A sabbatical saved my career and probably my life

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In 2011 at age 57, I took a sabbatical from my engineering career to re-join the Peace Corps, serving three years in Mali and Cameroon. I say “re-join” because I first served as a Peace Corps Volunteer straight out of college; in the Central Highlands of Kenya, I both built village-scale water projects and met my wife of 35 years, a fellow Volunteer teaching high school math.

Why did I take a sabbatical at the “peak” of my career? Maybe it was because my wife and I had just become empty nesters. Maybe we reminisced about our youthful romance in that far-off exotic land. We often talked of serving again. What were we waiting for?

Now, having returned from my latest adventure and resumed my interrupted career, I offer these personal observations to others that could, would and should take a mid-career sabbatical.

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Corps to Career: How Peace Corps prepared me for a career in federal service

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As a project manager at the General Services Administration (GSA), maybe my job doesn’t have the sex appeal of an FBI agent or a Foreign Service Officer, but I do have the opportunity to take care of myriad of things for other federal agencies so their employees can focus on their respective missions. I consider myself a generalist for the federal government, and I love it.

I first figured out that I was comfortable in the role of generalist when I joined the Peace Corps in 1987 to be a health worker in Guatemala. I didn’t know any Spanish, and although I had a degree in health education and had taught for four years, I didn’t know anything about doing health work in a developing country.

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DIY Peace Corps life hacks you need to see

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Limited resources and supplies in a Volunteer’s country of service means a PCV can’t just run to the corner store to pick up a needed object or item. For Peace Corps Volunteers in Jamaica, the local spirit of resourcefulness, combined with PCV craftiness, leads to some impressively ingenious, incredibly crafty inventions.

After compiling a list of makeshift creations from Jamaica PCVs, we were pretty impressed with the results.

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How to get your students into Peace Corps

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It’s no secret that being selected for Peace Corps service is increasingly difficult. Application numbers are soaring. Candidates are bringing more experience and qualifications to the table. The bar for who gets in is being set higher and higher.

For colleges and universities, there’s a solution: a partnership program to help graduates stand out in the crowded applicant pool.

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Corps to Career: How this RPCV found her way back to her host country

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Heather Newell is a women’s empowerment enthusiast and an RPCV from Rwanda (2011-2013). After working to further the education of young Rwandan women, Heather went on to complete an education finance consultancy internship in Kigali and is moving back to the United States to pursue writing, finding the most delicious burrito and cup of coffee (not together), and to see where the next adventure life has in store for her.
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From PCV to PCRV: tourism in the Armenian Caucasus

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In international development circles, tourism is hot. More than one billion people traveled internationally in 2013, accounting for nine percent of global GDP and one in every 11 jobs worldwide. For development professionals in developing countries where there are marketable tourism assets, these numbers should make you smile.

As a Community and Youth Development volunteer in Armenia, I was assigned to an established NGO in the south of the country, where projects include rural development, youth summer camps, rural community centers and peace-building activities for young people from Armenia and Georgia. My role was to help the NGO be more effective both internally and externally. What I found was a very well-run NGO in a community desperately in need of jobs… and no activity focusing on tourism.

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20 years later, Peace Corps is back (with big goals!) in Comoros

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Building an environmental program, raising conservation awareness and establishing an EFL program are just a few of the projects facing Peace Corps when it re-enters Comoros in early 2015, 20 years after it left the small island nation.

“You will be setting up the first national parks in the country, getting everything up and running, and making it sustainable,” said Douglas Coutts, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Comoros. “You will also help us develop a sense of awareness and appreciation among the youth about preserving the environment, and you will help us build capacity at the university.”

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