Good afternoon. My name is Madeleine Kellner.
This is August 3rd, twenty twenty. I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer evacuated from Peru 20 20. And I also served in Guatemala from 2016 to 2018. And I’m here today interviewing Megan McDonnell, who was a Y IED specialist in Morocco. And she served seven months in Morocco and was evacuated on March 18th, 20 20. And we’re going to roll right into our interview.
So so, Megan, why don’t we just start off with so why peaceful? Why did you join? What what motivated you to to apply?
Wow. I feels like last time I answered that question with the application.
Well, all. So I was.
I’ve known that I’ve wanted to do something like Peace Corps probably since I was 10. I have so I grew up, so I was born in Texas, but I grew up in Europe. I grew up in Germany. And so I spent a large part of my childhood, kind of, you know, always and immersed in another culture while living there. And I think my parents really instilled in me very young to always be interested in other people’s cultures and just always have the drive to never be OK with staying in one place. That makes sense. So I’ve always known that I wanted to go into some sort of work in an international work for Moate for almost for most of my life. So I attained a degree in and relations from the University of San Diego. And I minored in communications in French. I went abroad a few times as well. Did something called Semester at Sea. And I and but there was but I knew that right after college I wanted to do something that would really put me outside of my comfort zone. I couldn’t see myself going into kind of your everyday 9:00 to 5:00 or it out.
I wanted something that would terrify me and just drive me and kind of break me in in a better way in so many ways that I could truly, like, learn about myself. And so. And, you know, I found out about Peace Corps and I was like this. This will probably maybe be it. But more so Peace Corps in general and not other volunteer programs because so I’ve done some work in international development throughout my life, just like I used to do with my church.
I used to do some mission trips and I also used to, ah, this summer going into my senior year. I studied abroad in France for a while to work on my French.
And then right after I did some volunteer work in an orphanage and robot in Morocco for a month.
And although I loved it, I.
I had learned in school a lot about the dangers of short term bond to voluntourism and the dangers of short term volunteering. And I very much so had an aha moment realizing that a lot of.
Like the things that I had done in my life, or at least some of the things I’ve done in my life, although, you know, we’re good intentioned, I could have been contributing to that very toxic kind of cycle. And so I said, OK. The next time I go abroad, you know, although international development is not perfect in any way. And like in many ways, Peace Corps isn’t perfect as well. I wanted to do something that was longer, more of a commitment and more sustainable. And, you know, Peace Corps was kind of the best route for that that I could see. I enjoyed seeing the fact that you had to commit to that long period of time. It was really important to me that the staff and the people who were training us are all locals and that, you know, we kind of have to take a part of our identity way to to work on being part of the community and serving only after being more qualified to do that. So for those reasons, I kind of was like, OK, if I’m going to go back into this sector, it needs to be something more of a commitment. And that’s going to be Peace Corps.
And so I applied and I specifically applied to Morocco because I have a background in French. I’ve been. I went to Morocco on my own. And I fell in love with the country. And I also am very I’ve always been very, very interested in college studying the MENA region. And I wanted to go to the only kind of MENA Middle Eastern, like it’s that Morocco right now is the only country that Peace Corps serving in the MENA region, and that for that reason, it’s an extremely important project.
And I just wanted to be a part of that amazing legacy. So that’s why Picts. Marco. But yeah.
What preparation did you have to do to get ready to go?
Let’s see. So.
Full disclaimer, my preparation was a lot different in my timeline than kind of the average person. Maybe I actually was accepted in peace for Peace Corps like the middle of my senior year and was supposed to depart in late August, early September. And then on my graduation day of college, I got a notification from the medical unit saying that my application had been denied because of my past with counseling and mental health services. And that was awful. That was devastating.
A mighty scored journey. That was like the most devastating day.
Except for now, evacuation was missing. So that was the second most devastating. Yeah. So that was really hard. And I had, you know, they told me, you know, the odds of you getting in after appealing are very low. Like, you can try, but it probably won’t happen. I said I’m done. No. But like, I’m gonna be the percent that does. So I reached out to over like eleven people in different sectors of my life, one including a recent Peace Corps. She actually was my friend in college and she was serving at the time in Morocco. And they all wrote me letters of kind of appeal letters. And the medical unit accepted it and said, you know what, like we’ve listened to you. We think you actually are fit. And I was a go. So my preparation wasn’t just packing, like it wasn’t just saying goodbye to all my friends and family and all of the drama and tears and everything of that. It was also like not knowing. Very close to when I left. So, yeah.
It. So when did you actually leave? In August.
I left in September. So.
At the beginning, we see. I arrived in Philly, the Severns for staging, and then we we were in country by the 10th, 9th, the 9th.
We left nine times something similar on so.
Wow. Wow. What determination?
What kind of training did you get to start your assignment?
So we had CVT community based training. It’s funny, I actually thought that all these great countries were the same in terms of their training.
Until I was speaking to a friend from. Who is doing. Peace Corps and she was doing Peace Corps in Fiji. And she too was like, no, it’s totally different. So but yeah, we are training. So Peace Corps in Morocco has like community based training for. I want to say two 1/2 months. Three months. Summer. And they’re kind of that timing.
And so, you know, after the orientation and booze Neka, we were put into language groups. So each group was about six people and they had an LCAC language cultural facilitator, all Moroccans. And we were put in different kind of sectors all around the first MacNeice region, which is a region that’s more in the north of Morocco. It’s kind of close to robot because rebought the capital is where the Peace Corps headquarters is.
So we all were kind of put in little small towns around there. And every single. And so we stayed with the host family. And, you know, and then we had a dark Shabab. So our sector for youth and development was our main job. Everyone’s role was working. Most people’s job was working in what we call the Dark Shabab, which is the center. So every single community in Morocco, or at least most communities, Morocco, have youth centers. So they have. And those are places in which students can go after school to do games activities. I wouldn’t really call it a day care, but it’s a place that like that you most Moroccan parents are okay with their kids going to after school and it’s state kind of funded, but it’s so yeah, that was kind of like our role. And so in our community based trainings, we all got to do hands on work, preparing ourselves in the dark kebobs that we were out in our community streets together. So, you know, a big part of our work was teaching life skills in English classes so we would actually teach those classes. But as a group, so we would be training and doing it kind of like for practice. But it wasn’t for practice because we’re still working with Moroccan youth. But we did it in like a group of six. And so we were doing that with the help of our LCN. And the biggest thing was the language practice and the language learning.
We had about like eight hours of instruction a day from our FCF who would do both a combination of just language instruction and also like cultural norms and everything, because he like he obviously spent his whole life in Morocco.
He’s Moroccan. And so he taught us all that kind of stuff. But I loved CVT. It was a lot very challenging. A lot of energy, like, very tiring. But the bonds that I made with my CBT group, we still text and talk all the time. And Miles, yet to this day is one of my