roland griggs

Alumni in the Peace Corps: Cross-Cultural Understanding in Ghana

After graduating from Gordon, seven alumni are currently opting for an unconventional post-graduate experience by serving in the Peace Corps, from China to Moldova. In the category of colleges with under 5,000 students, Gordon College ranks among schools with the most alumni volunteers. The Bell is currently highlighting some of their stories of service around the globe.

Before he attended Gordon College, Roland Griggs ’15 spent five years of his life with the United States Coast Guard, traveling around the world to train militaries and law enforcement agencies throughout South East Asia and Iraq. These encounters opened his eyes to the less fortunate in developing nations.

“This experience instilled in me a desire to understand another culture, recognize the barriers preventing development and contribute to global development,” Roland says.

Roland’s experiences stuck with him, and when a friend at Gordon mentioned an interest in the Peace Corps, he decided to consider it as well.

“I learned the Peace Corps emphasizes the importance of cross-cultural exchange and understanding,” Roland says. “My limited experience working in the developing world taught me these aspects were important in the field of development, so I decided to pursue the Peace Corps further and eventually became a volunteer.”

Since 2015, Roland has been serving as an agriculture volunteer in northern Ghana, where he teaches farm management practices and helps groups of farmers form mutually beneficial partnerships. His teaching helps to increase productivity and income for the developing region.

“Peace Corps grants have provided groups in my community with resources they needed to start or expand their businesses,” Roland says. “Demonstrations and lessons I’ve led have sparked interest in agricultural practices that can improve people’s crop and animal production.”

Above all, Roland says the Peace Corps helps bring understanding and growth to both the volunteers and the communities in which they volunteer.

“Peace Corps addresses the root causes of many international conflicts, namely problems associated with poverty and lack of intercultural understanding, by providing education and training, offering financial assistance through grants, and placing volunteers,” he explains.

Volunteers help educate and build friendships with host country nationals in the very places where the Peace Corps’ services and cross-cultural perspectives are needed. “In doing so,” he says, “they show people throughout the world that Americans care about them.”

Though living in Ghana has taught him a great deal about the political and economic inner workings of a developing country, social lessons have come through being a neighbor.

“Ghanaians value community and relationships, and communities in Ghana act like one large family unit,” he says. “They have given me a new perspective on what it means to live in community.”

Roland says he now understands more than ever the privilege of being in the U.S., and encourages fellow Christians to “use our privileged position as a force for good, and sacrifice our privilege for the benefit of others, particularly our wealth and buying power. Supporting ethical and transparent markets can significantly improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people around the globe.”

Read about Ryan Wilkens ’15 in Costa Rica >
Read about Libbi Wilson ’15 in China >
Read about Alex Bostian ’16 in Moldova >
Read about Emma Barclay ’16 in Madagascar >
Read about Anna Jonker ’14 in Nicaragua >

By Megan Harvey ’19, communication arts