Local returns from Peace Corps

Molly Moreau (bottom) with children from a village in Myanmar. (courtesy photo)

Local returns from Peace Corps

By Shannon Barr

After serving in the Peace Corps for the past 26 months, 25-year-old Molly Moreau returned to Scripps Ranch. She volunteered teaching English in Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia.

Moreau grew up traveling during mission trips with Canyon Springs Church to Mexico, Haiti and the Caribbean. She also went to Peru with another church.

“While I was in college, even though I was majoring in musical theater, there was always something that made me want to go out and help other people, find a job that travels and takes me all across the world,” Moreau said. 

Her parents, both with military backgrounds, suggested the Peace Corps. Applicants have the option to submit their top location choices. Moreau was so excited to see the world, she wrote down “anywhere.”

Before she was placed in the village she’d call home for the next two years, Moreau had three months of intensive Burmese language lessons and culture training.

The town she lived in was 2-square-miles with a population of 2,000. She lived by herself in a two-bedroom cement house that had bright green walls. The locals pitched in to get a bed, mattress and all the furnishings – a testament to how gracious the community was.

“The Myanmar people are some of the most welcoming people on the face of the planet,” Moreau said. “It’s insane how selfless they are, especially with visitors, foreigners and tourists. It was such a magical place to be living.” 

Many of the local teachers were close to her age, and they would invite her to eat with their families and celebrate Buddhist holidays together. 

On an average day, Moreau would wake up to the sound of monks chanting from the nearby monastery. She would go to the local market to get groceries each morning. She didn’t have a refrigerator, so she bought produce daily. Getting fresh produce from the local farmers became one of her favorite aspects of living there.

After the market, Moreau went to school to teach English. She taught fifth and ninth grade, totaling eight classes a day. She describes her teaching experience as “exhaustingly unforgettable.” Each class had around 60 to 70 students. 

“It’s something that will always be close to my heart but wow, it is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Moreau said.

Her Burmese lessons allowed her to communicate with the students, and she had a co-teacher who helped her translate if needed, as well as ensure the students retained the information they learned through the games and activities in class.

A favorite memory of Moreau’s happened the day after she moved into her house on her 23rd birthday. In Myanmar, it’s custom to give back to people on your birthday, but some locals wanted to throw her an American birthday celebration. They got her a cake, cooked a meal for her and invited friends over to enjoy music.

“I was like, ‘I’ve been here less than 24 hours, and this is already the greatest moment of my life,’” Moreau said. “It’s one of my favorite memories because it just was so instantaneous that they made me a part of their family. They immediately were ready to give all their love and time.” 

She said it was a very hard place to leave. 

“Myanmar is an extremely beautiful and gracious country,” Moreau said. “I think everyone should get to experience it at least once in their lives.”

Now that she’s home, Moreau is looking for a job in theater and community engagement. She wants to bring theater to inner city schools and to people who don’t have easy access to see a show.

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