The Peace Corps is not only seen as sugar, spice and everything nice. It only takes a cursory search to come up with stories of volunteers’ frustrations and failures, and arguments positing that the organization either generally has little positive impact, or even causes significant harm. I don’t agree with that argument, or I wouldn’t have signed up, but by all accounts there is plenty of fair criticism to be leveled.
The Peace Corps is fecund ground for great stories, stories worth retelling. I’m in no way claiming that these stories are representative of all volunteers’ work — in fact, like great stories generally are, these are exceptions to the regular. With all that said, on to the good stuff.
This particular story is lifted from Brent Ashabranner’s book A Moment in History, which chronicles his experience working as a staff member in the first decade of the Peace Corps:
“One morning I received a frantic phone call in my Lagos office. The caller, whom I never identified, shouted that one of the volunteer teachers assigned to a school near the city had been bitten by a green mamba, an extremely venomous West African snake. I rushed to the school and found the volunteer waiting at the roadside with two of his twenty-one students and the dead snake. As we drove to the hospital, I got the story. The volunteer, who was wearing shorts, had gone to his house between classes and just as he entered his living room had been struck on the leg by the snake. The volunteer ran to the kitchen, picked up a butcher knife, and killed the snake. He then took his snake bite kit, which we had issued to all volunteers, and walked to his next class. He told his students what had happened and then said, ‘If you ever get bitten by a poisonous snake this is what you should do.’
He proceeded to take the razor blade from the snake bite kit, cut the proper cross over the wound made by the snake’s fangs, and draw out the blood with the suction cup. He explained that if the victim did not have that kind of equipment, he could suck out the blood and spit it out, or have someone else do it for him. The students told me this story in awe, and I am sure I looked awe-struck as I listened.”
If anyone has other stories, either from your own time as a volunteer or of another volunteer’s work, please send them my way!