International Education Week: Teachers are always teaching

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Once you get started, you can’t help but teach, right? This International Education Week, we asked RPCVs who are now teachers or who work in education what they’ve taught their American students about their time in Peace Corps, and we asked them to give advice to people interested in PC service and teaching (the overwhelming recommendation: do it!).

Q: What information do you share about Peace Corps with your students?

Jessica: I am always sharing my experiences, be it the “cool” ones like underwater diving or enriching history lessons with facts about other countries, or what it is like to be a student in other parts of the world. Being a PC volunteer while only a 2 year commitment is a life changing experience and you take the stories, memories, and people with you wherever you go and in whatever you do. Continue reading

International Education Week: What’s your “ah ha” teaching moment?

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This International Education week we talked with RPCV teachers and asked them to describe an “ah ha” moment or realization during service that affected their decision to become a teacher.

Question: Describe one teaching experience or “ah ha” moment during your service that really stands out for you and affected your decision to become a teacher.

Jessica: One of my most memorable experiences teaching was non-academic and only five months in to my stay. My school site found out that I had been in choir in elementary and asked me to teach 500 high school seniors a graduation song. … I was given a song and would go class to class with a recording of three vocal ranges (bass, alto, soprano) that I would sing and have them follow along. When graduation was a week away we switched to whole group instruction which was mortifying for me, since I was always very shy about public singing, but which the students were incredibly excited about. Continue reading

Turning students in Morocco into business leaders

Peace Corps is excited to participate in the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, November 19-21, where we are helping the U.S. government promote economic and social entrepreneurship around the world. This post highlights one way that Volunteers promote entrepreneurship every day.  

Teaching a group of teenagers in rural Morocco how to become entrepreneurs can be a daunting task – especially if you have no experience with entrepreneurship. But that didn’t stop Martha Fedorowicz from successfully piloting a partnership between INJAZ, a nonprofit working to help students become business leaders in their communities, and Peace Corps.

As Martha sat in her site placement interview that would determine what community she would live in, she was asked what she wanted to do during her service. She told them that she wanted to do vocational training for youth. When she expressed interest in a new Peace Corps partnership with INJAZ she quickly found herself as the Volunteer piloting the program. INJAZ currently runs several programs in Morocco designed to help students gain a better understanding of everything from financial literacy to leadership and career goals.

When Martha got to her community, she ran an assessment to see what programs would work well there. Within a few months, INJAZ had launched their first program with Peace Corps, an Entrepreneurship Masterclass in Martha’s youth center. Continue reading

International Education Week: PC skills and experience make the grade for teachers

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Skills and experience: When you have the right mix you can do any job – or get the job you want. This International Education Week, we asked RPCVs who are now teachers or who have worked in education what types of experiences they had as Volunteers, both in and out of the classroom, that not only get them through their days but make their days successful.

Question: Describe the teaching experience you gained during Peace Corps service.

Jessica: In the Peace Corps I had two partner teachers at the high school level [who] took me in and really became family to me. I was able to learn from them the culture of the school, and how to navigate education in the Philippines. In exchange I was able to provide them with a different viewpoint to education, and new teaching strategies to use in the classroom.

Curtis: I supported 30 primary school teachers from three schools through the roll-out of a new curriculum with group and one-on-one training in team-teaching support, grant writing, classroom management, lesson planning, and community partnership development. Continue reading

Training on disease prevention — and culture — to fight Ebola in Guinea

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When the Peace Corps made the difficult decision to evacuate Volunteers and suspend our program in Guinea, people understood. Schools were beginning to close. The authorities were placing limits on travel. People understood—but no one wanted to see “their” Volunteer go. They told us, “Please, please, when this is all over, bring them back. We need them. And we will welcome them when they return.”

I have been with Peace Corps Guinea since 1998, first as a language trainer, then as a safety and security coordinator, and now as Deputy Director of Programming and Training. In this capacity, I provide support to all training and programming for Peace Corps Volunteers in Guinea. I help facilitate the training of trainers, develop training materials, conduct evaluations, and organize town halls that bring Volunteers, stakeholders, and trainers together for open discussions. What I’ve learned is that this young generation of Volunteers always welcomes feedback about how they are doing. And they are always eager to share their ideas and bring solutions to the table.

Now, even with Volunteers back home in the States — and emailing us nearly every day about how their Guinean friends and families are doing, how things are going at post, and how they can help — Peace Corps staff have been very busy. There is so much to do. Continue reading

USDA and Peace Corps team up in Screwworm eradication efforts in Panama

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This story is also posted on the USDA Blog

Over the past month, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), as part of the U.S. Panama Commission for Eradication of Screwworm, has started to partner with Peace Corps Panama Volunteers to enhance their field operations surveillance program, and outreach and awareness efforts for New World screwworm. These operations are being carried out among the rural population of Panama, which is a critical component for maintaining the screwworm-free barrier.

The New World screwworm are parasites to warm-blooded animals, including humans. Female screwworm are attracted to and lay their eggs in exposed flesh wounds. After eggs hatch, larvae burrow and feed on flesh, causing severe tissue damage and may even be lethal to the host. Screwworm was eradicated from the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Curacao and Central America using the Sterile Insect Technic: Sterile male flies are released in massive numbers to mate with females in field populations. The mated female flies then lay non-viable eggs, leading to a decrease and subsequent eradication of the screwworm field fly population. Continue reading

RPCV Veterans share their take on service

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To recognize Veterans Day this year we spoke with a few members of a small, but mighty part of our community: RPCV veterans. Here, Ralph Caprilgione, Laura Curvey, and Lauren Dorosz share their insights on life and lessons learned as an RPCV veteran.

Question: How are Peace Corps service and military service similar? Continue reading

More than just a job — more than just Ebola

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Ask newscasters and political pundits what they think about the West African country of Guinea, and many will present a very different place than the one that I had the pleasure of living in for the past year. Chances are they would sum up Guinea – as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone – in one word: Ebola. While I do not want to minimize the impact of this terrible disease on the people in the affected regions, I believe it’s important to tell another side of the story, my story, as a PCV.

If I were asked to describe Guinea, I would tell you about the musicality of the language and the heart-throbbing beat of the djembe; about the strength of the women carrying gallons of water with babies strapped to their backs and the vibrant richness of color in their wax fabric. I would tell about the salty grittiness of freshly pounded peanut sauce and the syrupy sweetness of bissap.

As PCVs, we play a bigger role in our communities than just our assignments: as the teacher, farmer or healthcare Volunteer. We are both observers and active members of our communities. Our sites are not just “places of work.” We become adopted sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and sometimes even husbands and wives. We are inextricably linked to these places by more than just a career opportunity; we reach out, our host community reaches back, and we create a human connection.

As PCVs, we are challenged and blessed by our unique opportunity in these societies to delve a little deeper. There are definitely days when we miss Internet access and air conditioning, but then we leave our huts, houses or apartments and we find a world where none of that is really necessary. The people we’ve met, the friendships we’ve formed, and the memories we’ve made will stay with us long after the news cycle is done.

But don’t just take it from me. Returned Volunteers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have chimed in to tell you how they each see their country of service: Continue reading

Fighting Ebola, from across the Atlantic

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Evacuation from your country of service is hard on a Peace Corps Volunteer. You are uprooted from your community, your host family, your work, your friends. You aren’t able to finish your projects, you don’t get to say goodbye to everyone. When the Peace Corps announced it was evacuating Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in July because of Ebola, many Volunteers were heartbroken over leaving the lives they’d built. They’d pledged to spend two years helping people in another country, and instead they were being sent home just when the countries needed them most. Volunteers were heartbroken—and motivated.

Sara Laskowski, a now-returned PCV who served in Guinea (above, with a counterpart in her host community), helped found the NPCA Ebola Relief Fund, working with the National Peace Corps Association to fund small projects for needs not being met by international NGOs.

“We have been taking grant applications from community based-NGOs,” she said. “We’ve been reaching out to friends still in the country, former colleagues, telling them about what we are doing,” and relying on her fellow RPCVs’ unique knowledge of and connections to local communities to get the word out. Continue reading

17 tips to energize your Volunteer experience

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There are as many different ways to be a Peace Corps Volunteer as there are Peace Corps Volunteers. As you might have heard, the Peace Corps is, “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Well, 27 months is a long time to be miserable. So one year after I arrived in Cameroon, here are 17 insights that keep me motivated: Continue reading