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How Can 8 Days Impact Your Career?

July 30, 2015

discover corps logo with borderToday’s article comes from AmeriCorps Alums’ new member benefits partner Discover Corps, a private, service-based travel company founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers that is now offering a 10% discount on their volunteer trips for AmeriCorps alums. It is written by AmeriCorps alum Sandy Cooper.

After graduating from sandy-cooper-headshotSkidmore College, Sandy served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati. Returning to the USA, she became a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC, managing teams of volunteers in under-served communities. Her commitment to social responsibility led Sandy to co-found Thinking Beyond Borders, an organization designed for Gap Year students to explore international development through global service learning and academic study. Sandy is currently the Director of International Programs at Global Leadership Adventures

Historically, I tend to favor long-term service. I was a Team Leader with AmeriCorps NCCC for a year (getting things done!). I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in the Republic of Kiribati (a country most people have never heard of), and I co-founded Thinking Beyond Borders (a non-profit running global gap year programs). My favoritism makes sense.

Sandy with her AmeriCorps NCCC team, Fire 3 in St. Bernard Parish, LA

Sandy with her AmeriCorps NCCC team, Fire 3, in St. Bernard Parish, LA

Short term volunteering has a bad reputation – in many cases, rightfully so. It is really easy to do more harm than good if you just show up to volunteer and you don’t have experience or strong ties to a local community. All that said, my short trip with Discover Corps to the Dominican Republic had a profound impact on me – complete with fun, inspiration, and positive change… all in 8 days.

In 8 days, I connected with individuals in the local community, and at the service sites, my world grew. I traded stories with other travelers, discussing global issues and how we could make a difference. I remembered why service is central to my career and was inspired to do more. I felt honored to be part of something much larger than my own experience – an expansive community of adventurers committed to affecting positive change.

Here are some highlights from my time in the DR:

  • Building a School alongside a Community: It was hot, humid and hard to dig out a foundation for a new school. Yet, working with the community – through the young men who worked alongside us, the children who ran to help, and the señoras who shared lunch in their backyards – our work become more meaningful and more sustainable.

digging foundation

  • Dancing at the Gas Station: Yes, you read that correctly. On Sunday nights in the Dominican Republic everyone –yes, even our volunteer group! – headed to the gas station. Sitting at a long table, drinking Dominican rum and Presidente beer out of paper bags, it wasn’t too long before I joined my volunteer group and community members on the dance floor. It’s this type of authentic community experience that makes Discover Corps programs so special.

gas station

  • Connecting with Peace Corps Volunteers & Organizations working on Social Change in the DR: From bringing clean water through newly built aqueducts to support hundreds of villagers to empowering youth through projects and national conferences, it was exciting and inspiring to see the work of Peace Corps Volunteers. Through Discover Corps, we also supported some of these projects through funds and labor.

For me, Discover Corps brought back memories of my years with AmeriCorps and with the Peace Corps, and motivated me to do more. For others, it was an introduction to international volunteerism and the first cautious step towards applying to the Peace Corps. Discover Corps’ volunteer trips offer a glimpse into the reality of working with a grassroots organization in a developing country. It’s not for everyone, but if you’ve been considering an overseas career then this could be a way to explore deeper.

What could 8 days with Discover Corps do for you?

Click here to learn more and book a Discover Corps trip

using your 10% off AmeriCorps Alums discount!

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