WHY I QUIT MY JOB & JOINED THE PEACE CORPS
- When and how did you know you wanted to join the Peace Corps?
Basirat: It started off in high school. I thought it was an interesting and honorable thing to do. A friend of mine in high school, told me his brother joined and I thought it was cool. When I was in college I put the idea on the back burner. As time moved on when I turned 25 (a quarter century) I started thinking, am I the person that I want to be and am I doing exactly what I am supposed to do?
Another aspect that affected my decision to join the Peace Corps was that I had the opportunity to attend recruiting events in D.C. and meet with people that had already volunteered. Also, I was able to have conversations with people that were current volunteers and I got good vibes from them. They said it was a great experience, it was hard but overall life changing and worth the effort.
- What made you take the leap of faith and quit your great government job to join the Peace Corps?
Basirat: I decided the Peace Corps was something I wanted to do but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I wanted to do it but I still filled out the application. I was then accepted and I said, Wow this is real.
The Peace Corps doesn’t just accept anyone, so I was happy to be accepted. It was a process, and I was thinking this is a once in a life time opportunity. I felt as if this was the perfect time to make the transition. My family is in good health and my job wasn’t exactly fulfilling my passion at that time. It was good pay and good people and I would go back if money were my only concern but I was looking for something that linked more directly with my passions and interests. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish and with the Peace Corps would be serving in a Spanish speaking country. I was taking a leap, a leap of faith but it also was a calculated risk. Being a volunteer would give me the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the world.
- What was the process like joining the Peace Corps?- After the application process and once you got to D.R.
1. Filled out the application.
2. Then you have an official interview.
3. Then you receive a letter and they tell you what countries you are being considered for.
4. If you are accepted, you receive another letter saying where you will be volunteering.
5. After you get the acceptance letter, you then have to get vaccines and a physical and you have to fill out a form for your health and you have to be medically cleared by the Peace Corps. They want to make sure you are healthy enough to live in another country because they might not have the medical resources they have in America.
6. Then you have to begin practicing your “Spanish” or whatever language you need to learn. You have to take different practice lessons to learn the language.
7. Then you pack what you will need as a necessity on the trip.
***What Happens when you get to your country or location***
Basirat: You have a day of staging. It’s kind of like a retreat. You get your helmet, bug spray, your sun screen. All of the immediate needs. You also meet the different volunteers that are in the Peace Corps.
You are then dropped off at the training center and then your host family picks you up and you stay with them for the next three months.
- How did your family and friends react when you told them you would be moving and living in the Dominican Republic for two years?
Baisrat: They were shocked, surprised. There was ummm pride. There were some who were happy and proud. Some were scared. Some were excited and some people thought I was crazy and did not approve.
- When you officially joined the Peace Corps and you were settled into your home, how was the transition of taking a huge pay cut and moving into a new home, country, and culture?
Basirat: It was a wild wild wild wild ride. When the newness wore off and having the realization that, wow I am really not making the money I used to make. At first, I was like wow, I can still have happiness without a lot of money. The other realization was okay but this is going to be hard. At first, I could get what I wanted. Like I could go to the mall. Now, I have to think about the food in my fridge and if my water will be turned on and budget accordingly. Money is a huge factor that can change a situation and can make your life much more comfortable, but it is possible to have happy moments with so much less.
- What are some obstacles you have had to overcome, that people might not know about?
Not a lot of people know about my day to day struggles in the state. Some of the volunteers know because they go through some of the same challenges. One daily example would be, if I want to do dishes I don’t have running water or a sink or dish washer. I have to put water in a bucket and wash it that way. Sometimes I don’t have enough water and we don’t use liquid we use powder, the same way. Things are so different. I go outside to the back door and I wash the dishes in the bucket. I throw the water out and then I have to use different water to rinse the soap off. Things are different. I am used to using running water and having a sink and having electricity. Simple things, like doing chores, are completely different in my community of the D.R. It’s not all beaches and resorts like some might think.
- What is the biggest difference good and bad from your previous work to now being in the Peace Corps?
Basirat: Good- For the most part I have my own schedule and I fill fulfilled after certain activities when I volunteer. That’s the biggest and most important thing.
Bad- Money and getting people to show up. Like in the corporate world you send an email about a meeting and people show up. Here, even though I’m trying to help the community, these people are not my coworkers, so sometimes when there’s a meeting, people do not make the effort to show up because they owe you nothing and they have their own lives. Sometimes people don’t show up and sometimes they do and when the community shows up for an activity and works with you towards a shared goal that you all care about that – that’s when you feelfulfilled.
- How has your life changed?
Basirat: It has changed so much. My Spanish level has gone up. My cultural knowledge has grown. My perspective has changed.
- Are you happy you took the leap of faith and joined the Peace Corps?
Basirat: I am happy that I took the leap of faith. You caught me on a good day. Lol but yes, I am happy overall that I made this decision.
- What has made you the most proud and happiest throughout your entire process of joining the Peace Corps?
Basirat: My proudest moment, there are two sides. I felt really proud when I joined because other people told me how proud they were of me for taking a leap of faith. That sort of made me know I made the right decision. I feel proud on my productive days. I had 40 children register for my class and hopefully they will complete the class. When my kids take a quiz and they pass and they really know the answers I feel they are learning and retaining the information, so I feel proud. Recently, I started a program we have in my school and it’s called “ChicasBrillantes”. It’s a female youth empowerment program.
We teach about self-esteem, healthy relationships, and communications styles. It’s been really fun teaching the girls that you do not have to be super skinny, or super thick or have really long hair to be pretty. Its beauty within that is important. I love the participation from the girls. They are always excited for the class and that motivates me and gives me even more energy.
For more information about Basirat Folami and her journey in the Peace Corps, you can follow her on Instagram at @Basibonvoyage_