Sunday, March 9, 2008

Early Termination

ETing is one of the less glamorous facts of life in the Peace Corps. Volunteers decided to end their service early for a variety of reasons. There is surprisingly little information online about early termination rates in the Peace Corps, but I have heard figures as high as 30 percent. I know that in the Peace Corps office there are mug shots on the wall of all the volunteers in the the groups currently in country and most of the groups have many faces crossed off. So far no one has been crossed off our group (Group 79).

Cale and I recently experienced the first ET of volunteers that we know. They are a married couple from an earlier group. After more than eight months in country and more than six months as Village-Based Developers in a remote village, they decided to go home.

They came out to our place for a visit on Monday and we had a chance to hear a lot about their decision and the frustrations that led up to it.
I won't go into why they left. I will leave it to them to speak for their reasons. However, I did learn a lot about the different experiences volunteers can have and what things affect people in different ways. We commented frequently on how different our experiences have been. Afterwards I had time to think about my frustrations and ponder whether or not they could ever build up to a point where I would want to call it quits.

Right now, I say no. I cannot think of any frustrations that would lead me to
voluntarily leave early.

However, that is not a criticism of volunteers that choose to go home early. ETing is a very personal, very difficult decision to make and I respect volunteers who recognize their limitations. I also give major props to other VBD volunteers who have shared similar stories of frustrations, but make the decision to continue with their service even in the face of apathy or adversity.

This blog post must read like someone dancing around an issue with out taking sides or expressing a true opinion. Must sound like a presidential debate. HA! Timely humor! Are you impressed?

To be honest, it is a lot like that. Do I agree with ETing? No. Would I ever ET? I would like to believe the answer is no. Do I understand how some volunteers get to the point where ETing is their only option? Yes. Do I get a slight twinge when Samoans mention volunteers that left early, indicating they abandoned their responsibilities? Yes. Do I know that in many cases the volunteers that left already felt abandoned by their villages? Yes. Can I ask and answer anymore of my own rhetorical questions? Not if I want you to ever read my blog again.

It is a difficult topic with lots of gray areas. Lets leave it at that.

— Sara


MX said...

I think when I was looking at the JET program (teaching English in Japan) I read that the dropout (ET rate) was around 10-15%. I would imagine that figure was lower than the PC figure because people applying for that knew all along they were going to Japan and must've had the desire to be there from day the fact that Japan is more developed than many PC places and therefore, more familiar and easier to adjust to.

Interesting parallel though is that they said the date range with the highest incidence of dropout was in the six to nine month period. They said the first six months were kind of the honeymoon period in that everything was new and exciting but by 6-9 months routine and reality set in and that's when the real decision is made.

Hope you guys stick it out, I have y'all penciled in for my 2009 vacation. :p

jesse elizabeth hunter said...

We hope you stick it out too! I can imagine how complicated an issue ETing is...The books I've read encourage you to give it at least a year, because they say it takes a year just to get quasi-comfortable with living somewhere new.

annette said...

am i worried that you and cale will not be in samoa in december when i am planning on visiting? no :)

Cale and Sara join the Peace Corps said...

no need to worry. we are not going anywhere.