Zach Bailey is trading in his desk to join the Peace Corps.
A part of Ritter’s Broker Support unit, Bailey holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. This May, he’ll fly to Africa to serve as a teacher’s aide in The Gambia. Bailey will be teaching English, in what some might call the ultimate volunteer experience. For him, it’s his passion.
As part of National Volunteer Week, we sat down with Zach to ask him some questions.
Why the Peace Corps?
Zach: I think it was the international aspect of it. I mean, I care about America. If I had to choose any ideology, it’s internationalism. To me, there’s absolutely no difference between someone from Ireland or America, to someone in the former Yugoslavia and America. It’s just one and the same.
The Peace Corps has a good repute. I mean, it’s very well acknowledged so I think in terms of their applicants, they’re very generous. I think also, it’s on behalf of the United States. Which I do like to reflect on because I think it’s a great country.
Pre-service training lasts two months, followed by two years of service. Do you know exactly where you’ll be?
Zach: The Gambia, which is northwest Africa. It’s the smallest country on mainland Africa. The pre-service training will take place in Banjol, which is the capital. It’s a coastal country. I think the highest percentage of GDP is tourism. The pre-service training is three months in Banjol and then the following two-year term of service will be in a town or village in a rural area. I haven’t been instructed on that yet.
How did you get started volunteering?
Zach: I always like to say it was out of my own personal good will, but I think it started with the mandatory 10 hours in my fraternity at Pitt. I did it and I just really enjoyed it. It was very fun. I think the coolest part was getting to meet people. My last year of college, I was part of the Jumpstart program, which teaches ages 3-5, helping with early education.
Tell me more about Jumpstart. What were you teaching?
Zach: Primarily language. Vocab recognition and instructing them on how to read. I think it was good preparation for the Peace Corps. It was a low-income area, not many resources or access points to education. The whole point of it was that they’re behind their peers. It’s a shame. Jumpstart taught me, and it was sad learning, that if you fall behind, even in preschool, it’s tough to catch up. The English language is difficult. But if you can help them grow and develop into having a hobby of reading, that can lead to a lot of good things.
How do you think working at Ritter has prepared you for this experience?
Zach: One, it gave me a good savings so I won’t have to worry about money over there. Two, I would say compared to previous jobs I had, this one is more independent. It’s obviously going to be a higher degree of independence over there. I think there are some points that I won’t have to report to a supervisor for months at a time.
What will you miss the most here at Ritter?
Zach: The people. It’s the only position I’ve had where I wake up and don’t mind coming to work. This job is completely different. I have no problem coming in early, staying late. It’s just really good people who I’ve had a good time with here.
What are you most looking forward from this experience?
Zach: Friendship. I think being able to connect with people and to see the progress of the children over the two years.
What do you hope to pass along?
Zach: I think what’s most important is if they can become curious. Whether or not they want to ask the “why” questions and not the “what.” To want to know how things work, because that’s how you can really change things, is to get the creative mind going.
The United States Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy via Executive Order 10924 in 1961. Since its inception, over 220,000 Americans have served in 141 countries, promoting world peace and friendship. “The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.”