From Long Beach to Lesotho, Peace Corps volunteer has seen it all
- By Carrie Porche Jones, On-line Forty-Niner
- April 14,1998
- CSULB alumna has traveled the world through work with relief.
- Sometimes the road is bumpy and full of potholes, and sometimes it
is smoothly paved. Marcia Pierce's journey, which began at Cal State Long
Beach in 1994, led her to the Peace Corps, across the world and back to
- Pierce was a graduate student in Public Administration when she decided
to join the Peace Corps.
- Realizing she could not afford to stay in school full-time because
of work and other responsibilities, she began exploring other options.
- "I had been in the military in Germany for four years, so I was
used to being international, and I loved the excitement," Pierce said.
- "I was brainstorming one day, trying to figure out how I could
do that again, when the Peace Corps just popped into my mind as an organization
that offered international, educational and employment opportunities. I
called the [toll-free] number and went to the information meeting."
- Pierce said that when she walked into the meeting, the room was full.
- "Oh God,' I thought. I'm not the only crazy person. Here are all
these other people who want to find out about Peace Corps, so I took an
application. My undergraduate degree in business and management, my experience
in the military and retail and hotel experience pretty much qualified me
right away. The whole process took about seven months."
- In May 1995, Marcia was sent the African country of Lesotho.
- ith a population of almost 2 million and slightly larger than the state
of Maryland, Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa.
- The villages have no running water, electricity or transportation,
forcing them to depend on South Africa for food and other necessities.
- The vitality of the country is subsistence farming, migrant labor,
livestock and mining.
- The majority of the male work force travels to South Africa to work
in the diamond mines.
- At the vocational school, Marcia taught English,
- math, business and computer skills to adult
- students ... at various academic levels.
- The women take turns working as cooks, maids and child care providers
for white families.
- At the vocational school, Marcia taught English, math, business and
computer skills to adult students with physical disabilities resulting
from polio. The students were of various academic levels.
- Some had attended primary and secondary schools, and some were deaf
- Communication was not a problem because English was spoken as a second
language. If the hearing and speaking challenged students were able to
read lips and English, they were able to learn computer skills. They were
also taught agriculture, carpentry, textiles, metal working, sewing and
- "The main goal of the school was to help them learn a technical
skill that would equip them to go out into the world and become entrepreneurs,
or that they could take back to their villages or obtain other employment.
They were taught how to use these skills to sell their products and to
educate the villagers. Basically, these students just had not had an opportunity
to excel because of their disabilities," Pierce said.
- She also taught Wordperfect and typing to students at the National
University of Besotho, created a computer lab from recycled computers and
organized a drive to build a basketball court.
- Pierce lived on the school campus during her 26 months in Lesotho.
- She lived in a rondavel, a round hut with a thatched grass roof. She
said it was like an apartment, with running water and electricity, tile
floors and all the amenities needed.
- The living arrangements depended on the agency, organization or school
for which one worked.
- One must be provided with a bed, a dresser, a place to store food,
some type of light and a latrine.
- The United States Government is responsible for transportation to the
country and back, medical and dental and a monthly subsidy for food.
- When her Peace Corps duty ended, 35 year old Marcia headed back to
Long Beach to continue her education.
- The Peace Corps offers fellowship programs at various universities
around the country, but Marcia chose CSULB.
- "I reviewed all of these programs, and I tell you I was still
stuck on CSULB. After reviewing hundreds of schools, I actually felt this
school has the best program. I was familiar with it, and it was a stepping
stone into what I was doing, what I saw in the international world. The
program applies here and everywhere, and it's reasonable as far as the
expenses go. Still, I needed a job," Pierce said.
- That, like everything else, fell into place for Marcia.
- While she was researching jobs in the Peace Corps lounge for returning
volunteers, she was told that the Los Angeles office was hiring recruiters.
- She applied and was hired.
- "I had not thought of being a recruiter, but I said, hey maybe
it's worth trying. The transition has been great. It all ties together,"
Pierce said. "I am a captain in logistics in the California Army National
Guard, enrolled in the graduate program in public policy administration,
and a Peace Corps recruiter. I started out after high school at 17 years.
It has been a long time, but I ask myself what else would I have been doing?"