Posted 24 July 2004 - 04:27 PM
I am a college student and I was thinking of joining the Peace Corps when I graduate (this will not be for several more years, but because of the Celiac disease I want to have everything well planned out in advance). A lot of the areas the Peace Corps works in (southeast Asia, Latin America, etc.) do not have wheat-based diets, so it doesn't seem like this is an unrealistic goal. However, I was wondering if there is anyone out there who has actually been in the Peace Corps and can tell me if it was possible to maintain a strict gluten-free diet while abroad. If so, where did you go and what steps did you take to ensure that that the gluten-free diet wouldn't cause problems? Any input would be greatly appreciated .
Posted 02 August 2004 - 03:37 PM
Posted 09 August 2004 - 07:56 PM
My wife and I are currently completing the medical component of the Peace Corps application. We have made it through what is usually the most difficult part for people, the written application and interview. I, however, am a Celiac and have been gluten-free for seven years or so. This medical component is the most challenging part for me.
I have been very upfront with the PC on two points. One, that I have celiac disease and that eating gluten (even just a little bit) is not OK and just as importantly, second, that this condition is completely manageable.
My recruiter put me in-touch with the medical clearance people in Washington, DC and we all had a conference call about my condition. They have turned people away because of celiac disease. One woman could not be in the presence of gluten and had other serious complications. I, luckly, can even work with wheat flour and products (though uncomfortably so) though abstain from eating any gluten and have, thankfully, no associated complications when able to stay gluten-free.
PC told me that there is a list of countries that have said that they would take celiacs, but it is a short list. I believe that it is the ultimate decision of the PC organization in that host country. My patient and flexible wife and I have made it clear since the beginning of the process that we are flexible and will probably jump at the first opportunity.
I have travelled overseas since realizing my celiacity and have not had major trouble in East Africa and Central America as long as I avoid touristy (re: Americanized food) areas.
The earliest they said we could leave is Jan.-Feb. and we have been nomimated to the Pacific Islands, understanding that medical can and probally will change our destination.
The PC is a big commitment and requires flexibility. Our dietary restrictions require celiacs to be even more flexible in other areas. I know that there is the possibility of my being restricted to the same diet day after day. Bring it on.
Any questions about this application process, let me know.
Sorry about the length of this response. It is just that I feel very strongly that I should not be denied the PC because of celiac disease and, if necessary, am willing to fight for my rightful chance.
"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
-- Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950
Posted 09 August 2004 - 08:16 PM
Posted 11 August 2004 - 05:57 AM
Thanks so much for all of the helpful information. Seth, I REALLY appreciate all of the information you have provided. It is so wonderful to hear that there are other Celiacs who are trying to join the Peace Corps. I printed your post and will keep it for future reference. I will cross my fingers that everything works out well for you and your wife...please keep us posted!
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