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Profile: Behzad Roohi

Ghana

I used to think that the Peace Corps was the last thing I should apply for. I felt that there was no place for me — a recent immigrant with an accent. But now I’ve come to appreciate what I can give as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have always been very interested in international development. I have also wanted to learn about other people’s cultures and lifestyles. After doing some investigation, I realized that the Peace Corps would expose me to all that. That’s why I was inspired to join.

After attending Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts, I earned my bachelor’s degree in international affairs at The George Washington University. After graduation, I stayed on at the campus’s International Services Office, where I worked with foreign students.

Now I am in the Peace Corps serving as a water and sanitation health Volunteer and a community development worker in a rural village in Ghana. In schools and throughout my village, I teach health education and give talks about hygiene, as well as HIV/AIDS. It’s a sensitive issue here, and some people haven’t really grasped the threat of the disease yet. But just recently, a church approached me and asked me to come and talk about HIV/AIDS. Maybe that means trends are changing and people are becoming more aware.

I lived in Iran until I was eleven and in India for five years. Then my family immigrated to the United States. I have been able to apply my life experience as an immigrant to my work. My own family members had to go through challenges similar to people in rural areas here. My aunts and uncles tell me about my own family’s struggle to overcome the lack of opportunity and financial resources to improve their lives. I use those stories — the issues we faced and overcame — about my family and me as an example. The Peace Corps has given me a clearer view of what I want to do with my career. If I had just gone for my master’s degree, I would have read a few books about development, and they would have given me the diploma. But now I have seen development at the village level and on a national level. I have a better idea of the issues and have more enthusiasm to complete my degree and get into my field.

The benefits of Peace Corps service will stay with you for a lifetime. You might think, “Two years is too long,” or “Maybe I won’t make a difference.” But when you join the Peace Corps, you learn so many things. It is like going to a university. It’s a constant education. People here appreciate you. They understand that you have left your home and family and traveled thousands of miles to be with them. The amount that people share with you is amazing. They bring their best food for you. If you are sick, they are really concerned. The hospitality changes you because you realize, “Wow, these people who are supposed to have nothing are giving so much to me.” When I go back, it will always be with me.

Behzad Roohi (Ghana)

Behzad, an Iranian American, was interviewed for "Diversity in the Peace Corps" in 1999.

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