Mother's Day has a unique meaning for Peace Corps Volunteers. After the experience, many Volunteers feel like they have two Moms: one in the U.S. and the other in their country of service.
Peace Corps is an extraordinary opportunity. For two years, Volunteers work in cooperation with host communities to provide grassroots development assistance to people in remote areas around the globe. The unique aspect to Peace Corps work is that Volunteers both live and work with the people they serve. The majority of Peace Corps Volunteers live with a host-family during their service, whether it is permanently or for a few months when they are learning the local language and culture.
Kelly McCormack, a recently returned Volunteer who just started working in Peace Corps offices in Washington DC, sent me the following remarkable note about her experience:
In 2007, when I began my Peace Corps service in Guatemala, I had never experienced daily life in Central America. I had never washed my clothes by hand, taken a bucket bath, or lived without running water, heat or air conditioning. The adjustment to my new Peace Corps life was made easier by my host-Mother Ana Victoria, the woman who taught me how to live as many people do outside the U.S. She embraced me as a member of the family and community, corrected my Spanish and, overall, made it much easier to be 3,000 miles from my family and friends. Ana Victoria helped me better understand life for most Guatemalan women. She shared her experiences and life, allowing me to integrate into my host village. I had the amazing opportunity to work in a Women's Office in my local municipality, teaching the local women about self esteem, women's rights, health, nutrition, leadership, how to sign their names, and many other tasks that we may take for granted in the U.S. The women I worked with were resilient, positive, and an inspiration. Together, we started local community savings banks, acquired funds for wood-efficient stoves, and taught families how to incorporate vegetables into their meals, so their children could get the nutrients they need. Peace Corps and Ana Victoria taught me that empowering a woman is a sustainable, grassroots solution to pressing challenges like public health, access to education, and income generation.
During this time of year, I am joined by countless Americans who honor the thousands of strong and intelligent host-Mothers around the world like Ana Victoria who are working in cooperation with Peace Corps Volunteers.
Check out pictures of other Peace Corps Volunteers with their local "host-Mother" on the Peace Corps Facebook Page.
Maryann Minutillo is Senior Advisor in the Office of the Director, Peace Corps, and represents the Peace Corps on the White House Council on Women and Girls