A Zambian diet and mounds of mangoes

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While eating locally grown food in the United States is a trendy idea, it’s strictly of necessity in Zambia. Typically, there are no grocery stores with aisles of food. Instead, people eat what they grow themselves or what can be bought or bartered for from neighbors.

As part of a personal challenge I took it upon myself to go on a strictly village diet for the month of November. I decided that I would only eat foods found in the local community – meaning no pricey cookies and treats that the local shops sometimes carry. The diet also excluded food bought in one of the provincial capital’s markets and, certainly, any food — mainly candy — that had been sent to me from friends and family in the U.S. I’d spend the month eating as they do and longingly staring at the popcorn on my counter every single night.

Unfortunately, I didn’t consider what the month of November is like. Continue reading

What are you looking forward to, future PCVs?

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We caught up with some future PCVs in Washington, D.C., last week as they gathered to celebrate their PC invitation and impending departure for communities across the globe. Jeff and Marguerite Wilson shared their take on their upcoming PC service:

“Today was my last day of work after 41 years,” Marguerite told PC photographer, Alex.

“I don’t use the word ‘retire,” Jeff chimed in, “because we’re going to be working for the next two years. Marguerite keeps saying we’re retiring but I have to keep reminding her that we’re not really!”

 

Channeling Peace Corps service, RPCV tackles Baltimore’s food deserts

KenistonBaltimore1 In her service in San Sebastián, Guatemala, Charlotte Keniston saw impoverished families grapple with poor access to food. But it wasn’t until she returned from service in 2010 that she realized just how relevant food plights were to her own community.

When Keniston arrived in Baltimore as a member of the Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Program at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, she began a visual survey of food in the area for her master’s in fine art.

She found a dearth of food resources but an abundance of community members who were similarly concerned about food access in their neighborhood. Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood is considered a food desert: an industrialized area with minimal access to healthy, fresh food. Continue reading

Get involved in Stomping Out Malaria during World Malaria Month

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April 25 marks World Malaria Day, an opportunity for people around the globe to raise awareness and re-energize their commitment to ending malaria in our lifetime. But because there are so many stories to tell and information to be shared,Peace Corps and Stomping Out Malaria in Africa are focusing on malaria for the entire month of April.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2013 World Malaria Report, increased malaria interventions have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives between 2000 and2012. Around 90%, or 3 million, of these lives saved belong to children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although we’re on our way to a malaria-free future, it’s going to take a concerted global effort to get there. You can be part of it. Throughout the month of April, Peace Corps and Stomping Out Malaria will be highlighting a number of exciting PCV projects and blogs. After the jump is a list of can’t-miss opportunities to get involved. Continue reading

And the winner is …

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Congratulations to David Malana, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, whose “Kyrgyzstan is Me” video was selected as the winner in the 2014 Peace Corps Week Video Challenge. Nearly 80 current and returned Volunteers shared their unique perspectives through videos that depict “Cultural Windows: What I Wish Americans Knew about My Peace Corps Country.” David’s video was selected based on its ability to increase cross-cultural understanding, the cultural richness of the video and the quality of the video production. Check out David’s Tumblr post that he created to go along with the video to, as David puts it, “explain and show further how and why the people in my video are so special to me.”

We’ll be sharing more of the contest’s top videos on Passport later in the month.

Two years in Jamaica: words of wisdom for new PCVs

Chang_NewPCVs We’ve started to hear from the incoming group of Volunteers who are starting their training for Jamaica in this month. It’s an exciting time for them.

When we were in their shoes, we were soaking up all the information we could find about Peace Corps in Jamaica. Being less than five months away from our departure, there are inevitably a good number of lessons we’ve learned on our journey.

Many of these thoughts were shared with us when we first arrived in Jamaica, and we hope they can help the next generation of PCVs. Here are some words of wisdom from past PCVs and our own advice for new Volunteers: Continue reading

“This project made me feel as if I’d done something tangible with my time”

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Sometimes you go looking for an opportunity to help people, and sometimes it falls in your lap. The latter happened to me as a PCV. The first year of my service I lived in a tiny rural village in northern Ethiopia, as beautiful as any place I’ve seen. Despite this beauty, and the friendly people there, the area is undeveloped, and 90% of the people working in subsistence agriculture. Most people are without electricity, nobody has running water, and people live hard lives because of the lack of education, health care and infrastructure.

I occasionally made a 40-minute walk to a neighboring village where I visited some classes and taught the teachers basic English. One day the school director, Mr. Mesfin, asked if I could help bring a water supply to the school. I was often being asked for things I couldn’t provide, but I said I’d see if we could find some grant money.

At about the same time Mr. Mesfin asked me for help, I received an email from Joyce Mueller from Water to Thrive, a Texas-based NGO that builds water wells in Ethiopia. Joyce and her husband, Dick, are friends of family friends. They had found my contact information and wanted to meet me on their trip to Ethiopia. Together we hatched an idea to do the water project for the neighboring village and their school: A 400-meter pipeline extension would be built to bring water from the existing source to the school with six faucets. Continue reading

World Water Day 2014: Rain water collection makes a big difference in Mexico

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For my entire career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency I have focused on storm water management needs, ostensibly for municipalities and local communities: how to harvest rainwater and how to use technology protect water resources. But instead of working on this smaller scale, I found myself working primarily on a national scale.

Finally, I decided it was time for a big change that focused on small communities.

As I pursued opportunities at EPA to work more directly with local communities, I found I loved that type of work whenever I got a chance to do it. I learned of the Peace Corps Response program and its projects on water resources management and engineering a couple summers ago. The EPA and Peace Corps had an agreement that supported EPA employees working as Peace Corps Response Volunteers so I applied for a rainwater harvesting engineering position in Puebla Mexico. It was exactly what I was looking for and the length of the project was similar to temporary reassignments at EPA. Plus, I could bring my Response Volunteer ground implementation experiences back to EPA. Continue reading