Monday, September 6, 2010


I remember one particular warning that Peace Corps staff advised us of at our staging in Los Angles last October. It was my first day of interaction with Peace Corps staff and they told our entire group to get prepared for the use of lots of newsprint. What a warning! “Get use to newsprint?” It hardly seemed relevant at the time as we were anxiously awaiting our international flight to Samoa.

Well in the 11 months since that warning was issued, I’ve seen enough newsprint to blanket the islands of Samoa. Some of you may know this marvelous invention as butcher paper, or flip chart paper, I’ll call it newsprint to be consistent. Whatever you want to call it though, be rest assured the Peace Corps keeps paper companies in business throughout the world. It’s used at staging, throughout training and throughout a volunteer’s service at different conferences and meetings.

The newsprint measures about 72 x 25 inches and is usually plain white or sometimes a dark brown. It’s flimsy and comes in a large ream. If there’s newsprint in the room, expect there to be an assortment of markers nearby, as well as a roll of masking tape. With those three tools, a member of the Peace Corps can accomplish just about anything.

Most times when a Peace Corps volunteer sees a piece of newsprint, they know the very next line which will be uttered by Peace Corps staff: “Please split up into groups and brainstorm…” Is it an effective means by which to convey thoughts, especially to a large group of people? I often pose the question if it really is all necessary.

Often, by the time a group has finished writing all their main points on the newsprint, their energy level has already headed towards a decline. You then have all this writing crammed on this paper with no one who has the attention span to read it all. Not only is there a lot of writing, but usually there are a lot of people standing around the paper looking like they’re waiting to catch a bus someplace. Many times the whole group traipses up to the front to “present” the information, causing a huge distraction as you watch these group members awkwardly put their hands in their pockets or stare out into space. On the other hand, if there’s one person up there, then you have someone trying to read the newsprint upside down while trying to hold it steady in the wind that usually is blowing through the window—if you’re in a building at all.

So here’s some advice to any future Peace Corps volunteers: buy stock in the paper companies before heading over seas! Upon your return home in two years, you’ll have a hefty profit. And finally, a disclaimer I must put forward: I’ve been sucked into the addiction myself and use newsprint regularly throughout the week in my classroom. I’m currently debating counseling before the usage gets out of control.

Year 7 students taking my English exam, written on several sheets of newsprint!

Peace Corps volunteers at Early Service Training in May. Several sheets of newsprint are about the room.


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  2. Too funny, Kyle! I'm in Group 83 and look forward to meeting you. In my former life as a consultant, I facilitated hundreds of meetings and developed a serious addiction to flip charts and marker ink. Good to know I'll be able to get a fix in Samoa!

  3. Hi Nancy! I'm excited to meet you as well. Good luck in your preparations before heading to Samoa. All of us are excited to meet Group 83!