Returned Peace Corps
Volunteers of South Florida
  • David Garcia Responds to Global Ties Miami "Lil' Chit Chat," a virtual Newsletter. 

    1.     Where do you think your interest in travel other cultures comes from? 

     Prior to serving in the Peace Corps I served 4 years in the United States Marine Corps.  I had a chance to live and serve for one year in Okinawa Japan and greatly enjoyed my stay.  After my military discharge I attended Florida International University and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology/Anthropology, these studies really sparked my interest in other cultures and in the study of Society in general. 

  • 2.     What made you want to join the Peace Corps?

     In 1985 I was hired by  Dade County Schools as an instructor  Teaching  Sheet Metal and Welding Skills to Secondary and Post Secondary  students. In 1987  I took a hiking vacation to Guatemala and met a Peace Corps Volunteer working with a group of villagers.  After talking with him for some time the idea of volunteering myself seemed possible.....I thought my Teaching skills in metalworking might  be valuable .......I also looked at the service as a chance to further my interest in cultures, as a  chance to travel....and as a chance to participate in an organization I had always respected.

  • 3.     Where did you go and what was your experience like?

     I was sent to Kenya E. Africa in 1988. In those days volunteers didn't have the opportunity to pick and choose locations. Peace Corps trained us in Naivasha Kenya for a couple of months, we lived with host families during that time. We learned Swahili...fundamentals of community development, cultural sensitivity, and just how to take care of ourselves while in Kenya.  It was fun we developed great friendships within our group of volunteers and among our host families. 

    I was sent to a very rural Technical school in Meru running water or electric power....300 or so students learning Vocational Technical skills in Carpentry, Masonry, Leather Working, Tailoring/Sewing, Metal Working, and Agriculture.  I had a good  time everyone showed me great respect...I believe I learned much more then I was able to teach.....(my book studies in Anthropology seemed like child's play compared to the experience of living among the Kenyan people..their culture, food, Tribal groups, their Arts and Language ).

     I had the opportunity to focus on community development while there, and was able to coordinate the drilling of a village bore hole for clean water.....I collected over 300 books for a school library... did some grant writing. and worked with the Kenyan Child Welfare Society helping street kids. 

  • 4.     Was there anything that surprised you about the culture? If so what?

     I was surprised that the traditional Kenyan Culture and the Modern Kenyan lived as close together as they did. If one traveled away from the towns one soon found  Tribes living in grass and mud huts, dressed in traditional clothing you would expect to see in an old National Geographic magazine. In Niarobi you could find 5 star hotels, gambling casinos, very modern restaurants.  The average Kenyan wanted to be "Modern" ..... you would find villagers wearing coats and ties practicing their English at every chance. The "modern generation" was not far removed from the older Kenyan "Traditional Culture"...They showed respect for their elders and the older customs.

  • 5.     How do you think your Peace Corps experience has shaped you? 

      While living in Kenya I found allot of information about  "Developing and Managing Educational Systems in Poorer Countries" I took  further interest in the subject when upon leaving Kenya I enrolled at the University of Manchester in the UK and earned a Master's degree in  "  Education in Developing Countries".  Although I never again worked over seas  I did end up teaching Secondary and Post Secondary students here in Miami for over 30 years.

    Living and working with poorer communities overs seas enlightens one beyond belief. The knowledge one acquires from living with hard working families in their daily struggles is invaluable, It lets you see thru the modern materialistic life so many choose.  The experience cannot help but change your perspective on World Affairs, politics, philanthropy, technology and in other areas. I challenge all of the younger generations to experience it.

  • 6.     Please share with us a memorable moment during your experience.

    Peace Corps is touted as "Being the hardest job you will ever have" and in many ways it is true. Living and working in a Developing Country is not always easy.  Peace Corps trains volunteers in the  Health Concerns they may face, disease, natural disasters,  the roads are always dangerous, and some of the people are not always as friendly as they may seem. Volunteers need to be constantly vigilant  and always focusing on personal safety.

    One of the worst moments of my  service in Kenya came when I learned that one of the volunteers serving in my group had passed away from cerebral malaria.  I think of him often.

  • 7.     Why do you think traveling and getting to know other countries and cultures is important?

    Taking an interest in other cultures, in people different from myself has always made me feel..... new...enlightened.....interested in living. It probably affects other people in the same ways. While at the University of Manchester in England, I studied with  "dozens" of students from around the globe, we were always asking each other questions, telling stories, learning and having fun didn't matter if the political factions in our countries were antagonistic toward each other or not. We became friends, as a matter of fact I can remember dinners where there were 22 of us representing 22 countries.

  • 8.     What similarities (if any) do you see in the work of Global Ties Miami and the Peace Corps?

    The opportunity to sit  with people from around the world and discuss issues, concerns, trends, ideas and problems, should not be taken lightly. The average American doesn't get that opportunity often, the feeling  that comes with it can't be found on the TV or the Internet.

    I recently had the opportunity to visit Washington DC to advocate for the Peace Corps.. during that stay we had the opportunity to meet  with a few Senators and Representatives to discuss our concerns....all of these meetings were in and out 10 minute hello and goodbyes......I was disappointed...... I thought a little more interest could have been shown .....I hope that these same  politicians get a chance to spend a little more time in discussions about our domestic and foreign issues and relations.

  • 9.     What advice would you give someone interested in joining the Peace Corps?

     I would advise them to really study the organizations history, investigate what previous volunteers have done, find out what community development is about, and to talk with returned volunteers. I would tell them that it is not always fun. that if they do decide to volunteer they need to be smart about it and stay safe.

10.  In your opinion, how do state sponsored travel programs make the world better or safer?

In my opinion......... any time a sponsored group can be brought together and focused on issues and concerns with educational goals in makes the world a better place. 

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