Bringing PC Moldova home

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I tend to fall in love with places. Pretty much any place I visit, I can find something charming and imagine a life in that community. This makes sense on a tropical island or in a resort town. But would it hold in Europe’s poorest country? It turned out that my Peace Corps home was no exception to the falling in love rule. When I arrived in the Republic of Moldova in the summer of 2011, I immediately took a liking to the backyard chickens, cherry trees, homemade wines and slower lifestyle, and I also really loved my host sister. We bonded quickly and I kept dreaming of ways I could someday get her to visit – or even to stay – in the U.S. I kept up this tendency with many of the people I met during the following two years, imagining how we could keep our lives connected even after my “official” time with them was over.

Toward the end of my service I was introduced to the idea of a project in entrepreneurship education for youth, run by the University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, by a family friend and mentor. He was a wildly successful entrepreneur and was passionate about sharing the possibilities of entrepreneurship. Known as the Diamond Challenge, the project is an original curriculum in entrepreneurship that teaches youth how to build a business like a scientist, and it culminates in a start-up competition. Continue reading

National Day of Service: service in our own backyard

Day of Service with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet

To commemorate today’s National Day of Service and in remembrance of the September 11 attacks, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet joined RPCVs and former AmeriCorps volunteers for an afternoon of volunteer service.

Their volunteer work wasn’t at your typical food bank: Food & Friends in NE Washington, D.C., fosters a community that cares for men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries, and they conduct nutrition counseling.

Director Hessler-Radelet donned a hairnet and spent the afternoon hours with MCC CEO Dana Hyde, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst packing meals and groceries that are to be delivered to the Food & Friends community. The Peace Corps Director joined thousands of other Americans who dedicated their day to service events to pay tribute to and honor the victims and heroes of the events on September 11, 2001.

International Literacy Day: What’s in your book-locker?

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Wait, what’s a book-locker?

For a few years in the early 1960s, Volunteers would receive “book-lockers” from Peace Corps: a large cardboard box full of books. Book-lockers contained everything from classical and contemporary fiction to an abundance of nonfiction titles in politics, history, technical instruction, psychology, health and geography. Some book-locker books were tailored to the country (Brazil, Ethiopia) or continent (Africa, Asia) in which a Volunteer served. Some book-lockers also had illustrated materials and abridged titles to be used as teaching materials for children and adults learning English. These book-lockers were standard supplies for the early Volunteers and served as sources of leisure, company and instruction. Many book-lockers became the beginnings of classroom or community libraries.

RPCV Mimi Calhoun worked as an English and math teacher at a local school in Nepal from 1966 to 1967, where she taught English in every class from third through 10th grade. Neither Peace Corps nor the school provided teaching materials, so Volunteers were responsible for making instructional materials and lesson plans.

So when the book-locker arrived with Calhoun’s luggage, it was A BIG DEAL. Continue reading

Two RPCVs making a difference in Baltimore – and earning a graduate degree

Can Peace Corps help pay for my master’s degree? You bet!

Last week Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet visited with two RPCVs taking advantage of the Coverdell Fellows Program to see how they’re building a stronger economy by giving back to their local community. Brooks Binau (RPCV Zambia, 2011-2013) and Greg Couturier (RPCV Peru, 2009-2011) are earning their master’s degrees while completing service projects at Lakeland Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore.

Each day Brooks and Greg utilize the skills they gained during their Peace Corps service to engage Lakeland students, parents and staff in hands-on activities to strengthen the quality of education and community involvement at a school where 94% of students come from low-income families. Continue reading

Heading to Nepal — in 1962

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At just 18 years old, Jane Gore packed her bags, said goodbye to her friends, family and classmates at the University of Illinois, and headed to Washington, D.C., to begin training as part of the first group of Nepal Peace Corps Volunteers. More than 50 years later, as she prepares to retire and leave her position as Chief of Evaluation in Peace Corps’ Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support, we celebrate her contributions to the agency and to PCVs by sharing her story, which begins in the summer of 1962, just one year after President John F. Kennedy urged the nation’s youth to become peace ambassadors for the United States.

A University of Illinois undergraduate student at the time, Jane was to receive her training at George Washington University — an experience marked by lengthy lectures on American foreign policy, lots of language training, health assessments and frequent check-ins by Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps Director. “Every few days, Shriver would stop in and ask us: ‘How’s training going? What have you learned? What should we be doing?’” Jane says. “We called these ‘Shriver chats.’”

To prepare Jane’s group for Nepal’s mountainous terrain, Volunteers were flown to Colorado for four weeks of training in the Rockies—including rappelling, rock climbing, and map reading (despite Nepal likely not actually having any maps) — led by the Outward Bound school. Continue reading

7 reasons to apply to the Peace Corps campus program you’ve never heard of

It’s a little known fact that you can get involved with the Peace Corps well before you serve — or even apply. Peace Corps Campus Ambassadors work as networking experts on their college campus, helping Peace Corps recruiters get to know the community and relevant groups. Ambassadors share their enthusiasm for making a difference abroad, international development and the life-changing experience Peace Corps has to offer with fellow students who may not know anything about Peace Corps. Why should you apply to Peace Corps Ambassador on your college campus? Here are seven reasons:

Continue reading

10 things you need to know about student loans and Peace Corps

Student Loans

1. Not all loans are created equal.                                                                                   Public vs. private, subsidized vs. unsubsidized, Stafford vs. Perkins, federal vs. private. It’s complicated but you need to know exactly what types of loans you have and have a plan for each. Talk to your lender and visit the Department of Education federal student aid website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website on student debt repayment to learn about types of loans and types of repayment plans. Then visit the Peace Corps page on student loans to see how your service will affect each loan. If you have a private loan, you need to talk to your lender to see if any loan relief options are available. If they do offer loan relief, get the options in writing.

2. As a PCV, some federal loans could be deferred.
Federal Direct, Federal Consolidation and Stafford loans qualify for a deferment for up to three years during service. Federal Perkins loans qualify for deferment during service and for six months immediately after your service ends. For more details, visit the Peace Corps page on student loans. If you have a private loan, contact your lender to see if they provide loan relief during Peace Corps service. Continue reading

14 tips to make sure your Peace Corps blog is amazing

Nicaragua 2013

PCVs around the globe are using blogs to chronicle their experience and share it with family, friends and, increasingly, growing groups of other followers and fans. Never again will PCVs have such captive audiences as during service, so blogging is an opportunity for Volunteers to take others on a journey as the understanding of his or her country evolves and expands.

It’s also a third of any PCV’s job to expand Americans’ understanding of your host country. When first goal work in country gets difficult or leaves PCVs less-than-satisfied, Third Goal blogging is a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Peace Corps’ annual Blog It Home competition recognizes the best Peace Corps bloggers, and you can now vote for your favorite blogger on Facebook. Take a look at last year’s Blog It Home winners’ list of 14 tips for any PCV looking to become a better writer and raise their blog’s profile: Continue reading

Who was Franklin H. Williams?

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For those even slightly familiar with Peace Corps history, you’ve almost definitely heard about Sargent Shriver, the first agency Director and the person credited right after President Kennedy with the agency’s founding.

Lesser known but equally due founding credit is Franklin H. Williams (above left, with Shriver), an African American civil rights lawyer, diplomat and foundation president who worked to improve interracial relations in the U.S. He joined Director Shriver as his Special Assistant in 1961 and later became the agency’s Africa Regional Director. Continue reading

The road to building a better, stronger Peace Corps

Peace Corps Volunteers serve worldwide, in countries with different cultures, languages, food and resources. As the New York Times points out, operating in these varying environments presents unique challenges that the Peace Corps faces each and every day.

The majority of Peace Corps Volunteers have a safe and productive volunteer experience that they cherish for the rest of their lives. While the Peace Corps has not been immune to tragedy over the years, the number of Volunteers who have died during service throughout the agency’s more than 50-year history is incredibly small – less than two-tenths of one percent. Continue reading