Courtney Brown, Ph.D.
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U.S. Peace Corps, 1981-3
My First Experience with National and World Service

From September 1981 to Decemter 1983, I was a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Kenya, East Africa. I had just completed my Ph.D. in political science in 1981, and I postponed looking for an academic position at the time - despite favorable job prospects - so that I could complete what I felt was an important duty before I became any older, namely, to volunteer for service to my nation.

There was some risk in the decision to do this. New Ph.D.s can become obsolete quickly, and my lack of academic productivity during my two years of volunteer service was certain to be questioned after I returned to the U.S. But this was nonetheless something I felt that I had to do, and so I assumed the personal risk.

I was fortunate to obtain an interesting assignment in the Peace Corps. Since I had a strong mathematics and English background, I was given a job as an A-Level Maths and General Paper teacher in a Kenyan high school. These courses followed the British versions of such courses. The grades that I taught (Forms 5 and 6) were comparable to first and second year college mathematics and first year college English composition in the United States. I taught at Star of the Sea High School in Mombasa, Kenya.

While I served my two years in Kenya, I had some remarkable experiences that dramatically shaped my outlook on life. I learned about other cultures, and how to appreciate their distinct beauty. Mostly, I grew as a person, developing internally to long for the uniqueness in what others offer to our joint human existence. In retrospect, I sense that my personality was shallow in some crucial respects before I went to Africa, not the least of which was in the realm of tolerance and compassion. I guess I was a bit too self-centered. Africa saved me from living my life in that unhappy state.

What I share with you now is a brief photographic collage, windows into my life as a Peace Corps volunteer. These photos do not capture my contribution to Africa via the work that I did in my school as much as they portray a small portion of Africa's contribution to my own development, which is, I suppose, characteristic of volunteer experience in general.