD] with the idea of intentionally unifying and supporting older volunteers. With our CD's support, the Greater Than Average Workshop was born. Last weekend we met at a lodge, joined by the five new trainees that qualify. Our purpose was to build camaraderie and discuss how age impacts service. These goals were well met in fun and positive ways. We also had the opportunity to conclude with feedback to our new DPT.

In addition to our sessions, we fit in a neat excursion to the nearby Ha Boroana Caves for a hike and chance to see cave paintings. The entire weekend was a wonderful experience that couldn't be marred even by my worst Lesotho taxi experience to date on my way home.

I feel incredibly blessed to be serving in this country, where we may start the new year with only three volunteers in our thirties, but we have an incredibly supportive Country Director and this new group. I hope that as more training groups arrive in the next few years, we can have additional workshops.

Disclaimer: In no way is this post meant to offend people in their twenties, particularly not those who are PCVs in their twenties. My closest PC friends are in their twenties and I hold them very dear. Instead, this post is meant to celebrate that there are those of us in Peace Corps with a few more years or even decades under our belts. 


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