Kiahna Garcia Skyline Health Correspondent
Del Rio- On January 29th, Joshua Castro, Peace Corps recruiter and returned Peace Corps volunteer, led a virtual meeting to offer his services to Sul Ross students who were interested in applying to the Peace Corps.
“The Peace Corps is a federal agency, and our overall mission is to promote world peace and friendship,” said Joshua Castro on what the Peace Corps is and what they strive to achieve.
To accomplish this mission, they have three goals:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the Americans.
Elaborating on the Peace Corps’ goals and to dismiss any misconceptions, “The Peace Corps does not arrive in a country and decide what their needs are. Their needs have been decided, and it is our role to assist in the community members achieving the goals they have set for themselves,” Castro said.
The Peace Corps’ mission seeks to build relationships with people from developing countries. “We want you to share what is uniquely you. Share who you are with people in your community… and to share your experiences with people [in America]. There are a lot of misconceptions about developing areas in the world,” said Castro.
Castro brings his own experience as a Peace Corps volunteer to his recruitment position. Castro served in South America in the Itapúa region of Paraguay from 2015-2017. During his time there, he learned Paraguayan customs like clapping, instead of knocking, when you wish to enter someone’s home.
He also shared American customs. “I would make food from the states,” said Castro. “The local favorite was quesadillas. Maybe it’s surprising, but, in Paraguay, I couldn’t find a single quesadilla there, it was all about the empanadas.”
When detailing his time as a Peace Corps volunteer, Castro served as an environmental volunteer with the title of Forestry Educator. His job was to lead grassroots efforts to protect the environment and to strengthen environmental understanding in the community he served.
“My work consisted mainly of general environmental education, teaching forestry principles and land management to the older kids. I ran multiple environmental-themed camps in my community and also state-wide and national camps,” said Castro.
Castro also spent 6 months focusing on trash management, which was intensely needed in his community. Before he returned to America, Castro created an environmental curriculum that focused on trash management for the professors in his site to use when he would no longer be living in Paraguay.
As Castro taught and helped his host community, the community also taught and helped him. “While they were able to teach me how to plant crops and when to harvest, I was able to provide them with the academic context of how to use crop rotations to put nutrients back into their soils,” said Castro.
While there are six sectors for Peace Corps service (agriculture, education, community development, environment, health, and youth in development), “you are welcomed to branch out and work in other sectors,” said Castro.
In his time as an environment-forestry educator volunteer in his community, Castro worked with the agriculture sector and helped small-scale farmers produce sufficient amounts of crops every year and started a successful worm composting project.
Castro also worked with the education section as he taught English at the local schools during his two-year stay. When his community got hit with the Dengue virus, Castro worked with the health sector and carried out a successful Dengue prevention project.
When stationed in a country, in addition to working across sectors, a Peace Corps volunteer also can encourage work from members of the host community.
“[Work] depends where the needs are and what community members approach you and if you are able to work with them to make particular goals happen. And, oftentimes, as Peace Corps volunteers, we figure [the goal] out. If it is something that a community member asks us to do, maybe we know a little about it, but not a great deal, we figure it out. As Peace Corps volunteers, we always go out of our comfort zones everyday,” said Castro.
Peace Corps volunteers can be found in 60 different countries, with each Volunteer having their own stories to tell.
“There are many wonderful national and international service opportunities. And as long as the work is getting done somewhere, that’s what’s important. However, our volunteers work on the issues that future generations will face, not just abroad or at home, but global issues that affect us all,” said Castro.
“The additional benefit of the Peace Corps is not only the overseas experience but what they bring back to the US. Our volunteers have gained a unique set of skills and have experienced a profound level of personal growth that serve them well in life. When they return to the states, many of them choose to lead lives dedicated to service. They contribute for decades afterward improving the quality of life in the states and using their cultural competency skills to reduce division in our communities and educational institutions,” Castro said.
Any Sul Ross students interested in exploring opportunities or applying, click this link to schedule an appointment with Joshua Castro.
This story is the first of three pieces in a series featuring Peace Corps opportunities.