Last Update: 4/15/2014 11:50 PM
By Tiffani Brownley-Meijer
Posh Corps? Or Peace Corps? Every Peace Corps experience is different based on the host country, rural versus urban location, multiplicity of ethnic groups living together and a milliard of other factors. Most people envision all Peace Corps volunteers to be based in villages living in thatched-roof huts, with neither running water nor electricity. But what happens when that image departs from the reality in which the volunteer lives? People may dub that post a luxury or easy post…ergo “Posh Corps”. This is the perception of many volunteers assigned to Peace Corps South Africa.
RPCV Alan Toth, South Africa (2010-2012), became fed up with this stereotype and decided to debunk the myth of “Posh Corps”. Through a series of interviews with South Africa PCV’s, he shows the commonality of the Peace Corps experience irrespective of country and the challenges that they, too, face.
Volunteers Veronica, Ryan, Kevin, George, Fran and Sean invite us into their lives in their respective villages. We meet their colleagues, friends, host families, and local children; see their homes and work environments; and see how they connect with their environments overall. Like volunteers in many countries, George and Fran had taught with fewer than needed supplies, including desks. When George began teaching, his students had to stand or sit on the floor during lessons.
Although South Africa is perceived to have more resources than many Peace Corps countries, there are still many disparities. Some posts, like Sean’s, permit volunteers to travel into the relatively nearby cities with malls, and roads packed with cars including luxury models such as Mercedes. But the Peace Corps volunteers inevitably return to their villages to live a reality of dirt roads, common van-style mass transit, intermittent electricity, and very small quarters. Just as in the United States, the existence of nearby cities, neither guarantees the same quality of life nor access to resources in more rural or marginalized communities.
In sum, Posh Corps provides an eye-opening perspective into why Peace Corps exists, even in South Africa, and the impact that the experience has on the volunteers and communities alike. Each host community learned a lot from their volunteers and couldn’t imagine a future without their PCV friend. Likewise, the volunteers ended service with greater senses of self and global awareness, and friendships that have changed them forever. Posh or not, this is Peace Corps!
Want to see more of Posh Corps? Attend our May 3 Film Series in Oakland