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.
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.
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.
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.”
Peace Corps 2014, by the numbers:
4: Generations of Peace Corps Volunteers in new Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet’s family
90: University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni serving as PCVs, more than any other university
200: Miles biked across Togo by PCVs to train community health workers
500: Signs compiled by PCVs in first-ever digital video glossary of Kenyan Sign Language
17,336: Applications received by the Peace Corps in 2014 for two-year service positions
Here’s a brief look back at times we were inspired, delighted and awed by Peace Corps Volunteers and staff in 2014:
With the holiday season now upon us, we have so much to be grateful for. Even if we are separated from friends and family by oceans or continents, we are holding them close in our hearts. We know that family and friends are so important in helping loved ones have a successful Peace Corps experience.
For me personally, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa, my family and friends were a huge part of my service. They wanted to know everything I was doing and they were a major support to me when I was so far from home. Today, there are so many more ways to connect with each other than when I was a Volunteer. Many of you are already taking advantage of these great tools and interacting across social media. The Peace Corps wants to build on that ingenuity.
I am excited to announce the launch of a new Peace Corps Family and Friends Facebook group. Continue reading
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
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
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
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