Interview SummaryLinda Schubel served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Small Business Development) in Morocco from 2009-2011. Linda grew up in a farming community in eastern Michigan, USA. She completed a Human Resources degree at Northern Illinois University. After college, she married and had a son, Christopher, but unfortunately, she is a long-time widow. Linda’s work experience varied from dental assistant to daycare to legal office management. She credits her final position at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan with inspiring her to join the Peace Corps. Linda always had an appetite for travel and adventure, and she heard stories about both from her international students and from her first student worker, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from Niger. In 2008, Linda applied at age 60 to join the Peace Corps after hearing a radio ad recruiting older volunteers. Her selection started with an interview in Chicago, Illinois, followed by a lengthy medical clearance process. Her history of glaucoma limited available openings, so she was discouraged when Peace Corps staff called right before Thanksgiving to say her chances of getting an assignment were slim. However, Peace Corps soon called back and offered her an assignment in Morocco. Linda retired from Kalamazoo College in June 2009, spent time with her mother, and entered Peace Corps training in September 2009. Linda met her training group for orientation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In her Small Business Development program, there were about 20 volunteers ages 28-72. The group flew from New York to Rabat, capital of Morocco, for administrative days, and then spread out across Morocco for 10 weeks of Culture Based Training (CBT). Linda and three other volunteers each lived with a Moroccan family while attending classes to learn Tashilheet, an unwritten dialect of the Darija language. Linda knew that she would have difficulty learning a language, but she was confident that she could communicate because of her open personality and past experiences. Linda’s first Moroccan family placement for CBT was challenging. This family was grieving the death of an adult son and so was unable to provide CBT learning experiences in their home for Linda. Peace Corps staff placed Linda with a second family for CBT with Mom (28), Dad (32), a boy (8) and a girl (4), and Grandma. Dad ran a public café with family space behind a stone wall. This family was warm and friendly indoors, but culturally, Dad never acknowledged Linda when out in public, and only the brother was allowed to walk down the public street with Linda to her language school’s Halloween party. After training, Linda was assigned to her permanent site in the village of Ighrem N’ougdal, where she supported an ongoing woman’s Co-op. Her village had a population of 1,000 and was located halfway between Marrakech and Ouarzazate (Oz). Linda’s Moroccan family in Ighrem N’ougdal included Mom (48), Dad (early 50s), a brother (8), and a sister (5). Her third family’s Dad at this permanent site would acknowledge and warmly greet Linda where they might meet. The closest Peace Corps Volunteer, Anna, lived 12 kilometers away. Using buses and local taxis, Linda traveled to Anna’s village to shop in the souk, and Anna came to Linda’s village to pick up mail from the Post Office. In the Co-op kitchen, women made soft, fresh cheese to sell in the Co-op itself, in local shops, and in Ouarzazate markets. Linda introduced the women to the idea of adding new flavors to their cheese, and they began offering Moroccan mint, spicy olive, and herb cheeses for sale. The experiment was a success - the new flavors appealed to townspeople and tourists. Because the women’s literacy was low, Linda created a picture cookbook with recipes the women could follow. Linda also introduced a hygiene program at her village’s elementary school (grades 1-5) to promote hand washing and tooth brushing. With their teachers’ support, she also challenged the grade 5 students to be responsible for cleaning their dirty Turkish bathrooms (boys and girls). Linda provided cleaning supplies and cleaned the bathrooms herself to demonstrate what a clean bathroom looks like. The boys and girls then took over responsibility for cleaning, and following Linda’s model, the fifth-grade teachers continued the bathroom cleaning project the next year. Linda secured funds for cleaning supplies from a National Geographic Society partnership that paid Linda and a Moroccan family to host tourists visiting her village on a cultural tour. Linda completed her Peace Corps service in November 2011. She returned to southwest Michigan USA and lives in a small, walkable community about 40 miles from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Linda maintains strong connections from her Morocco Peace Corps experience through regularly communicating with Morocco RPCVs and Morocco local staff, and events with the Southwest Michigan RPCV group. In 2018, Linda returned to Morocco and was delighted when people still recognized her. In everything she did, Linda’s goal as a Peace Corps Volunteer was not to “Americanize” the people she met. Instead, she was there to broaden horizons and to model new behaviors for their consideration. For example, on her return trip to Morocco in 2018, she learned that her Moroccan family parents had adopted new behavior by enrolling her two sisters (one from CBT and one from her permanent site in Ighrem N’ougdal) in high school, along with a brother. Linda “brings the world back home” through her My Morocco presentations to retiree groups in her community. Her messages are simple: 1. You each have talents. Share them. Try to broaden horizons. 2. Don’t be afraid of Muslims. I always felt safe in Morocco, a Muslim country. 3. Peace Corps opened my eyes. We’re all the same. We all want to take care of our loved ones. It’s just people, folks. As an older volunteer, Linda shared important Lessons Learned. 1. Older volunteers complement younger volunteers in a community. 2. Older volunteers often gain automatic respect in a culture and can build relationships from there 3. Older volunteers bring multiple connection points to the community - extended family, prior work; experience with loss and grieving; resilience.