Tyler Lloyd, a Peace Corps volunteer, is sharing his story and other Peace Corps stories to the world.
The Peace Corps is a program run by the United States to give opportunities for their countrymen to help people outside of their nation. Save for empowering non-American communities, the goal of this initiative has also always been to bridge the gap of cultures that exist in a geographically disconnected world.
Having run for 56 years now, the Peace Corps is sure to have a wide breadth of stories that are just waiting to be heard. Tyler Lloyd, a Peace Corps alumnus who served as a volunteer for two years at Burkina Faso, is collating these stories through his podcast: mypeacecorpsstory.com/listen-now. In this podcast, you get to hear what the volunteers experience, what living in an immensely different culture is like, and how their relationships with the people in the communities they serve have changed their lives.
Tyler was in the Peace Corps from 2012 to 2014, and started a gardening program in the community he served. Twenty-five people in the village ended up completing the curriculum they had devised to have a more sustainable vegetable farm, and despite all the challenges, Tyler says the success was really in these people being able to take ownership of their vegetable farm. These kinds of memorable experiences are what he deems to share more of for his podcast, gathering all kinds of Peace Corps volunteers and having them tell their stories that root from across the globe.
Tyler Lloyd talks to INKLINE about his life as a Peace Corps volunteer, why he started his podcast and his dreams for his initiative.
INKLINE: Why did you decide to start a podcast about these Peace Corps volunteers’ stories?
Tyler Lloyd: I served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2012 to 2014 in Burkina Faso as an agriculture volunteer and small business volunteer, so I was working with farmers and women in the local markets who transform agricultural goods. I did that for two years, along with several other side projects, and then when I came back from Peace Corps, I wanted to write a book about my experience because I had some pretty crazy interesting stuff happen. I also just wanted to share generally all the fun and exciting good things about serving abroad with other people.
I ended up putting that off for about two and a half years before I started writing a book, and then in the process of writing a book, I started second guessing what I was writing — if I was being true to the Peace Corps experience, or if I was overgeneralising it. I quickly realised that I could only tell my story because I only live one life, and I can only tell from my experience. But I wanted to give an opportunity for other people who served the Peace Corps to tell their unique story, so that was the whole idea behind the podcast.
I: What nudged you to join the Peace Corps in the first place?
T: I grew up in a small town in the United States, in Kentucky, and I was always interested in other cultures, but just from what I know and read in books, reading National Geographic, and watching television, and just seeing these documentaries about these other cultures that I knew at some point in my life. I knew I wanted to go somewhere else and live in another community and with that, I wanted to actually do something with that time rather than just be a tourist for a few months … I wanted to be there for a long time, have an impact, and actually, have a reason for being there.
In doing so, searching for these opportunities, I found the Peace Corps, and thought that it would be a good fit for me to go somewhere and experience the different cultures, but also give back or at least try to give back and use some of my expertise and knowledge that I gained throughout my life. I grew up farming, so [I wanted to] try to teach other people what I had learned and also just to connect with them and build friendships with people who have lived vastly different lives than myself.
“As a Westerner, when you’re over there, and you’re not tempted or distracted by social media, technology, and you’re forced to connect to people very, very different than you, you’re forced to connect with them on a very deep level. It’s very impactful.”
I: What has been the most revealing thing that you’ve heard when talking to these Peace Corps volunteers?
T: I guess the most revealing has been the shared experience that people have. I’ve now talked to people who have served in Asia, South America, Europe, Pacific Islands, Africa, all the major areas that Peace Corps serves. They all had very similar experiences. One question that I usually end up asking people is: what do you miss about peace corps? And everybody says the relationship. It’s either the relationships or just the pace of life that volunteers experience while they’re over there.
As a Westerner, when you’re over there, and you’re not tempted or distracted by social media, technology, and you’re forced to connect to people very, very different than you, you’re forced to connect with them on a very deep level. It’s very impactful. I asked them how they have been able to maintain that and as much as they loved that aspect of Peace Corps, a lot of volunteers, once they come back to the United States, they do struggle with maintaining that level of connectedness with their community and sort of savouring some of the slower aspects of life. They get caught with the Western pace of, you know, going and doing and day-to-day life. That’s been the most telling.
I: Do you have any plans for your podcast as of yet and would you like to share it with our readers?
T: I have a bunch of ideas and dreams. I don’t know if I could call them plans just yet. I want to just keep producing the podcast. If I can keep producing it every single week, that would be great and just allow it to grow and share more Peace Corps stories. If I eventually have the opportunity where I’m getting some revenue from the podcast, I would love the ability to actually travel, go to these countries, where these volunteers are serving so I can talk to them while they’re in country and talk to their community and do video and photography to highlight the good work that they’re doing.
I would love to see it grow into that and also be a resource to start doing more writing on the website to create resources for other people who want to better share their story, if they want to start their own blog or if they want to start their own podcast, share what they’re doing in their country or other good things that they are doing.