At the age of 50, Elizabeth Corse left the financial sector and joined the Peace Corps.
From the time she graduated with her master’s degree until the age of 50, Elizabeth Corse spent her days talking to enormously wealthy people. She said working in investor relations had her dealing with millionaires and people who were hyper-focused on financial well-being, but that had never been the focus of her life.
At the age of 50, Corse made a radical change. She left the financial sector and joined the Peace Corps, where she served two years in Namibia. She said the experience reconnected her with the part of herself that was happy with having less.
Corse said there was a time when she thought her life was headed for a career in academia. She earned her master’s degree in literature from Trinity College in Dublin, but the experience made her realize that academic writing wasn’t her passion.
While saving up for graduate school, Corse had worked as a receptionist at a money management firm in Boston, so after earning her master’s degree, she returned to the firm and began working in financial communications.
The job combined her love for communications work with finance, and she said at the time, the job felt like the perfect fit. Early on in her career, she spent her free time giving back and volunteered as a big sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
But as she experienced professional growth, she found she had less and less time to commit to her volunteer interests. She said in 2013 both her professional and personal life came to “inflection points.”
“I had the opportunity to make a radical shift,” Corse said.
She decided to move from D.C. to Moorestown where her sister was located, and she applied to join the Peace Corps, which was an opportunity she had always wanted to explore but never had the chance.
Corse started her Peace Corps involvement in April 2015, which was the start of her two-year journey serving as a community economic development associate. Corse and a group of 30 other volunteers departed from Philadelphia and spent two months training eight to 10 hours a day, six days of the week in Namibia. Each volunteer was assigned a language, and so Corse learned to speak Afrikaans, a language largely spoken in the country.
Following two months of training, Corse began her work with The Rössing Foundation, her host organization for the duration her service. Through the foundation, Corse provided business training and taught entrepreneurial skills. She said she worked with local organizations on their bookkeeping skills, business planning and long-term business strategies.
In addition to working closely with two local businesses, Corse provided business training courses that were open to the community. She said when she started these courses, she encountered people who struggled with basic math and other concepts that are vital to running a business. She said by the end of her six-week course, her students walked away with a much stronger business foundation than when they walked in.
She said along the way, she engaged with a simpler part of life. She said her days were spent tackling challenges like figuring out what to do when the electricity goes out to how to travel without a public transportation system.
When she arrived back in the United States, she wasn’t interested in reentering the financial sector. Since returning to Moorestown, Corse has taken a position with the Moorestown Friends Meeting and spends her free time writing or volunteering for WXPN.
Looking back, Corse said the most rewarding part of her service was feeling like she genuinely helped. She said while her role with the organization was small, she left with the sense she had touched the lives of some individuals and made lifelong friendships along the way.
“I’ve gained more than I’ve given in volunteering,” Corse said.