2016 PFIG Recipient Elise Mollica
Journal Entry #1
It has only been one week and Peace Corps already has me thinking about the rest of my life. When I started my first day, the thing that was most remarkable to me was how much every employee cares about the mission here. The agency offers an opportunity for "motivated changemakers" to go abroad and to use health, education, and environmental projects to both fulfill a need and to improve the way the US relates with the communities being impacted . I love the idea of a changemaker, a person driven to act and create postive effects through their behaviors and interactions.
That concept is a little intangible but it is the reason why everyone around me loves what they do. I also hear constant mention of the "Peace Corps family." When people meet me here, they often ask, in place of the usual introductory questions, what drives me and whether I plan to someday serve abroad as well. My mentors and supervisors have direct experience with this type of passion and change because many of them are returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) and know firsthand the changes that volunteers can make in local communities around the world. In addition to their experience, each of them is incredibly welcoming and open, already addressing me as a part of this "family."
This week was particularly crazy in the DC Headquarters because the Communications office (where I am working as a Press and Digital Media Intern) launched a comprehensive refreshment of the brand. A new logo, new website, new social media strategy, and many other changes have been in the works for months, even years, but the official new brand was released to the public on my second day at work. This all means that I have been able to be an active part of it in a way I would never have expected. I have compiled press clips, spoken to reporters, helped run a media event about the launch in downtown DC, gathered content for the Peace Corps blog, witnessed the response of volunteers and employees around the world, and have gotten to know the brilliant people behind the release on a personal level. This was certainly an exceptional week, but it has made me incredibly excited for the work I will get to do this summer. By working in a environment full of motivated and passionate people, I think I will be able to accomplish great things for my own future and will also learn to serve others along the way.
Journal Entry #2
When I walked out the door of the Peace Corps office on Friday, the first thing I felt was exhaustion. The second was shock that I am already halfway through my internship with this agency. The third was complete awe in the opportunities I've had already the honor to receive and the ones I am looking forward to in the next few weeks.
When I began thinking about this blog post a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to share with you all the engaging and incredible tasks I do on a daily basis. I wanted to tell you about what it feels like to see the my research about Peace Corps volunteers be featured on the blog portion of the new website. I wanted to share the thrill of sharing stories that previously went untold and realizing that I could be reaching people who may one day decide to take up this life of total service as well. I hoped to explain the ridiculous challenge of working to translate a video script from Mongolese and the miracle of finding someone in the building who is not only fluent in Mongolese but happy to help. I looked forward to sharing the press clips I compile every day and send to volunteers all over the world, which serves as a constant reminder of the incredible impact that Peace Corps is making through its mission of peace and understanding.
These are all wonderful and true facts about my experience during the past four weeks, but they aren't the pieces that are weighing most heavily on my mind right now. I keep returning to one word instead- immersive. I am immersed in a culture that is totally new to me and one that is unique to the realm of public service. Michelle Obama is currently in Monrovia, Liberia with her daughters, Meryl Streep, and my boss Erin to visit Peace Corps sites and promote Let Girls Learn, an initiative for worldwide girls' education and empowerment.This week, I was not only here in DC for the historic sit-in regarding gun control measures but I was walking down the halls of Congressional offices as it was going on. I later saw the news break about the vote on the television in Nancy Pelosi's office as I spoke to her assistants about a Peace Corps recruitment event that would happen later in the week. On Friday, I was present for a meeting between Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and the Prime Minister of Tunisia. I was there to assist the photographer with his equipment and setup, but I was still struck by the kindness and welcome on the faces of both leaders. Protocol was complex and the meeting was brief, but it was a moment I was overjoyed to be a part of.
On a more sobering note, I was also present in Washington, D.C. during the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando earlier this month. My supervisors and coworkers were quiet, heartbroken, and intense in their response. I spent multiple days going through the overwhelming blogged response of Peace Corps volunteers all over the world. I sifted through their grief, confusion, and outrage, and, in doing so, was forced to face my own over and over again. These kinds of traumatic events are utterly paralyzing, but I have found hints of solace in the tireless efforts of the Peace Corps to move forward while still upholding the memories of those who were lost. I am looking forward to tomorrow morning, because my supervisors suggested I attend a discussion held by Sentor Tammy Baldwin and Secretary of Labor Perez about LGBT Pride in the Department of Labor. It is comforting to see public service, which might just be a professional synonym for love, transcend some of the boundaries and borders that divide us.
This office, the projects I'm working on, the events I am attending, the people I am meeting, and the skills I am learning have already changed me for the better. I see my coworkers as excellent role models; they are selfless and driven people whom I hope to resemble some day regardless of where my own career path takes me. I know that this internship is providing new possibilities for me professionally but I also see it as defining something deeper about my priorities, my passions, and my dreams in a fundamental and beautiful way.
Journal Entry #3
I couldn't sleep the night before my last day with Peace Corps. I was restless and thinking constantly about the projects, articles, press releases, and interviews I would be leaving behind, unfinished. That was just the way my internship was set up; it was assumed that I would pass on my projects to the fall interns and that the Comms office would continue on the initiatives that I had been taking all summer. Regardless, I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to stop assisting on photo shoots, reading and sharing the blogs of volunteers who inspired me every day, and interviewing returned volunteers. I couldn't stand the thought of giving up my metro commute, which actually had become the calmest and most restful part of my day, or the lunches I spent with my supervisors and colleagues discussing our dreams, goals, underground '80s rap music, and the ways we hoped to change the world for the better.
I didn't want to, but I did it. I rode the Metro to Farragut North one last time. I brought vegan cupcakes to the staff meeting in order to thank everyone for all that they'd given and taught me over my eight-week internship. The entire office secretly wrote me notes on a card and presented it to me before taking me out to lunch. The day as a whole wasn't quite as melancholy as I expected, but that was mostly because of a single moment right at the end of the day.
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet decided at the last minute to make a video message responding to some of the violence that has plagued and disturbed our nation in the past months. Alex, my friend and the Peace Corps photographer, asked me to assist. Late in the afternoon, I walked with Alex, both of us loaded down with video equipment, lights, and extension cords, across the 8th floor and into the Director's office at the end of the hall. This was a place I had never been before and a place many Peace Corps employees and volunteers never go in all of their time in service. As I walked into the office where I had once glimpsed the Prime Minister of Tunisia be greeted with decorum, I took in the broad windows overlooking the street, tables covered in fabrics from Peace Corps countries, the solid wooden desk, and then the Director herself. Ms. Hessler-Radelet was sitting behind her desk with her back to us, but she looked over her shoulder when we came in. She stood to greet Aex and then she turned to me.
She introduced herself and then asked my name. She continued by asking how my internship had gone overall and expressed a hope both that I had found what was I was looking for there and that I would find success in the future. She was eloquent and kind and she shook my hand like I was someone worth meeting. We then returned to the serious topic at hand and the details of microphones, camera, and scripting took over my mind. In less than an hour, however, it was 5pm. The video was shot, and I was walking toward the metro to go home with my goodbyes behind me. It was only then that I fully realized that yes, I had found exactly what I was looking for at Peace Corps. I found a message that inspired me, mentors who guided me, and work that enriched my time. I had a reason to wake up at 6:15am every morning for eight weeks and it was a good one. I truly believed that in my daily tasks I was doing some small part to spread the kindness, curiosity, selflessness, and understanding that Peace Corps is all about. I hope to someday have a career where I can work with that same kind of purpose and intent.
Finally, I am endlessly grateful to the Parents Committee for making this experience possible for me! It has changed my entire view on my future and the meaning of service and I can't wait to see what the next step will be.