As we get ready to begin our service with the Peace Corps, Champa and I are not exactly unusual in being not exactly retired. A surprising number of the other new volunteers in our group are also 50 or older — in several cases, considerably older.
Several weeks ago, we met for coffee with one of them, a commercial real estate broker from Cary in his late 60s. We liked him immediately and discovered much in common in our motivations to challenge ourselves and serve society in new ways.
One of the other new volunteers going to Moldova now heads a program at Howard University to prevent suicides among people of color. Another started a special needs dance program in Harlem and was a foster mother for nine children. Our group also includes an IT manager from Iowa, a software expert from Minnesota and others, all over the age of 50.
We’ll be joining several 50+ volunteers already in Moldova, one of whom is serving as a mentor for me and some of the other newbies. Before signing up for the Peace Corps, she worked for more than 35 years in Cleveland as an attorney specializing in business and employment law. Champa’s mentor is younger but worked for many years as a teacher in California.
Worldwide, 50+ volunteers now account for about 8 percent of the total. Peace Corps encourages them to apply, as at this website. NPR recently broadcast a fun story about the oldest volunteer of all, Alice Carter, 87, from Boston, who was serving in Morocco.
To be sure, many new Peace Corps volunteers are still recent college graduates, as well as people in their 30s and 40s. Whatever their ages, the ones who will be serving with Champa and me are impressive, with expertise ranging from social work to farming to financial analysis. Indeed, I am already inspired by many of the younger volunteers. I also know how fortunate we are to be in a position to join them, since we’re not tied to home by aging parents or children who still need active support. Financially, we figure Peace Corps will be a wash — no real income, but also little need to touch our savings.
How do I know so much about our fellow volunteers? Mainly through Facebook. Just like high school seniors getting ready to attend the same university, our group has its own Facebook group. We’ve been getting to know each other online. Several people have also met in person, as we did with our new friend from Cary.
It’s just one of the many ways in which Peace Corps has changed since I last served as a volunteer, in Nepal in the the late 1970s. Back then, I didn’t know any of my fellow volunteers until I showed up at staging. This time I’ll be looking for familiar faces, some of them as seasoned as ours.