The Peace Corps Challenge


As their way of celebrating the Peace Corps 50th and to raise awareness of Peace Corps in America with a small taste of Peace Corps life, volunteers in Mongolia came up with “The Peace Corps Challenge.” The challenge consists of  spending a week giving up some of the everyday conveniences that PCVs and their communities do without.

“Perhaps the only things missing from this challenge, things that are extremely difficult to replicate in other settings, are the inherent benefits of service- the sense of accomplishment in mastering your new language, the joy of making a new friend in spite of massive cultural differences, the beauty of the environments in which we serve,” writes a volunteer in Uganda.  “Nevertheless, this is a great activity for stimulating discussion about how two-thirds of the world lives.”

PCVs have written rules for “the Peace Corps Challenge” for three countries for far.  Here are the rules for Kenya.

The Challenge: Kenyan Rules


For one week you are asked to give up some of the everyday conveniences that we PCVs and our communities do without. The levels are arranged from more common to less common living conditions of PCVs in Kenya while also taking into account the difficulty of completing the challenge in the US.  So while none of us here have a car, it ranks quite high in the challenge as it is much more difficult to do without one in the states.  Kenya is known for its beautiful safaris in which you can spot the “The Big Five” animals, for which we’ve named our levels (they are in order of rareness in the Mara).

Lion: Difficulty Level I

Choose two from the following:

* Forgo the use of the microwave.

* No checks, no debit cards or credit cards, cash only all week.

* No washing machine or dish washers - plus you must attempt laundry by hand once. (Let’s be honest you probably have enough clothes to easily go a week without washing.)

* Cook dinner by candlelight.

* Keep a journal or write a handwritten letter to a friend about your experiences this week.

Buffalo: Difficulty Level II

Choose two from the following plus one item from Level I.

* No television (This includes Hulu and Adult Swim online, they are not available outside the US)–You can listen to the radio and read local newspapers.

* Baths or showers allowed only every other day-  You can wash yourself at the sink with a cloth each day.

* No fast food, no restaurants (this includes coffee places, bars, and delivery).

* Internet only every other day. (You can use the internet for your job but you’re on the honor system here.)

* Start and finish a book this week.

* Buy your fruits and vegetables for the week locally.

* Wild Animals! You can’t leave your yard between 7:30 PM and 6:30 AM unless accompanied by 3 or more people.

Elephant: Difficulty Level III

Choose two from the following plus one item from Level II or two items from Level I:

* You can use your toilet but you must manually fill the tank or do a bucket flush. (Turn off the water to the toilet.)

* Lack of temperature control - No heater or air conditioner in your car.

* Greet everyone you know with a handshake and genuine questions about their family, home, and health.

* You can only use one burner on your stove and no oven.

* Ration your water to only 10 gallons a day.  This includes cooking, drinking, bathing, and washing clothes.

* Teach someone the 4 ways the HIV virus is transmitted.

Leopard: Difficulty Level IV

Choose two from the following plus one item from Level III, or two items from Level II, or three items from Level I:

* Reduced living space.  You may only use your living room, bathroom and kitchen.

* Bathe only once this week. (You may wash yourself with a cloth at the sink each day.)

* No driving.  You can use public transport, bicycle, and walking.

* Internet one day this week.  (Again, you can use it for your work only.)

* Power outage.  Throw a dice (6 sides) every day for how many hours you will be without power sometime between 5.00pm -11.00pm (turn off your power breakers).

Rhino: Difficulty Level V

Choose one item from each Level:

* No running water from your house, you must go fetch it from somewhere else (a neighbor’s house is fine).

* No English for the entire week.  (You can speak English at work only.)

* You can’t use any toilet in your house, you must go somewhere else or improvise.

* No refrigerator.

* Spend the whole weekend in one room of your house. Using no electricity - you are allowed 3 books and the battery life of your computer (no recharging).

Questions for Reflection:

* How did you find this challenge- difficult?  Easier than you had anticipated?

* What surprised you about participating in this challenge?

* What did this challenge teach about how people in developing countries live?

When you’ve successfully completed your Challenge check out our “Show Support” page at  for gear to let others know of your triumph and help us spread the word.