A little bit about me...

Hi my name is Raechelle, and I lived in the secular Muslim country of Azerbaijan as a Youth Development Volunteer for the Peace Corps for three years and three months. I am now the Administrator of the official Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Friends of Azerbaijan group. As such, I am working to promote Peace Corps third goal of helping promote a better understanding of Azerbaijani people to Americans.

I created this blog as a way for future Peace Corps Volunteers, my friends and family, and Americans in general to understand what life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is like. As part of the pilot program for Youth Development in Azerbaijan, my work in Azerbaijan was diverse to say the least. I took on a role as youth educator, mentor and promoter. I helped with academic advising, established informal youth service clubs, encouraged youth to be proactive in their communities, promoted volunteer-ism and making a positive contribution to their communities.

I served as an extended volunteer, meaning that I served a third year instead of the traditional two year and three month service. During that time, I got married to my community counterpart and embraced many parts of the Azerbaijani culture. It is my hope to provide you a sense of understanding of life as a Peace Corps volunteer, life in Azerbaijan, and a bit about Azerbaijani culture through my experiences. Please feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions or suggestions for topics you'd like to hear more about.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Life of Service After PLU

Austin Goble '09, Ruth Tollefson '09, Raechelle Baghirov 05, listen while Sallie Strueby '11, speaks during an Alumni panel discussion on service opportunities at PLU on Thursday, March 22, 2012. (Photo by John Froschauer)
By Katie Scaff '13

Volunteer service is about taking what you're learning in the classroom and making it bigger, according to four recent PLU graduates.

The grads, Sallie Strueby '11, Austin Goble '09, Ruth Tollefson '09, and Raechelle Baghirov '05, shared their experiences in a panel discussion on paid service opportunities on Thursday, March 22nd.

"The phrase 'a life of service' was thrown around a lot," Baghirov said of her time at PLU. "It made you look at what you were learning and how it could be taken to a higher level. I may not have thought of it as 'this is my wild hope component' but it was."

Baghirov studied abroad in London during J-term her last year at PLU and knew she wanted to spend more time abroad. She applied for the Peace Corps after graduation and spent three and a half years volunteering in Azerbaijan.

"Every volunteer service is different and it is what you make of it," Baghirov said. "Meaningful service not only changed the life of those I worked with, but it changed my own life as well. You get more than you give."

For some, like Baghirov, volunteering was a way to fulfill two passions, serving others and traveling. For others though, like Goble, who volunteered with Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Americorps, volunteering was a way to transition from college life to the "real world."

"I was excited about the opportunity to slowly move itno something else," Goble said.

Goble did two years of service. He spent his first year working with Lutheran Volunteer Corps affiliate Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership in Omaha. His second year was with Peace Community Center, an Americorp affiliate in Tacoma's hilltop neighborhood. The relationships he formed during these years had a large influence on him.

"I'm the one gaining from their life experience," Goble said. "It's a lot of personal growth, a lot of self examination and getting a better understanding of who I am -- that has shaped me immeasurably."

Though they had different experiences, the other panelists echoed Goble's words.

"It's self-sacrificing but it's so worth it," Strueby said, who is currently volunteering with Americorps at Federal Way Public Schools. "I went into this experience hoping to mentor, inspire, and teach these students and I know I'll leave with it being the other way around."

Volunteering is sometimes seen as a detour on the way to a career, but often it can lead to an better prepare you for your career, according to the panelists.

"It's mind-blowing how much you change," Baghirov said. "It forces you to look at yourself and imagine what you're capable of. I took away this sense that I was self-sufficient. I have the power to change my own life and my own world in everyday decisions."

For Tollefson, her service at Peace Community Center turned into a job. She's now the elementary programs and public relations director for the center. Looking back, she recognizes how her experiences at PLU prepared her.

"When I was a student here I was really really involved in student leadership and I think that is what helped me feel confident enough to go off and do service in a different community," Tollefson said.



Reposted from: http://www.plu.edu/news/2012/04/volunteer-panel/

1 comment:

  1. Good Day Raechelle!

    Sorry to bother you. My name is Ray Blakney and I am a RPCV from Mexico. I am working on a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the main office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost. I have created a sub-section on the website my wife and I run -http://www.livelingua.com - with all the information I have been able to get to date (from over the web and sent to me directly by PC staff and PCV's). I currently have close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios and even some videos.

    The next step for this project is that I am trying to get the world out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV's or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site they can send it to me and I can get it up for everybody to use. I was hoping that you could help getting the word out by putting a link on this on your site at:

    http://raechellewatkins.blogspot.com/

    so that people know it is there. There should be something there for almost everybody. It is all 100% free to use and share. Here is the specific page of the Peace Corps Archive:

    http://www.livelingua.com/peace-corps-language-courses.php

    Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success. And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, please don't hesitate to pass them my email. Thanks and have a great day.




    Ray Blakney
    blakney.ray@gmail.com

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