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My Path to the Peace Corps
Gail Vallieres, August 2014

When US President John F Kennedy created the US Peace Corps in 1961, I knew immediately that I wanted to join. Traveling to other countries, meeting new people, learning their language and culture, and helping them improve their lives in some small way greatly appealed to me. I planned to join the Peace Corps as soon as I finished college, but instead when I graduated I had to work to support myself and help my mother. After a few years, I was married and had a good job, and my Peace Corps dreams faded.


Figure 1: Gail and her husband Tony, circa 1975, in Goshen, Virginia, USA.

Then many years later as I was finishing my career, my husband died and I realized that I was starting a new chapter in life. I spent much time thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, then I remembered my long-delayed Peace Corps dreams. Over the next 18 months I retired from my job, sold my house and my car, stored the rest of my belongings, and in April 2013 headed to Ukraine with the Peace Corps.
I spent a wonderful year in Ukraine working with NGO Flora and the Kirovograd branch of Mama-86, leading English-language discussions at the Kirovograd library named after D.Chizhevsky and at the Third School, struggling to learn Russian, and learning to love the Ukrainian people and culture. Then in February 2014, the Peace Corps decided to send all US volunteers back to the US because of political disturbances. I was very sad to leave my friends and my new life in Kirovograd.
Since I sold my house before traveling to Ukraine, I had no home to return to in the US. Since returning to the US, I spend my time visiting family in friends in various parts of the US and traveling around the country. Fortunately, traveling in the US is easy for US citizens. Unlike Ukraine, no passports or other government papers are required to travel between various US cities and states. We do, however, need a passport issued by the US government to travel to other countries.
I hope to return to Ukraine soon to finish the projects I had started there and to rejoin my Ukrainian friends. But for now, I continue to travel, moving to a different place every few weeks to visit with old friends, make new friends and to see and learn more about my vast homeland.