[Diversions]

 

 

 

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 CSULB.
 
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 and dumb.
 
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 typing.
"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?"