During her service, Peace Corps Volunteer Rachael Saler taught Filipino women to crochet discarded plastic bags into colorful handbags and change purses as a way to engage local communities in business ventures, and teach environmental awareness and recycling. Since the Bag-O Plastic project launched in August 2010, more than 100 women from Bago City in the Philippines have sold 200 bags, earning 63,000 pesos (about $1,500).
For each bag that is sold, the woman who crocheted it receives 80 percent of the earnings. The other 20 percent goes toward the purchasing of zipper, runners, tags, etc. Each woman collects, segregates and washes plastic bags to be crocheted and sold. Women have also begun exchanging plastic bags for rice with other merchants and started plastic-bag collection bins in local commercial areas.
Rachael, who holds a master’s degree from Columbia University and a bachelor’s from Syracuse University, credits her mother for the Bag-O Plastic idea. When her parents visited in 2009, Saler’s mother told her to consider crocheting recycled plastic bags into handbags. Rachael was so inspired by the project she extended her Peace Corps service for a third year to continue it. She completed her Peace Corps service in December 2011.
"Being in the Peace Corps was one of the best things I could have done to prepare for becoming an entrepreneur, especially a social entrepreneur. Successful Volunteers are, in many ways, entrepreneurs: You learn how to do a lot with few resources, how to jump into a vague situation and create change, how to recognize opportunities, and how to build something out of nothing. I learned firsthand how powerful business can be in creating social change for women."
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Siiri Morley, executive director of Prosperity Catalyst, who launched a program in Haiti that provides direct support, mentorship, and training to women as they start candle-making businesses
Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Gender and Development Committee (GAD) recently held its first annual Women’s Health and Leadership Conference. The conference focused on gender empowerment, leadership, and common health issues faced by women in Burkina Faso.
Two students demonstrate proper condom usage on a realistic model at a “Love Your Body, Empower The Mind” gender empowerment and sexual health camp in Thailand. The local hospital graciously lent us these models to use as well as their time. An HIV/AIDS nurse came to my camp to help educate the students about HIV/AIDS, proper contraception utilization, as well as to destigmatize using a condom. The students each had a chance to practice their newfound skills.
Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer Kyle Livingston