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Marquita R.

“A highlight of my time in service was spending my first birthday in Togo ... That day, my host family confirmed that I wasn’t just a Volunteer, but a member of the community, a member of their family.”

Marquita R headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

My interest in the Peace Corps sparked when I participated in a global exchange program called Beyond Borders at Florida State University (FSU). The program enabled FSU students to host a group of college students from Jamaica and Germany for three weeks to show participants the daily life of a college student in their respective countries. I enjoy learning about other cultures and traditions and being able to share my culture with others. Through staff involved in the cultural exchange program, I learned about the Peace Corps and decided to apply.

2. What projects are you working on?

I teach English at the middle school in my community. I also work with my host dad’s non-governmental organization (NGO), which provides free informal educational classes to young orphans and workshops to people with disabilities. For the NGO I teach a Microsoft Office course to help young adults use computers and essential software programs.

Additionally, I have two English clubs: one for adults and one for middle school children. The purpose of the English clubs is to help participants advance their English language abilities in reading, speaking, and writing.

Marquita teaches middle school in Togo.
Marquita teaches middle school in Togo.

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

Spending time with my host family, counterpart, and colleagues at the school has helped me integrate into my community. Showing an interest in trying to learn and speak local languages has helped me build relationships with community members as well.

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

A highlight of my time in service was spending my first birthday in Togo. My host family cooked my favorite traditional meal, fufu with peanut sauce. We all gathered at the table and sang “Happy Birthday” in three different languages, and shared our favorite memories. That day, my host family confirmed that I wasn’t just a Volunteer, but a member of the community, a member of their family.

Marquita and her community integration facilitator speak with members of the Togolese Federation of Paralympic Sports.
Marquita and her community integration facilitator speak with members of the Togolese Federation of Paralympic Sports.

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

My community is very patient and supportive. When I first arrived in Togo, I didn’t speak any French. Instead of avoiding conversation with me, they invited me into their homes to share a meal and help me improve my language skills in French and the local language. I love how enthusiastically they reacted to my greetings in the local language, or when surprising them with a new phrase I learned.

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

My community has taught me the power of collaboration. They have formed financial groups to help support members in a time of need. Every week, members bring an agreed-upon amount of money to add to the group's shared bank account. If a member needs financial assistance, they are able to take out a loan at a lower rate than the bank offers and pay their loan back to the on a monthly basis. My community has given me insight into different perspectives and cultures through the diverse ethnic groups that live together. Despite cultural differences, they all acknowledge and celebrate their culture and even can communicate in 3+ languages.

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

When I’m not working on a project, I like to spend my free time walking around my community or talking to my host family. I enjoy these walks because it gives me time to be reflective and enjoy nature. I also get to reconnect with community members I do not see on a daily basis.

Spending time with my host family is a great way I’ve been able to integrate and create life long relationships. We talk about our daily lives, teach each other American and Togolese games, and craft items like friendship bracelets.

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

I am looking forward to continuing my projects in the community, sharing meals with my neighbors and family, and playing sports and other games with my students.

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

I will bring a piece of Togo with me. Togo has been my home for the last two years and has shifted my perspective for the better and has given me a great opportunity to build strong relationships. Upon my return to the U.S., I believe I will approach challenges with a more resourceful and resilient mindset, drawing on the adaptability and problem-solving skills developed during my time as a Volunteer.