No one knows better than Peace Corps Volunteers that long-held norms and beliefs about gender can constrain female students, women’s cooperative members or female farmers – not to mention wives and mothers – from participating fully in their country’s development. In spite of the fact that women and girls are an important part of development, challenges to realizing gender equality remain 39 years after the United Nations proclaimed International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, 1975, and which we celebrate this Saturday. Every day Volunteers are inspired by their female community members as they take small steps to get their fair share of education, information and decision-making.
“Mentors build leadership skills, confidence, and gain volunteer experience. The young students are able to ask questions of peers and build positive relationships.”
Peace Corps Volunteers are working in Mongolia to promote a partnership between two local non-governmental organizations focused on volunteerism and mentorship among Mongolian youth. They’ve teamed up with an organization that prepares young Mongolian students to study abroad, and collaborated with a community youth center. By bringing their individual projects together, they implemented a volunteering program that gives young adults the opportunity to mentor children and lead activities at the youth center.
Building a new home in rural Zambia takes a lot of time and effort. On May 30, 2008, in a small village in the Luapula province, much of the community helped to build a home of mud bricks and dried grass for a struggling family in the village. The photograph I took shows six women carrying pails of water from a nearby stream to the men who mix the water into mud to make new bricks and mortar.
Peace Corps Volunteer Helps Build Bridge for Communities in Suriname
Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Schmitt is working with 20 local community members in two neighboring Surinamese villages to construct a pedestrian bridge. The bridge will provide access to the local school, medical clinic, store, and the nearby villages. A portion of the funds for the project are being raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), a program that supports Peace Corps Volunteer community projects worldwide.
“There are many close family ties that exist between these villages,” said Schmitt, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has been working as a youth business educator Volunteer since 2010. “This path serves as a major highway for the men, women, and children both day and night. However, the path is currently obstructed by a large creek that often becomes impassable during the rainy season here in Suriname.”
To connect the two villages, the community has been using a log as a makeshift bridge. “This solution is neither safe nor permanent,” said Schmitt. “The path remains a safety hazard for the community members traveling to the doctor, visiting their families, picking up flour at the local store and for children traveling to school.” Community members from the surrounding villages have donated wood, sand, gravel, and housing for the bridge contractors. However, due to the low income of the communities, they are still unable to meet all of the costs necessary for the bridge’s construction.
In order to receive funding through the PCPP, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project and outline success indicators for the individual projects. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible PCPP donation goes toward a development project. Those interested in supporting Schmitt’s project in Suriname can visit www.peacecorps.gov/donate and search for project number is 568-134.
Peace Corps Volunteer Roger Brubaker of Lancaster, Pa., is working with his community in Thailand to prevent incidences of Dengue fever by promoting the use of homemade mosquito traps. To date, Brubaker has helped more than 900 community members build the mosquito “ovitraps” with common household products.