From Corporate brand manager to Peace Corps Volunteer – Meisha Robinson, Benin 2000-2002, South Africa 2012
Meisha Robinson served in Benin as a Peace Corps Volunteer and then again ten years later in South Africa. In between her time as a volunteer, she got an MBA and was the brand manager for Campbell’s Soup. What caused her to leave her high paying corporate job and return to life as a volunteer? Learn on this week’s episode.
Photo from Meisha’s Story
Meisha Robinson’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
Benin, Small Enterprise Development (2000-2002), Response: South Africa, Marketing Manager, Special Olympics South Africa (2012).
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Having a mini birthday party for a little boy that was an apprentice to an auto mechanic down the street from my house. I walked past him everyday. He couldn’t have been more than 7, but was working every day to help repair cars. His clothes were tattered. One day I asked him how old he was. He not only didn’t now his age, but he had never celebrated his birthday and didn’t know when he was born. Soon thereafter, I made him a cake. I brought it, along with candles to his “job.” We sat together on the bench with the cake. His eyes were so big. He had never had cake before. I sang happy birthday to him and had him make a wish as he blew out the candles. I told him from this day forth that day could be his birthday.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
In Benin, I had an outhouse that I had to use. It wasn’t too bad because the volunteers before me had it “raised” so that you didn’t have to squat to the ground and it resembled a cement version of a toilet. The only thing though was there was a huge lizard that lived in there behind a “See No Evil, Hear No Evil Sign…” that my predecessors also left. His foot long tail would hang down below the sign as he hid behind it. I named him Shaza and I hope every day he wouldn’t jump on my back. Well one morning, Shaza was the least of my problems. I went into my latrine only to be greeted by tons of huge roaches climbing in and out of the raised cement toilet. They were on the walls, they were on the floor, they were everywhere. After I shrieked, cried, and freaked out, I got my neighbor to help me. He went in and tried to kill the roaches so I could use the bathroom. They were crawling on him and dropping on him from the ceiling. It was so gross and he was so brave. He then explained to me that there was a solution they put down the hole that had run out. I promptly walked to the store to purchase said solution. The bugs were gone soon after. It took me a couple of days to brave the latrine though. Shaza and I became friends and I was no longer that scared of him. Cause a non moving big lizard is better than tons of flying roaches any day!
What do you miss about Peace Corps?
Being so present, aware, and one with my environment that I knew when the weather was going to change because I felt it and smelt it. Living in a world where people are valued more than time. As they use to tell me white people may have watches, but we have time.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
Be like a cork and float. (Surrender, let go and flow. Recognize the things you can control and things you can’t and adapt accordingly).
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
Meaningful: Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid (a bird builds it’s nest little by little). A great reminder that I will not see the rewards of my efforts today but tomorrow. Funny: tai toi jaloux (be quiet jealous). It was a sticker that a lot of the Zemidjan (taxi moto) drivers had on their bikes. I had it on my motorcycle helmet.
More from Meisha Robinson and I Am, We Are
I Am, We Are (IAWA) is dedicated to creating a world where all youth are socially engaged, globally aware, and economically free. They strive to give youth an understanding of self and the global community so that they may know their place in the world. IAWA equips them with knowledge and skills to create the world they imagine.