No one knows better than Peace Corps Volunteers that long-held norms and beliefs about gender can constrain female students, women’s cooperative members or female farmers – not to mention wives and mothers – from participating fully in their country’s development. In spite of the fact that women and girls are an important part of development, challenges to realizing gender equality remain 39 years after the United Nations proclaimed International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, 1975, and which we celebrate this Saturday. Every day Volunteers are inspired by their female community members as they take small steps to get their fair share of education, information and decision-making.
This year’s IWD theme, “Inspiring Change,” connects with many current and returned Volunteers. Today, IWD is recognized as a national holiday in countries from Afghanistan to Zambia, and in the U.S. we remember the struggles of women across the centuries: women working long hours for low wages in crowded factories, women who had little power, little training or education, women who faced constant mistreatment and sexual harassment. These women marched in the streets to demand better conditions, higher salaries and shorter work days, the right to vote and hold public office, to be educated and end discrimination.
Women and girls around the world still seek fairness in a world that remains unequal, and Peace Corps Volunteers’ lives are transformed by working with host country women on the issues that matter most in their lives. Continue reading
I live in a mud hut in sub-Saharan Africa with no electricity or running water. So how do I blog from my site? With a smartphone, solar panels and thumbs destined for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, that’s how.
The first and biggest obstacle to blogging in Zambia is finding electricity. The vast majority of Peace Corps Zambia volunteers live in rural areas with little or no power infrastructure and I’m no exception, so to circumvent this problem I have a Joos Orange portable solar panel and two Greenlight Planet Sunking Pro solar lamps. The solar panels for the lamps are tied to the top of my hut and the cords are threaded through the thatched grass roof, powering the lights, which serve double duty as phone chargers. A full day of sunlight yields enough electricity to charge my phone, headlamp and e-book reader while also supplying me with light throughout the evening. Continue reading
This story is also posted on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation blog.
During my years working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I was lucky enough to witness firsthand the extraordinary work Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) does to help men, women, and children who are living with or affected by HIV. EGPAF provides invaluable support to both facility and community-based programs working to expand access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment services for mothers around the world. Many of their community-based programs rely on strong networks of mothers living with HIV, connecting with other HIV-positive mothers, and helping them to understand and live with HIV. It is a strong statement on the power of the community and what we can achieve when we connect with others.
Now that I am working at the Peace Corps, I see that often in partnership with organizations such as EGPAF, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) play a special role within the U.S. government working with local communities to accomplish international development work in the hardest-to-reach areas of the globe. Our Volunteers and staff are key partners in international global health initiatives including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), working through grassroots efforts to contribute to coordinated global campaigns. Continue reading
Back in April I received an email requesting creative, humanitarian ideas to improve the everyday lives of Kenyans through technology. Well the Kenyans I hang with on a day-to-day basis are farmers. Not John Deer-ridin’, irrigation-pipe-slingin’ farmers, but plough-pushin’, hand-pickin’ folk. I watch these guys and gals work all year long on their seasonal cash crops of mangoes and oranges, which they then turn around and sell at dirt-cheap prices.
During the harvest season farmers typically get less than 5 cents a mango, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the fair-market value of the crops they work so hard to cultivate. The amount they get for the less exportable orange may be even less. Figuring out how farmers could get the crops’ fair-market value is where “my” idea comes in…
Back in December another PCV told me about a cell phone service that would respond to texted queries about fair market produce prices. Pumped, I texted off several queries of my own but never received a reply. Disappointed, I forgot about the text service until I got the aforementioned email. I asked other PCVs and Kenyans, and not one of them had had any luck with the existing fair-price app. Continue reading
This story is cross-posted on All Africa.
Since July, I have been a Peace Corps Volunteer with the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) program, working with Seed Global Health and a busy district hospital in northwestern Tanzania. My husband, David and I moved into a cozy home recently and embraced our new adventure together. It’s been quite an eye-opening experience.
In the months that I’ve been here, I’ve seen medical complications I had only read about materialize in front of me. I’ve gained some valuable life lessons from this corner of east Africa and realize this is only the beginning. Continue reading
Jen likes to say that I rode into town on a white stallion. That white stallion was, of course, a Toyota Land Cruiser that dropped me off in Tecpan, Guatemala, in February 2006. Jen had been in-country for a month already with Peace Corps Response (called Crisis Corps back then), and I was just starting my PCR service.
We were both stationed in Tecpan and assigned to a local NGO that was assisting with recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Stan. Our assignments in Guatemala were for only six months, and neither of us thought in a million years we would meet our future spouse. We joined PCR because we had previously had great work experiences in Peace Corps. As is the case with most Peace Corps service, the host country and PCR gave us so much more than we gave — and they gave us each other. Continue reading
Ever wonder what your house might be like as a PCV? Visit with David Berger at his home in Zambia.
My experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer was the most important transformational moment in my life, particularly because it provided me with a foundation for my career in public health.
I was raised during the 1950’s in the city of Bethlehem, located in the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. My parents valued education, humanitarianism and international understanding. Although I never traveled out of the U.S., I had a passion for understanding and helping people in other parts of the world. During college I applied for Peace Corps service and was accepted in 1965. During my senior year I participated in a political science field trip to Washington, D.C., where we met Bobby Kennedy, then Attorney General (see photo above, I’m far right). I mentioned to Attorney General Kennedy that I had been accepted as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and he said it would be “the best job I could everfirst want.” Continue reading
When Dan and I got engaged, I was still in college. Most of our friends viewed our engagement as somewhat of an oddity. They humored us — helping us prepare and make favors and select songs for the reception — but I don’t think that they ever really understood us. Not entirely. Nowadays, it’s kind of weird to get married young.
Even now, when Dan and I meet someone new, there is always an awkward pause in the conversation as the other person tactfully tries to understand our decision. But as acquaintances blossom into friendships, people come to accept the fact that we are married. The question fades into the background. Dan and I become Lisa-and-Dan, the married couple. And I’m so glad that we are – especially as PCV’s. Continue reading
Josh asks why PC service lasts so long — and comes to some important conclusions.