“Having an intellectual disability remains a stigma in Armenia and there is a misunderstanding among the general community of what having a disability means.”

Peace Corps Volunteers in Armenia are collaborating with local non-governmental organizations to help communities create inclusive environments for children and adults with disabilities. The Volunteers are implementing programs that will enhance the capacity of parents, teachers and families in Armenia to care for and support loved ones with disabilities and foster a more inclusive environment.

Read more about their work

Armenia disability discrimination inclusivity Peace Corps Volunteers

Testing Positive

brookeinmoz:

My day begins between 6 and 6:30am, just as the women in my area begin sweeping their yards with tethered bundles of sticks and the booming bass of music begins blaring from houses near and far. Instead of the call of roosters I hear donkeys and the rumble of semi trucks as they make their way down the main ‘estrada’ that cuts through Changara. I boil water for coffee, sweep the house and veranda, take a bucket bath and am off to work around 7:50am. Towards the end of August I began my work at the hospital, and now make my way to the HIV/AIDS ward, or ATS (Acontecimiento e Testagem de Saúde), where we test and counsel patients. 

HIV/AIDS is a very real and ever growing issue here. Of the 1.6 million people living in Mozambique, about one-third are living with HIV/AIDS, more than 90,000 of them are children under the age of 15. Of this one-third living with HIV/AIDS, 5% (roughly 26,600 people) live in Tete Province. But the numbers, data and facts never prepared me for my first week in the hospital and before I knew it, in the midst of the life altering moments of complete strangers, I was having my own life altering moments. I arrived at the ATS ward and wandered into a room where our activists and counselors were preparing for the day in the field, putting together their backpacks of HIV tests, cotton swabs and paperwork. I said my greetings and I sat quietly in the corner waiting for someone to ask me to do something. Eventually everyone left and still unsure of what I was supposed to be doing, I continued to sit and wait. After about a half an hour our counselor appeared in the doorway with an older woman, frail and weathered looking. I quickly realized this was a patient and I asked if should leave, but she insists, “No, stay! Stay!”. The patient sits next to me, coughing and groaning. They’re speaking Nyungue, the local Bantu language, so I understand none of what’s being said but watch as our counselor puts on rubber gloves and points to the various posters on the wall that illustrate how HIV attacks the human body.

I’m going to watch this woman test for HIV.

I observe as her finger is pricked, her blood is tested, and two little red lines appear on the testing strip.

She’s positive.

I’ve never seen anyone tested for HIV, let alone test positive. This is such a life changing moment, all I want to do is leave the room. I don’t belong here and I can’t imagine that this woman appreciates having a strange white woman sitting next to her during such an intimate moment. The counselor slips out of the room, leaving us in the room together side-by-side. I don’t know where to look or if I should say something to console her, but I hear a sniffling, look over, and realize she’s weeping into her hands. I can feel my face getting hot and the pressure building in my chest as I choke back tears. Not before long our counselor arrives, fills out paperwork and sends the patient on her way. Before I can process what just happened or get my stuff together to get out of that room, she’s escorting in a mother and two little girls, each clutching a Hannah Montana purse and fried sweet bread. They’re each tested in just the same way. One of the little girls tests positive. I watch her swing her feet and munch innocently on her bread as her mom receives the news, knowing this little girls life just changed forever. She can’t be more than 11 years old. But they seem fine, laughing even. They leave and I can hear more laughter and music coming from the main entrance.

I ask our counselor if this work is hard for her, doesn’t she want to cry, too? She replies with a snort and a smile and says, “Nada”. I’m not sure if they’re laughing to cover up for grief and nervousness or if discovering you’re HIV+ is so common it’s not worth tears, but one thing is clear: my own perception of HIV/AIDS is very much different than theirs. On one hand this is extremely frustrating, how can they act so nonchalant about something so serious? On the other hand this is comforting, they know their status, can begin treatment and continue with their lives.

Our next patient to enter is a young woman with her two year old tied to her back. The baby just tested positive in pediatrics and the mother wants a test as well. The baby’s cooing and the mother adjusts her capulana as they wait for the test results. I watch as two little red lines appear on her test strip.

She’s tested positive, too.

It’s not even 1:00pm yet. 

hiv positive global health aids tw: illness reblogs Peace Corps Volunteers

cardamomandrice:

The Raute are Nepal’s last remaining nomadic tribe. There are only an estimated 650 of them in the country,140 of whom live in the jungle about an hour or so from my town. Our District Forest Department gives them a small stipend of 2,000 rupees (about $20) to manage wild fires in the forest. The other day, the tribe leaders came to the forestry office to collect their money and my supervisor at the district health office took the opportunity to try to give them some insecticide treated mosquito nets. Never having seen one before, the Raute leaders were pretty skeptical of the benefits, so my supervisor held a little meeting inside one to help persuade them. 

nepal raute malaria bednets health peacecorps Peace Corps Volunteers reblog

“I’m working with the NGO to help local communities understand and benefit from living in a Biosphere Reserve. The Biosphere Reserve designation allows the Ethiopian government to protect and raise awareness around the area, which contains some of the last remaining forests in the country and has become seriously threatened as the population grows.”

Peace Corps Volunteer Promotes Forest Conservation and Income Generation in Ethiopian Community

Ethiopia environment conservation forestry Peace Corps Volunteers


To help address the environmental and health problems caused by cooking on firewood and charcoal, a group of dedicated doñas (this is a respectful reference to older women) and I decided to build improved cookstoves in my community. These stoves have an enclosed cooking chamber that burns firewood more efficiently than cooking out in the open. The fire inside the stove heats up two hot plates, so Dominican women can still cook their daily pots of rice and beans, but unlike an open fire, these stoves have chimneys that take smoke away from the cook. 
Also, the improved cookstoves reduce the use of charcoal by rural families, because the stoves work best when dry firewood is used. Less charcoal use means that more trees in my community can remain standing! 
- Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer Courtney Columbus on the EPA blog

To help address the environmental and health problems caused by cooking on firewood and charcoal, a group of dedicated doñas (this is a respectful reference to older women) and I decided to build improved cookstoves in my community. These stoves have an enclosed cooking chamber that burns firewood more efficiently than cooking out in the open. The fire inside the stove heats up two hot plates, so Dominican women can still cook their daily pots of rice and beans, but unlike an open fire, these stoves have chimneys that take smoke away from the cook.

Also, the improved cookstoves reduce the use of charcoal by rural families, because the stoves work best when dry firewood is used. Less charcoal use means that more trees in my community can remain standing!

- Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer Courtney Columbus on the EPA blog

dominican republic climate change environmental awareness cookstoves community economic development Peace Corps Volunteers Environmental Protection Agency EPA


For 2011’s World AIDS Day, Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Community Health and AIDS Taskforce (CHAT) designed a project that was funded by SPA grants integrating HIV/AIDS awareness murals and educational symposiums all across the country. Over 70 Peace Corps Volunteers participated reaching more than 50 communities and hundreds of target populations. I held several HIV/AIDS ‘ceremonies’ where different target populations of villagers pledged to spread awareness, practice safe sex and get tested by leaving their handprint on the wall after taking the pledge. This photo was taken at the clinic in my village (where the mural was painted) after the session that the local midwife and I ran with my 6th grade girls group.

- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Hayley Droppert

For 2011’s World AIDS Day, Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Community Health and AIDS Taskforce (CHAT) designed a project that was funded by SPA grants integrating HIV/AIDS awareness murals and educational symposiums all across the country. Over 70 Peace Corps Volunteers participated reaching more than 50 communities and hundreds of target populations. I held several HIV/AIDS ‘ceremonies’ where different target populations of villagers pledged to spread awareness, practice safe sex and get tested by leaving their handprint on the wall after taking the pledge. This photo was taken at the clinic in my village (where the mural was painted) after the session that the local midwife and I ran with my 6th grade girls group.

- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Hayley Droppert

World AIDS Day global health Burkina Faso Africa health AIDS

miiikehawkins:

The preparations for drinking “stone ground” kava in Lekavatmel Village, Central Pentecost island, Vanuatu.

There are several different ways to prepare kava, many places simply use a Chinese made meat grinder.  The grinder is very efficient but lacks any “character”.  Stone ground kava is much more labor intensive, makes less kava to drink but the shells served with ground and hand mashed has a different flavor, and a much thicker constancy.  This combined with the freshly pulled kava from Pentecost created a great kava high when drunk.

kava vanuatu island life pcv stone ground village nakamal village life peace corps reblogs

Meet the Peace Cars! Over the next two weeks, cars will be traveling from Peace Corps headquarters in D.C. to Atlanta, Los Angeles (via Chicago and Denver), and one will be traveling around the D.C. Metro area. Share your photo of the #PeaceCars and tell us why you’re interested in service.
http://bit.ly/1qshsru

Meet the Peace Cars! Over the next two weeks, cars will be traveling from Peace Corps headquarters in D.C. to Atlanta, Los Angeles (via Chicago and Denver), and one will be traveling around the D.C. Metro area. Share your photo of the #PeaceCars and tell us why you’re interested in service.

http://bit.ly/1qshsru

Peace Corps Peace Cars

Back in the day, the Peace Car was a VW van. Tomorrow, we’ll be unveiling the new generation of Peace Cars, which may be headed to a place near you. Get ready! ‪#‎PeaceCars‬

Back in the day, the Peace Car was a VW van. Tomorrow, we’ll be unveiling the new generation of Peace Cars, which may be headed to a place near you. Get ready! ‪#‎PeaceCars‬

makingsenseofmacedonia:

I am already sure that Camp GLOW is one of the defining moments of my Peace Corps service. As stressful and crazy as executing a camp for 80 teenage girls can be, the chance to be there and experience it with them is an ultimate reward. 

I have not been to a camp in years. I forgot how much I love to sing and dance and be youthful. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is about these things and so much more—it gives young women from all different backgrounds a chance to express themselves freely in a safe, encouraging environment. Campers make new, lifelong friends and meet fellow rising leaders from throughout Macedonia, who they can identify and connect with on a deeper level. They spend a week discussing important issues, learning new skills and knowledge, and brainstorming future projects to implement in their home communities. 

GLOW is all about leadership development. We seek to support young women as they discover their own capacity to be strong leaders in Macedonia and beyond. The camp has a multi-faceted approach that includes community time spent in teams (8 campers, 2 counselors, 1 counselor-in-training); large group functions with the entire camp that showcase creativity and teamwork; and experiential courses that range from emotional discussions to fun electives.

Everyday was jam-packed with courses such as:

Cultures of the World, Relationships and Social Health, Team Building, Our Effects on the Environment, Tie-Dye, Self-Esteem and Body Image, Origami, Human Rights and Diversity, Interpersonal Violence, Learning to Lead, Public Speaking, Yoga, American Relay Races, CPR and First Aid, Stereotypes and Iceberg Theory, Nutrition, Portrayal of Women in the Media

Each night, at least five electives were offered including:

Korean, Mnemonics, Acting, Karaoke, American Line Dancing, Powerful Women in History, Comic Strip Art, Leave No Trace, Stargazing, Charades

Being on the leadership team kept me quite busy, but I was able to co-teach Card Games, Kickboxing, and Self-Defense! I was also on the team to organize Field Day, during which all the teams competed in various activities (much like an American field day competition). 

There is so much more I could say about Camp GLOW: We had an awesome Disco Night. We lit candles and shared kind words. And made SMORES! We also had a visit from the US Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission (special thanks to the US Embassy Skopje for their generous grant in support of Camp GLOW this year!) 

In summary, I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!!!

If you have any questions about Camp GLOW Macedonia or are interested in supporting this project, please contact me.

glow campglow glowmacedonia macedonia leadership women girls youth girlsleaderingourworld diversity camp peacecorps

We asked returned Volunteers how their service prepared them for their careers today. From interpersonal skills, to language and sector skills, Volunteers gained unique working experiences in different cultures around the world that they brought back and make them successful in their careers today.  Are you ready to serve? #RPCVcareers http://1.usa.gov/Yd8dnK

We asked returned Volunteers how their service prepared them for their careers today. From interpersonal skills, to language and sector skills, Volunteers gained unique working experiences in different cultures around the world that they brought back and make them successful in their careers today.  Are you ready to serve? #RPCVcareers http://1.usa.gov/Yd8dnK

Peace Corps infographic RPCV RPCVcareers