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Category: America Peace Corps

Since its establishment in 1967, nearly 2000 American volunteers have served with Peace Corps Lesotho, today about 90 volunteers work in all ten of Lesotho’s districts on long-term development needs in three key program areas: 1) Education 2) Community health 3) Economic development.

Living on a dollar a day

Living on a dollar a day

Juliana Fulton

For the past month I have been living on a dollar a day, which is below the international poverty line.  A friend and I decided we wanted to see what it was like to live like most of the world who live in poverty, or as close to it as we can get.  I calculated the cost of all the food, candles, propane, everything, even soap.  The first week was by far the hardest—I craved sweet things, and was hungry all the time.  I noticed a trend with my mood according to if I was hungry or full.  When I was hungry it was hard to think about other things.  As part of our experiment, Adam and I agreed that we could not ask for free food.  But I never turned down any food that someone offered me!  It didn’t matter what it was or if I was hungry, if someone offered food, I ate it.  I lived almost entirely on lesheleshele (sorghum porridge) and roasted maize for the first week.  After twelve days Adam dropped out, he said it making him really tired and not able to concentrate at work.  His quitting made me less motivated, but I stuck with it.  Although I no longer counted transport costs if it was for work purposes, I didn’t want it to affect my work.  I also took two days off for Peace Corps get-togethers.

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My Impoverished Village isn’t so Poor

My Impoverished Village isn’t so Poor

Juliana FultonI have recently begun to see my village in a new light.  Going on vacation, spending time with people who’ve never lived in a developing country (basically me nine months ago), made me realize how much Lesotho has changed me.  I think Peace Corps changes everyone.  Scott one of my friends back home, told me before I left that I could come back a different person, and the idea terrified me.  Living in completely new place, with my surroundings changing drastically was not nearly as scary a thought as myself changing.  But with one-third of my service done, I think it’s been very good for me.  I’m not afraid of many things that I used to be, like spiders and poverty.  I’m much more patient and stronger.  Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming hard-hearted.  People here live off the land and have very hard lives.  They’ve become accustom to seeing people all around them die from AIDS.  I have to let my students out early on Fridays because it’s funeral day.  When I get upset with witnessing something cruel or tragic, it’s a comfort to know that I haven’t become numb to it.

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Being a patient in a Hospital in Rural Africa

Being a patient in a Hospital in Rural Africa

Juliana FultonI’ve been surprisingly lucky that I’ve gone six months in rural Africa without so much as a cold.  But a couple of weeks ago I caught a stomach virus that was going around the peace corps volunteers.  I started throwing up and couldn’t stop.  It was after dark, so there wasn’t any more transportation to the nearest town or hospital.  I called the lodge and they came and picked me up and drove me to the hospital, but not before I had thrown up eleven times in two hours.  I’ve had food poisoning and the stomach flu before, but this seemed worse.

I am so lucky that I have a host organization like Maliba Lodge that was so easy to contact and helpful in getting me to the hospital.  The hospital was in the camptown closest to my village, Butha-Buthe.

Thaba Bosiu Gov't Hospital, Butha-Buthe

Even though it was after hours nurses were there and they gave me a charcoal drink and a shot to stop the stomach pains (though there was no alcohol swab or bandaid with the shot).  I felt a lot better almost instantly, but was too weak to leave.  Throughout the night I kept asking for water, and the nurses told me there was none.  Finally they turned on the tap to show me that it was dry and there was no running water.

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Settling in: Salads and a radio

Settling in: Salads and a radio

I’ve now been in Lesotho for almost six months, and in my village for three and a half.  It’s taken a while, but I finally feel at home.  My work has developed, so that I have two tasks to do everyday.  Being busy and productive has made a big difference on how content I feel.Juliana Fulton - Lesotho

On an average day I’m woken up by my host family calling to each other and getting ready as early as 6am, but I don’t get up till 7.  I then spend a little time cleaning and then an hour or two working in the garden.  Usually I get dirty enough that I have to take a bucket bath.  But since it’s hot it is a lot more pleasant than it was in the winter.  I then read a bit and review my lesson plan for the day before walking for an hour or so to school.  I teach life skills for one period and then meet with the agriculture group.  Lately we’ve been planting, but before that we spent most meetings planning, writing needs assessments, and developing a seasonal calendar.

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The Rewards and Frustrations of Working in Rural Schools in Lesotho

The Rewards and Frustrations of Working in Rural Schools in Lesotho

I’ve been teaching and working at the local schools in rural Lesotho for six weeks now, walking up to seven miles a day while rotating between the schools.  Teaching has been going very well, but at first it was overwhelming.  The first class I taught had over 120 students in it, the principal wanted grades 4 through 7 to attend the first class.

I had not prepared for that many students and had to improvise my lesson.  I talked to the principal after class and we agreed that I would just teach life skills to 6th and 7th grades, still close to 50 students, but much more manageable.  The kids are very receptive and ask a lot of questions.

The younger students have trouble with English, but luckily at the two primary schools at least one teacher attends my class and is able to translate (while at the same time learning how to teach life skills themselves).  At the secondary school the teachers are much less involved, but the students are more advanced and have been really great.

Life skills cover topics such as HIV/AIDS, self-empowerment, gender, reproductive health, etc.  I often sound like a cliché after school special, overly simplifying everything so that the students can understand.  One of my classes was on self-esteem, for the next week kids in my village would come up to me and say “I love myself!”  I’m not sure if they understood, but it was nice to hear.

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Sounds of Village Life

Sounds of Village Life

Juliana Fulton - America Peace Corps volunteerMy village has a kind of rhythm and sound that has begun to sound and feel like home.  It is made up of cowbells, distant women singing, children shouting and crying, dogs barking, sheep bleating, metal pots clanking and sometimes an unusual birdsong.

It might be because my village is on a steep hillside facing a mountain, but all the noises echo off the mountains and blur into a type of music.  It’s always changing and make the village feel alive.  At dusk when everything is settling down it seems beautiful and peaceful.  About half an hour after dark all the noises stop except for some insects.

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Village Life – from the point of view of an American Peace Corps Volunteer

Village Life – from the point of view of an American Peace Corps Volunteer

Juliana Fulton - American Peace CorpsI’m a 23 year-old university grad student from suburban America, who has come to live in a rural village in Lesotho, southern Africa for the next two years.  I’m often asked why I became a Peace Corps volunteer, giving up the comforts of home, flush toilets and electricity, and good salaried jobs, to come live in developing Africa.  I still find it hard to explain, I’m here to help people who haven’t had the advantages that I’ve had.  I’m here for the adventure, to experience the real world outside of my sheltered American college town.  I’m also here because I want to work in international development and believe that living in a community in a developing country was the best way to really understand them.  Most Peace Corps volunteers go to their sites with lofty goals, hoping to make a big difference, to build a community centre or help stop the spread of a disease.  My aspirations are much simpler, to make small improvements in the lives of the people around me.  I’ve been in Lesotho for three months, and they’ve already changed mine.

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