To the editor:
In recent times, we have heard about how important it is for the United States to wage a new kind of war in this troubled world - a war for "the hearts and minds" of those who suffer from disease, poverty and the consequences of conflict.
Now, more than ever, it was especially important that we celebrated Peace Corps Week 2007, which ended yesterday, a week that encompassed the 46th anniversary of the Peace Corps on Thursday.
Our family is proud that our daughter, Emily, currently posted in West Africa, joins 187,000 volunteers who have served in 139 countries since the Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy. Just seven months into her 27-month tour, Emily's experience as a health care worker in Mali has already proven to be life-altering.
While she works at a community health clinic and teaches health classes to hundreds of children, Emily's is not a 9-to-5 job. The Peace Corps is 24 hours a day, seven days a week of cultural immersion, community development, learning, teamwork and most important, relationship building.
Emily weighs and helps vaccinate babies, assists at births, teaches hygiene and family planning, but her primary work is in living the mission of the Peace Corps - a mission that emphasizes "helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans."
In a recent letter, our daughter wrote: "I sit by flickering lantern light. In the distance, a donkey brays and crickets sing. No moon tonight, just the vast blackness of Africa. Today, I washed my clothes at the well, chatting with some village women. Our lives are completely different because of where I'm from and the opportunities I've had, but we asked each other questions and amazed each other with answers. We are coming to trust and care deeply about one another. This experience is more than I imagined. Despite the difficulties and inequities, I am in love with this world."
I hope that others on Cape Ann will be inspired, as we are, by the generosity of spirit, open-mindedness and commitment demonstrated every day by those 7,749 Peace Corps volunteers now fighting on the front lines of this war for hearts and minds. May they be safe and supported, far from home, as they represent the best of who we are as Americans.
To learn more about the Peace Corps, visit www.peacecorps.gov.
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