[This story is part of our series on the people behind the International Calendar. Meet Pat Halpin, RPCV Botswana 1978-1981. If you ever left a voicemail message on our main number (in the footer of each website page), she either calls you back or forwards your call on to the right person.]
My world was small growing up on a family dairy farm. College was only about 30 miles away and my first teaching job was in the same town. It is not much of a stretch to say that Peace Corps enlarged my world many-fold! Going to Botswana in 1978 was my first need for a passport.
Teaching domestic science (home economics) in a secondary school was my Peace Corps job. School buildings, teacher’s quarters and student hostels were all on the same grounds. For me, teaching in Botswana was much more rewarding than in the U.S. Students understood the value of their education. Secondary education was only open to some as there weren’t enough spots for everyone. There were challenges as a teacher. The biggest problem was losing students to pregnancy. That ended a girl’s opportunity for any more education. For a young woman this was sad. There was no allowance to go back to school after the child was born.
My students were all girls. We did individual projects outside of class. This is where the young women felt at ease in asking all kinds of questions. Learning from these students was the most valuable thing I took away from Peace Corps. It was so rewarding to hear them thinking about their future and how they could make it better. These young women knew what they could fall into or what they could make plans for. It was eye opening for me to see what they faced as teen aged women. They also had all the same wants and desires of most other young woman in the world. We are all the same.
Peace Corps is an extremely valuable experience. I think the value is in what we as Americans learn about the world. For most of us our world is small compared to what the real-world entails.