I was introduced to the Peace Corps in 5th grade. At that time, the idea of traveling was all that I really cared about. I've always wanted to travel and if someone was going to pay me to travel, "oooh heck yahhh I've hit jack pot!"
It wasn't until many years down the road that I'd realized why I really wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer. To fully explain this I'll have to share a little of my background.
I was born in a refugee camp called Ban Vinai in Thailand. I have some memories here and there but life in the refugee camps, as you can imagine, was very different from my life today. The refugee camps had boundaries which were fenced in with thin sheets of metal and barbed wires. Families were in constant fear of Thai refugee camp officers and the food ration was barely enough . Children played outside in the dirt with anything they could find like grass, rocks, garbage and plastic rappers. One of my favorite was rubber bands. If you had collected enough rubber bands you could make a jump rope out of it, which was a popular game among the kids in the refugee camps.
"I was too young to understand the importance of education so school was nothing but a system of punishments."
Refugee kids were offered schooling but as a child school was a drag. I was too young to understand the importance of education so school was nothing but a system of punishments. Instead of getting to play all day, I would have to go and sit with ~20 other kids around my age and listen to someone speak in a language I didn't understand. All I remember is getting my nails hit by a ruler for not being short enough and having to hold my pee until break.
In 1997, when I was six years old, my family received great news! After a decade long process of paper works, interviews and health inspections, my family finally got the green light! We were finally going to AMERICA! So my parents packed up our belongings into a few bags, said our good byes to friends and relatives, and off we went to a foreign land known as, "The Land of Opportunities."
I started going to school a year after we had moved to the U.S. The transition was a little odd at first but sure enough I got the hang of things. As I got older, I came to understand how fortunate I am to be able to live the life I do today because of my parents' sacrifices to give my siblings and I a better life. Understanding that sacrifice is the core foundation that made me who I am today.
"Their lives were a result of the environment they’re in and they’ve been raised to think they’re stuck in this cycle."
As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in Thailand. While there, I got the chance to travel to Laos and meet my uncle’s family for the first time. I met many of my cousins and experienced the hardship they faced everyday. One evening, I found myself conversing with my 12-year-old cousin. I’d asked her what I thought to be a simple icebreaker question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She sat there quietly giving me a blank stare and then it dawned on me, “How could she answer a question that was so foreign to her?” My cousin grew up in a little village in Laos where she lived in a shack home that housed six other family members. She had stopped going to school when she was 8-years-old, because my uncle couldn’t afford to send her to school and they needed the extra help in the fields. As a matter of fact, none of my cousins finished primary school. Their lives were a result of the environment they’re in and they’ve been raised to think they’re stuck in this cycle.
"I believe I can empower the young minds of future leaders through education."
Finally, I found why the Peace Corps was so appealing to me in the first place. I want to work with children who lives in conditions such as myself in the refugee camps and my cousins in Laos. I am a strong advocate for education because I believe it is a stepping-stone that can help improve the lives of people and break the cycle. I believe I can empower the young minds of future leaders through education.
Now that I'm FINALLY eligible to apply to be a Peace Corps volunteer and graduation is rolling right around the corner, I've finally applied to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I'm still crossing my fingers to hear back. But I hope I will get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children who has yet to see beyond the metal fences and barbed wires.
This is where I share my journey in the Peace Corps. The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Hi welcome to my blog. My name is Sia and this is my safe haven. This is a place for me to write, journal, and share ideas.
IG @ ms.sia.chang