“Peace Corps is an organization for which I have a strong personal affinity. The dedication and professionalism of Peace Corps Volunteers in our education system made a great impact on me during my formative years. Since 1962, Peace Corps Volunteers have been great ambassadors to my country and I know they will continue to play a critical role as we write the next chapter in the history of my country.”
During his visit to Peace Corps Headquarters today, President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone was reunited with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sharon Kasper Alvarado. Alvarado served in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966 as an education Volunteer and got to know President Koroma’s family and schoolmates. The two had not seen each other for nearly 50 years.
Our Volunteers around the world work with local governments, clinics, nongovernmental organizations, and communities at the grassroots level, where the need is most urgent and the impact can be the greatest, focusing on outreach, social and behavior change in public health, hygiene and water sanitation.
"In my small village in Ukraine, The Meeting of Spring is the single largest public celebration held each year around March 1st. Each Street creates a float-type submission and everyone who lives on the street passes through the town before doing a skit on the main stage. In these photos, I’m with my host mother Laryssa and her street neighbors who were dressed as aliens!"
- Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer Jessie Park
Reading is definitely one of the more popular leisure activities for Peace Corps Volunteers. What were some of the books you read during your service? Did you bring home any books from your country? How many times did you read War and Peace during your 27 months overseas?
These kids are from my lowest-level English class. At the beginning of the year they were bored, disinterested and I thought they hated me.
Today they called me up and wanted to see me to give me a gift: a box of apples in honor of women’s day. They were all smiles, and so sweet. They’re not the same kids as they were in September, and I’m not the same person either.
Yesterday I spent six and a half hours in a round table meeting with all possible community partners of the Linguere High School. It started out extremely well - the student government had put together a great (albeit rather dramatic - can a school really be in agony?) presentation about the problems facing the school and what they would like to do to change things. Then community member after community member came up to pledge their association’s support - the gendarmes are giving 100,000 CFA, the Association for the Development of Women is giving a ton of cement, etc. Then this one man comes up and goes, “Well, this is great and all, but why don’t we just have an NGO build us an entirely new school? That’s what they’re there for.”
He’s partly right. There are plenty of NGOs whose sole mission is school construction. But the attitude of “oh, we could do this ourselves but why bother because an NGO could do it for us” is one of the biggest obstacles that we come across in the Peace Corps. Many NGOs here provide resources of the monetary sort, while we are primarily here to work on capacity-building, and a lot of people have trouble understanding that. Not to mention that when a community has the motivation and capabilities to do a project themselves, I have a huge problem with them taking resources from an NGO that could be building a school for a community that has no resources whatsoever. (All of this rant glossing over the fact that the school is supposed to be a governmental project anyways, but the administrations of both the previous and current presidents have done nothing to fix things.)
Luckily, I think those who are most involved with the project, including Ngouille Sec (pictured above) and her sister Jamma, are pretty set on getting things done themselves. If everything goes well, by next October when classes start up for the fall 2013 semester, the high school will have at least two new classrooms. And that will be very inspiring to see.
Seminars - One of the more rewarding parts of being a Teaching English volunteer. Basically, all the English teachers in the region gather together so we can tell them new strategies to apply in the classroom. Surprisingly, many listen.
Cashew nursery at the primary school cashew farm - Reality, most of these kids may become farmers or inherit the land of their fathers and mothers. Might as well start easy with some hands on lessons in tree nurseries and grafting. My hope is that the school cashew farm can be a leading example in the village for other farmers. We will see!
This year on Valentine’s Day, a group of Peace Corps Volunteers and community members in Tirana organized a One Billion Rising event aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence in Albania, where the number of women who are violated or killed continues to increase. It started with a small group of dancers, but the numbers grew as the event continued, with young women and men joining dancing in support of such an important issue. Read more about One Billion Rising herehttp://onebillionrising.org/
“We want to get the young members of rural Azerbaijan to start thinking outside of their daily scope of how men and women are seen and valued in Azerbaijan, and move into what is possible for the future of their country.”
Peace Corps Volunteers Rick Wiersma and Roxann Brown are working with members of their community to promote gender equality. Recently Wiersma and Brown held a group discussion on gender and development with more than 25 Azerbaijani students and community members in southern Azerbaijan. They reviewed the role of gender within families, women’s rights and gender equality.
She Works, She Lives! (Elle Travaille, Elle Vit! French, 2008) is a documentary that explores the role of women in Senegalese society and highlights the importance of girl’s education in particular. Each of the five Senegalese women interviewed for the film come from diverse backgrounds and followed distinct paths to get to where they are today. Some of them come from small villages while others come from urban environments, some from supportive families and others from less supportive families. But at some point in their lives, each of these five women realized that she had the potential to be more and to achieve more than what was expected of her. This documentary looks at the histories of these inspiring women, the feelings they have about their work and their upbringing, and their hopes for the future of women in Senegal.
The film is being distributed to Peace Corps Volunteers and schools throughout Senegal along with a packet of supplemental educational materials to facilitate discussions regarding the role of women in Senegalese society.
Peace Corps Volunteers Katy Todd and Melissa Bernard are working with local Togolese community members to promote women’s empowerment by organizing the third annual national women’s wellness and empowerment conference. Throughout the five-day conference, 30 women will participate in seminars and activities to enhance their personal development and entrepreneurial skills. Seminar topics will include family planning, maternal health, nutrition, food security, social entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
"The conference helps women realize their potential to become leaders and role models, and to have a positive impact on those around them,” said Bernard. “Participants leave equipped not only with valuable information, but with confidence in themselves and a belief that they can make a difference.”