International Education Week: Teachers are always teaching

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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

International Education Week: What’s your “ah ha” teaching moment?

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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

International Education Week: PC skills and experience make the grade for teachers

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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

Training on disease prevention — and culture — to fight Ebola in Guinea

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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

RPCV Veterans share their take on service

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To recognize Veterans Day this year we spoke with a few members of a small, but mighty part of our community: RPCV veterans. Here, Ralph Caprilgione, Laura Curvey, and Lauren Dorosz share their insights on life and lessons learned as an RPCV veteran.

Question: How are Peace Corps service and military service similar? Continue reading

More than just a job — more than just Ebola

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Ask newscasters and political pundits what they think about the West African country of Guinea, and many will present a very different place than the one that I had the pleasure of living in for the past year. Chances are they would sum up Guinea – as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone – in one word: Ebola. While I do not want to minimize the impact of this terrible disease on the people in the affected regions, I believe it’s important to tell another side of the story, my story, as a PCV.

If I were asked to describe Guinea, I would tell you about the musicality of the language and the heart-throbbing beat of the djembe; about the strength of the women carrying gallons of water with babies strapped to their backs and the vibrant richness of color in their wax fabric. I would tell about the salty grittiness of freshly pounded peanut sauce and the syrupy sweetness of bissap.

As PCVs, we play a bigger role in our communities than just our assignments: as the teacher, farmer or healthcare Volunteer. We are both observers and active members of our communities. Our sites are not just “places of work.” We become adopted sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and sometimes even husbands and wives. We are inextricably linked to these places by more than just a career opportunity; we reach out, our host community reaches back, and we create a human connection.

As PCVs, we are challenged and blessed by our unique opportunity in these societies to delve a little deeper. There are definitely days when we miss Internet access and air conditioning, but then we leave our huts, houses or apartments and we find a world where none of that is really necessary. The people we’ve met, the friendships we’ve formed, and the memories we’ve made will stay with us long after the news cycle is done.

But don’t just take it from me. Returned Volunteers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have chimed in to tell you how they each see their country of service: Continue reading

17 tips to energize your Volunteer experience

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There are as many different ways to be a Peace Corps Volunteer as there are Peace Corps Volunteers. As you might have heard, the Peace Corps is, “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Well, 27 months is a long time to be miserable. So one year after I arrived in Cameroon, here are 17 insights that keep me motivated: Continue reading

Keeping Peace Corps Volunteers healthy, one text at a time

This story is also posted on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog.

Today, refilling your medicine cabinet with bandages and over the counter medicine from your local drugstore may seem like a trivial task, but for Peace Corps volunteers working in remote villages around the world, this task can be much more challenging. As we take steps to forge a 21st century Peace Corps, such as dramatically reducing the time it takes to complete a Volunteer application from eight hours to less than one hour, we are also looking into ways to tap the ingenuity of volunteer developers to support our Peace Corps Volunteers abroad.

One recent example of this was the development of Medlink, an SMS-based platform, allowing volunteers to text in requests for their medical kit refills to get supplies in a timely manner. An internal study showed that the overseas medical staff members spent up to eight hours a week responding to requests from Volunteers to resupply their medical kits that were being transmitted to medical units via emails, phone calls, and text messages. Continue reading

The world needs our ideas to fight Ebola: taking platform flip-flops to a new level

As I’ve continued to watch the Ebola virus take hold in Guinea, my former home, I frequently think about my role in this epidemic — how might I possibly contribute? I don’t have medical expertise, I’m no technology-guru and I’m an engineer only in my mind. Yes, I lived in Guinea for two-and-a-half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but what impact could I really have now?

The OpenIdeo Challenge has given me that opportunity, and it has given all of us an opportunity to use our ingenuity and ideas to help the people of West Africa.

I want to share my story with you and how I came to be part of this exciting effort.
Back in March, while walking through the Guinean market and taking census numbers for our waste management project, I noticed a man frying meat on a stick and wearing, on one foot, a very stylish 1990’s platform flip-flop — I swear it was from Old Navy. Feeling slightly puzzled but mostly intrigued (why just one?), I silently studied the man’s habits as he went about his activity — take the raw meat, dip it in the seasoned-mixture, fork it onto the stick, repeat. It wasn’t until he shifted positions to plop the meat-stick onto coals that I realized — this man had a leg-length discrepancy. He had sourced this micro-solution — a used platform flip-flop — from a second-hand market-shop to correct and enhance his mobility. How genius! How resourceful. How brilliant. Continue reading

What Peace Corps can do to fight Ebola

Like so many in the Peace Corps family and around the world, I’m heartbroken by the stories of suffering caused by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. As a public health professional who has spent a lot of time in that region of the world, I’ve laid awake at night, thinking of how the Peace Corps can help to combat this deadly disease, given our unique model and approach.

The decision to temporarily suspend our Peace Corps Volunteer programs in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and bring Volunteers home to the U.S. was a difficult one. Our commitment to Volunteer health and safety is unwavering, and always our first priority. At the same time, Peace Corps Volunteers and staff are passionately committed to their host countries and communities, and want to do whatever they can to help in this time of true need.

Peace Corps ingenuity and the power of modern technology have allowed us to find the best of both worlds, and truly make a difference in the fight against Ebola even with all Volunteers safely at home. Continue reading