Inspiración para Los Cuerpos de Paz

By Janet Morales
March 1, 2019

I sat at the airport preparing to leave the U.S.A. for Malawi, and all I could think was that I couldn’t believe I had actually made it. I would soon be a Peace Corps Volunteer.

My name is Janet Morales, and I was born and raised in Guatemala. I am currently serving as a Secondary School Teacher in Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa, where I arrived in June 2018. I was 6 years old when I met my first Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. I told her that I wanted to be like her when I grew up, but I didn’t actually believe that I would be.

But here I was, staring at my plane ticket and Peace Corps passport. I took a picture of these things and sent it to my mother’s facebook. Although she is no longer alive, I always send her messages or pictures of dreams and goals that I accomplish. After all, everything I am is because of her.

Janet in Guatemala
Janet playing in Guatemala, she is the one holding the ball

I was born in Guatemala City. My birth mother was 15 years old with two children. Shortly after I was born, she put us up for adoption. I would live in an orphanage for the next 10 years.

After my 6th birthday, I moved to a new orphanage in southern Guatemala with over 250 children in it. Things were always happening, and Volunteers, NGOs, and churches were in and out of the community constantly. This is where I met my first Peace Corps Volunteer.

Peace Corps has been part of my life for nearly 20 years, and I am only 25 years old. In Guatemala, I frequently passed the Peace Corps office. Volunteers have been serving in my home country for years, and I personally got to experience the good that they contributed to our nation.

The first Volunteer that I met was assigned to a Mayan community that neighbored the location of my orphanage. Sometimes, she would come to the orphanage and talk to the adults. Every so often, she would come to football matches and play with us.

Janet visiting an orphanage
Janet visiting an orphanage in Guatemala

However, it was one specific conversation that I had with her that stands out for me. I was sitting at a local shack, buying a coke and pan dulce with the money I had earned from working. The Volunteer sat down next to me and asked why I was not in school. I didn’t want to tell her that my village didn’t have a school for us. Instead, I pretended that I couldn’t understand Spanish.

She asked me again in K'iche. I was so surprised that she could speak my local language that I answered her question. She then asked if I could spell my name, but I didn’t know how to! I had never been to school, and I didn’t know how to read or write. She wrote my name down and handed me the paper. I kept that paper until I memorized how to spell my name.

Soon after this interaction, I was adopted by an American family. When I moved to America, everything I had learned and seen in Guatemala came with me. My birth name was changed, but I carried it and my identity with me. I did not return to Guatemala for 11 years.

My first trip back was spurred by the passing of my American mother; I felt the need to explore my roots and reconnect with my former self. As I walked the same steps I had taken 11 years prior and met more Peace Corps Volunteers while traveling throughout the country, I told myself that I would apply for Peace Corps after university.

The next journey back to Guatemala happened the year before I graduated from college, and it was when I took the first step toward my goal of applying to be a Volunteer. This time, I went to the orphanage at which I stayed as a child and where I met that one Peace Corps Volunteer who inspired me. I sat down at the same shack, but this time my husband sat with me.

Janet at the Peace Corps office in Malawi
Janet at the Peace Corps office in Malawi

I told him I was thinking of joining Peace Corps, and we talked about the future and what it held for us. I explained to him the promise I had made to my childhood self; the promise to show that young girl that good people still exist in the world. I had to prove to the 7 year old me that I, too, can make a difference. I may not be capable of changing the entire world, but I can do my part.

Fast forward two years.

I am currently 9 months into my service. My community inspires and motivates me every single day. In my time here, I have taught girls how to make reusable menstrual pads, run Grassroots soccer interventions, planted hundreds of trees, and led English classes alongside my Malawian counterparts. Yet, I still feel like I have so much more to offer and to give to my community. Mostly, though, I owe them my sincerest ‘thank you’ for allowing my dream of serving a community as a Peace Corps Volunteer to come true.

Janet serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer