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.