Welcome to my Peace Corps Lesotho blog!
I plan to use this platform to document my various projects, travels, anecdotes, and cultural learnings involving my upcoming 27-month volunteer service in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, Africa for the United States Peace Corps. In addition, I hope to provide useful information for future volunteers as well as chronicle my exchanges with District 207 students as part of the World Wise Schools program (more on this in a later post).
I will now address a few commonly asked questions I’ve received since accepting my assignment:
Lesotho is a landlocked nation and enclave located entirely within South Africa. The capital is Maseru which has a population of 227,880. The total population is 2.2 million. The official languages are Sesotho and English. The country covers 11,720 sq. mi and is comparable to the size of Maryland. It is divided into 10 districts, each headed by a district administrator. Each district has a capital that’s referred to as a camptown. Another unique aspect of Lesotho is the elevation. It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 meters (3,281 ft). Its lowest point is at 1,400 meters (4,593 ft) above sea level.
Because of the elevation, Lesotho has among the highest lightning strikes per square mile per year in the world. Some of you already know of my affinity for documenting inclement weather and thunderstorms; so I’m very excited for this exclusive—albeit dangerous—prospect.
What will you be doing there?
Although I have not received specific details on my assignment yet, I do know I’ll be working as an advisor in a new program called Healthy Youth. The overall mission is to promote HIV prevention awareness while working primarily with teachers and schoolchildren in the areas of youth and community development as part of the AIDS-Free Generation initiative. The Peace Corps has a wealth of projects and initiatives to help achieve this. The HIV infection rate in Lesotho is currently estimated to be 28.9%, the third highest in the world and in the epicenter of the pandemic. The Peace Corps began its mission in Lesotho after being invited in 1967, and since then more than 2,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have had the privilege of serving there. I’m looking forward to contributing to that long history of service.
Previous volunteers have primarily worked in the CHED (Community Health and Economic Development) program and have laid a wonderful foundation for my class of volunteers to continue building on.
What made you want to join the Peace Corps?
This has been the hardest question to answer as there were many contributing factors. I first learned of the organization in Mr. Klienschmidt’s 8th grade Social Studies class and it immediately struck me as an admirable cause put forth by the US government. I have always felt strongly about performing some type of civil service, so in my last year of college I began researching the various options our government offered. I came across the Peace Corps and after much contemplation decided it was the perfect opportunity to give back to our great nation while helping the people in developing nations who require humanitarian assistance. The most appealing aspect of the Peace Corps for me is the emphasis on grassroots development coupled with knowledge and culture exchange rather than infrastructure or monetary packages. Currently serving in 76 countries with ~8,000 current volunteers, it operates on a $377.3 million budget (FY 2012).
Established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, he defined the Peace Corps’ mission as:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
In the end it was just one of those gut feelings. This is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m very thankful for the set of circumstances that have enabled me to contribute to such a venerable organization. I hope you enjoy the blog!