5 Questions: Roseville high grad joins Peace Corps
Despite the overwhelming language and cultural barriers she faces as a Peace Corps volunteer, Lysette Davis says that the greatest challenges she has encountered are the insects — crickets and cockroaches so large they look like something from a science fiction movie. Davis, a graduate of Roseville High School and the Catholic University of America, is the only volunteer in her community of San Miguel and teaches English and computers at the local high school. Originally volunteering solely as an English teacher, she began a secondary project introducing her students to computers. Even with the school’s extremely limited resources, the students’ day-to-day struggles and the sweltering heat from which the school has little shelter, Davis tackled the extra project and taught more than 1,000 fourth-year high school students basic computer skills. Davis’ life in the Philippines involves long days, an imposing language barrier and challenging cultural differences. But the kindness of her host family, the dedication of her students and the hospitality of her community have made the last 10 months the most rewarding of her life.
1. When and why did you decide to volunteer with the Peace Corps?
When I was in third grade, I was first introduced to Peace Corps, and had a strong yearning to help those in other countries. My parents have always instilled a belief of helping others and appreciating the blessings given to you. I applied after I completed college. I started the Peace Corps shortly after my 23rd birthday.
2. What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I think as a teacher, it’s usually when you see that light go off when
your student understands something. Being in my community, though, it is completely different. The students face extra problems. They don’t have food, they have to pick rice for their families and there is usually one fan per room that may or may not be working.
3. What are some of the differences between the school in which you work and U.S. schools?
I had no idea before I came here how lucky I was to be in the American school system. In America, attendance matters. Here students show up when they can, they may by absent for over a month but will still graduate. (In the U.S.), we have text books — while some schools don’t (have new ones) at least there will be some from 10 years ago. We (in the Philippines) have ones from the 70s.
4. What did you find to be the most surprising thing about the Philippines?
Filipinos have hospitality running through their blood. It doesn’t matter if you are the poorest person in town or the richest, they will give you everything they have. I have never been met with as much hospitality in my life. One of the first things the Peace Corps taught us to say was “I’m full” in each of our local dialects because everyone feeds you constantly.
5. What were your goals when you decided to go, and did they change once you got started?
When you decide to do something like the Peace Corps you set out thinking you are going to change the world. When you get here, you realize that changing the world isn’t exactly what you thought it would be like. Instead, you realize that focusing on one student, one classroom, one teacher, one year level, one school and finally one community is about as much of the world as you are going to change, but it is way more important than I could have ever imagined.