My path to the Peace Corps Response was a little different than most. I was evacuated from Peace Corps Mauritania in August 2009 after 15 months of service. I was left feeling defeated, as if my Peace Corps experience and home was taken away from me for something beyond my control; I was essentially a refugee. Yet, I wanted to continue my service in some capacity and Peace Corps Response was my best option. What really appealed to me was being able to choose where I would be sent and the shorter time frame.
I am a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Jamaica and am assigned to work with the Negril area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT). NEPT is the managing organization for the Royal Palm Reserve, an eco-tourism attraction in Negril. I was charged with developing a new marketing strategy and writing a new marketing plan for the Reserve, which has been a great transition from my work in Mauritania where I was a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer. Thus far my work in Jamaica has presented me with a unique challenge; because this is the first time my work is so environmentally focused. I have for all intensive purposes, become a conservationist.
The Royal Palm Reserve is a 130 acre nature reserve built in the Negril wetlands in the late 1980s. The Reserve is home to the largest stand of the endemic Jamaican Royal Palm and also boasts one of the largest flocks of the West Indian Whistling Duck, an endangered species. Being an eco-tourism attraction, the Royal Palm Reserve and NEPT are at the forefront of environmental issues in Jamaica. Subsequently, when creating the marketing plan, I have had to take into account completely new aspects, like sustainability.
My favorite aspect of the Peace Corps Response was being able start working almost immediately. Peace Corps recognize the fact that you are already well versed in cultural adaptation and gives you a greater degree of freedom. My training only lasted 5 days, before I was in Negril starting my assignment! Also, knowing that my assignment is only 6 months, the incentive to work is ever-present. A friend of mine basically explained Peace Corps Response as being the same thing as Peace Corps Graduate School and that’s really how it feels for me.
I am currently in my final month of my service with Peace Corps Response, and my experience in Jamaica has given a sense of closure for my overall service. I no longer feel as if I have had my life displaced and it has been truly wonderful being able to see my work through. In other words, this refugee has found his way.