Can you believe we’ve done it? Nine and a half weeks of training are behind us, and now we look forward to the next part of our journey. By tonight’s end, we will be the next set of volunteers. We’re about to join a league of extraordinary individuals devoted to changing the world. Doesn’t that make you feel great!?
We need to applaud ourselves, not just for what we’re about to do, but what we’ve already done. Ten weeks ago, we were strangers, meeting for the first time in Miami, and today, we are family. Together, we’ve endured waves of homesickness, relying on each other for support. We tried new foods, learned a new language, and adapted ourselves to a new culture and a new way of life. We were taken out of our comfort zone and placed in homes with people we barely new, but when we left, our families grew a little larger.
That is the essence of Peace Corps. We are in the business of spreading world peace through friendship. To most people, those are pretty words meant to inspire, but to us, that is our motto. It’s our way of life.
Each of us has our own reason for joining. Some of us crave adventure; others are driven by a desire to change the world. Maybe we’re not ready to settle down, or perhaps we’ve been settled for too long. We might be looking for inspiration, or we could be fulfilling a lifelong dream. Whatever the case, it’s important that you remember your motivation, and keep it close to your heart. During the next two years, we will be tested at every turn. We’ll wonder why we gave up our comforts, like air conditioning, or hot showers. We’ll miss important family events. Our favorite foods will be hard to come by, and we’ll miss the friends we left at home. We will continue to adapt to rules and regulations for safety and we’ll live our lives on a shoestring budget.
But these are the reasons Peace Corps is so prestigious. This is what makes us leaders. Out in the world, we learn how to make something from practically nothing. We discover a new way of relating to people. We develop an appreciation for what we have back home. But most importantly, we begin a lifetime of service.
This will not end after two years. The time we spend with Peace Corps will change us forever. We will speak at colleges and universities to recruit future volunteers. Some of us will get involved with service projects. Others will discover a love for communities, travelling, and doing “good.” Regardless, all of us will grow immensely.
As educators in Jamaica, our goal is to spread knowledge. But any real teacher knows that a person never stops learning. We will share with the locals as much as we will take away from them. This is a partnership between two cultures, and oftentimes, the littlest things we experience will be the biggest lessons.
The Peace Corps has been with Jamaica since 1962. We are the eighty-fourth group to lend our skills. Together, with those before us laying the foundation, with our Jamaican counterparts, and with the help of each other, we are reminded of another motto; out of many, one people. There is nothing more valuable than partnership. The human race is a social one, and what we are doing here is a beautiful thing. This time is ours. It’s our moment to shine. Let’s leave here today and do everything in our power to make the most of it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow volunteers, welcome to the Peace Corps.