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Maggie D.

“[My host parents] have taught me to not worry about what we have, but to just give, because the more we give the more we gain; the needs of others are the needs of us all as a whole.”

maggie d headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

I heard about Peace Corps for the first time when I was in high school, from a psychology teacher who told us about her Volunteer experience in Papua New Guinea.

I studied in Indonesia during my undergraduate semester abroad in 2018. I loved the feeling of being in a different culture, learning so much every day, and having fun through the exploration of humanity, nature, and spirituality. I wanted to chase new experiences that forced me to grow and learn, and also wanted to be able to help people.

The Peace Corps provided an opportunity to do both of those things, so I applied. I did not specify that I wanted to go to Indonesia, but that was definitely my dream, and the Peace Corps chose to send me there! I feel so lucky to have the chance to live in Indonesian culture and nature again, and in a more immersive and impactful way.

Maggie serves as an education Volunteer in Indonesia
Maggie incorporates music into her English lessons for Indonesian students.

2. What projects are you working on?

My main assignment is teaching English at a vocational high school. I work with other English teachers at my school to improve English education offered there. I also work with students in classroom settings and one-on-one during individual competitions.

My co-teachers and I have fun developing new and creative ways for our students to learn English. One activity we developed is to take students out of the classroom and into nature. We ask them to write a few sentences about a particular tree using descriptive words. They then read their description for the class while other students listen. Once the students think they know which tree is being described they race to be the first to hug it! This helps the students practice vocabulary, sentence structure, and speaking and listening skills while enjoying our school's beautiful outdoor areas.

I also teach at a school in a nearby village, where kids are invited to receive supplementary education outside of their everyday school curriculum. And I am hoping to start a program to promote leadership among young children, especially girls, in this area.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

I have worked hard to develop my language skills to the point that I am able to express myself and understand other people. I have started to use the local slang and language to show people how invested I am in becoming a member of the community. One fun phrase my host brother taught me is "Beta punya dong!" (That's my team!) when cheering on a team at a sporting event. Two Indonesian words in this phrase are only used on my island so local people know I've been here for a while when I say it. I get a lot of surprised laughs after using that phrase, which lead to fun conversations with the spectators around me.

I have also relied on play as a way of integrating. I carry hacky sacks wherever I go and often make friends with kids by playing some sort of game with them. Once everyone is laughing about the game that we are playing I have an opportunity to talk to the adults.

It’s also been helpful to attend events in my community and at school. I take advantage of any invitation that comes along—I have walked in parades, competed in a city-wide marching competition, sung in a school talent show, gone to Easter and Christmas celebrations, spent independence day climbing a mountain with community members, and more. Not only have these activities given me great memories and stories to share, but they have also given me deeper insight into the community and Indonesian culture.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

One highlight of my time here was a trip to a tiny nearby island. My host parents are active in development work all around the region, and one of their recent projects was to drill water sources for a community on this island. The trip was scheduled during school break, so my parents brought all the kids from our house and some members of the church as well. Around 30 to 40 people ended up coming!

After delivering the drill to the community, we went to a gorgeous beach, empty of people except for a small coffee shop with fresh coconuts. We spent time together and played all day, and I taught some of my host siblings, who didn’t know how to swim, to wade in the gentle ocean. Then we set up tents, made a fire to cook dinner, shared a big meal, and slept on the beach.

I have a clear memory of my host mom saying that when we go on vacation we should make a point of helping people along the way. Her dedication to service has had such a profound impact on the community and on me; this is a memory I hope I’ll never forget.

Maggie preparing food with locals in Indonesia
Maggie engages in food preparation with her host family.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

I have enjoyed my host family the most. My host mother and father have a foster home, so we always have around 20-25 kids living at the house. The kids, who are ages 6 to 26, live with us so that they can get a good education in our community, where there are more schools than in some other villages. Some of them used to walk up to two hours each way to get to and from school.

I have fallen in love with each and every one of them, and I have had so many amazing moments playing with them, singing with them, teaching them, learning from them, and just sharing stories. We often go on runs (with up to 10 of them joining at a time!) or go to the park to play basketball, soccer, American football, lacrosse, and more. We also love to play guitar, keyboard, and drums and jam out together.

One of my favorite things is drinking tea or coffee on the third floor of our house while it rains while we talk about our futures, our pasts, or anything, really. I teach them English and about sports and exercise, and they teach me a myriad of fun things like climbing coconut trees and making slingshots from the perfect stick.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

My host parents are development workers, and I have been able to join them to see the amazing work they do in surrounding villages—drilling for water, building houses for people in need, bringing food to people in hard times, and so much more.

They have taught me to not worry about what we have, but to just give, because the more we give the more we gain; the needs of others are the needs of us all as a whole. This is a lesson that I learn over and over from my community. So many people here are willing to give of themselves even when they themselves are struggling because everyone’s focus is on building one another up instead of racing to get ahead of the pack.

I have also learned the value of being in the moment and giving people your undivided attention, regardless of your worries. People here regularly make the time to sit with their friends and family and be fully in one another’s presence; it makes ties between people very strong.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

When I am not working on a project, I love to go exploring. I ride my bike to one of the beautiful places in my area and just go down new roads and see what I find. I love to visit a nearby waterfall, go to some open hills with mountain views, or go to the forest and spend time in nature. I also spend lots of time teaching my host siblings, playing with them, and working out.

Sometimes I am invited to join my family on a trip to the village to meet with community members or work on one of their development projects. I love going to the villages, getting to see the beauty in this mountainous region, meeting new people, and learning about the rich culture here.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

I am most looking forward to working on my climbing skills so that I can reach the top of a coconut tree. Of course, I am also looking forward to seeing my students progress and cheering on the ones who move on to college or employment. I also look forward to more adventures with my host family, while seeing them develop and grow, overcoming challenges that come their way. I want to be able to support growth and resilience here by being a good listener and reminding young people of their own strengths. I am also looking forward to one more mango season.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

Once I finish my service, I hope to bring many of the things I have learned here in Indonesia back with me to the U.S. or wherever I end up next. Mostly, I hope to bring a changed attitude about making time to be present with the people around me, giving them my time and my care on a regular basis. Additionally, I hope to embody the generosity that I have witnessed over and over again here. I hope to follow the example of the people here and be a giver first and let everything else fall into place after that. I will be more conscious of the resources I use in the U.S., remembering the importance of keeping my carbon footprint low and valuing what I have. And I want to keep learning more and more from the people I meet, because that is how we bond and grow!