Having the heart to fully dedicate oneself

February 4, 2013

Stationed in a small town of 100 people on an island located within the Federated States of Micronesia, Peace Corps volunteer Nicholas Canfield is the only white American in a three-mile radius. A third of the way into his two-year service, he slowly is becoming accepted by his villagers and is starting to fit perfectly within his community.

“As time goes on I suspect that soon I won't be ‘ohl en wai’ [white man] to my community, but rather "Nick" who is just another one of us,” Canfield says. “Although we're very different in some ways, we share a lot in common. I get invited to play volleyball, go work in the forest and do regular things that locals do.”

Canfield spends his days teaching English, music, math and physical education to fifth through eighth-grade students. When he is not teaching, he runs the school library and reads English stories to excited first through fourth-graders. After school, he conducts a running club which contains about 10 students. The children love to run, he says, despite having limited footwear (most run in flip-flops or barefoot). He also has introduced his community to different foods which includes pasta, stir-fry and -- their favorite -- s’mores.

Canfield’s highlight of his service has been teaching music to his students.

“Music really has made a good connection between us because it is something that we can all understand regardless of culture,” he says.

Nick has felt the extreme challenges felt by many Peace Corps volunteers, but has faced them head-on. The greatest challenge he has faced is getting to know himself, he says.

“You get to see if you have the heart to fully dedicate yourself to helping others no matter where or what the project,” he says. “Overall though, I'd say that I'm happy and overjoyed to be changing kid’s lives on a daily basis.”

For more information about the Peace Corps at CU-Boulder visit http://www.colorado.edu/peacecorps/.