What are you looking forward to, future PCVs?

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We caught up with some future PCVs in Washington, D.C., last week as they gathered to celebrate their PC invitation and impending departure for communities across the globe. Jeff and Marguerite Wilson shared their take on their upcoming PC service:

“Today was my last day of work after 41 years,” Marguerite told PC photographer, Alex.

“I don’t use the word ‘retire,” Jeff chimed in, “because we’re going to be working for the next two years. Marguerite keeps saying we’re retiring but I have to keep reminding her that we’re not really!”

 

Get involved in Stomping Out Malaria during World Malaria Month

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April 25 marks World Malaria Day, an opportunity for people around the globe to raise awareness and re-energize their commitment to ending malaria in our lifetime. But because there are so many stories to tell and information to be shared,Peace Corps and Stomping Out Malaria in Africa are focusing on malaria for the entire month of April.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2013 World Malaria Report, increased malaria interventions have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives between 2000 and2012. Around 90%, or 3 million, of these lives saved belong to children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although we’re on our way to a malaria-free future, it’s going to take a concerted global effort to get there. You can be part of it. Throughout the month of April, Peace Corps and Stomping Out Malaria will be highlighting a number of exciting PCV projects and blogs. After the jump is a list of can’t-miss opportunities to get involved. Continue reading

“This project made me feel as if I’d done something tangible with my time”

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Sometimes you go looking for an opportunity to help people, and sometimes it falls in your lap. The latter happened to me as a PCV. The first year of my service I lived in a tiny rural village in northern Ethiopia, as beautiful as any place I’ve seen. Despite this beauty, and the friendly people there, the area is undeveloped, and 90% of the people working in subsistence agriculture. Most people are without electricity, nobody has running water, and people live hard lives because of the lack of education, health care and infrastructure.

I occasionally made a 40-minute walk to a neighboring village where I visited some classes and taught the teachers basic English. One day the school director, Mr. Mesfin, asked if I could help bring a water supply to the school. I was often being asked for things I couldn’t provide, but I said I’d see if we could find some grant money.

At about the same time Mr. Mesfin asked me for help, I received an email from Joyce Mueller from Water to Thrive, a Texas-based NGO that builds water wells in Ethiopia. Joyce and her husband, Dick, are friends of family friends. They had found my contact information and wanted to meet me on their trip to Ethiopia. Together we hatched an idea to do the water project for the neighboring village and their school: A 400-meter pipeline extension would be built to bring water from the existing source to the school with six faucets. Continue reading

World Water Day 2014: Rain water collection makes a big difference in Mexico

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For my entire career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency I have focused on storm water management needs, ostensibly for municipalities and local communities: how to harvest rainwater and how to use technology protect water resources. But instead of working on this smaller scale, I found myself working primarily on a national scale.

Finally, I decided it was time for a big change that focused on small communities.

As I pursued opportunities at EPA to work more directly with local communities, I found I loved that type of work whenever I got a chance to do it. I learned of the Peace Corps Response program and its projects on water resources management and engineering a couple summers ago. The EPA and Peace Corps had an agreement that supported EPA employees working as Peace Corps Response Volunteers so I applied for a rainwater harvesting engineering position in Puebla Mexico. It was exactly what I was looking for and the length of the project was similar to temporary reassignments at EPA. Plus, I could bring my Response Volunteer ground implementation experiences back to EPA. Continue reading

Acting Director puts her stamp on Togolese entrepreneurship

Who enters Peace Corps thinking they’ll emerge a leader in entrepreneurship? You can prepare for PC service all you want, but you never really know exactly what and whom you’ll be involved with until you hit the ground and get started. As a PCV in Togo, Megan Rhodes met Chantal Donvide, a seamstress who had been making traditional Togolese outfits for PCVs for years. As a result of their work together, Chantal is now an international entrepreneur.

This week Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet had a chance to visit Chantal’s Aklala Batik Boutique in southwestern Togo, where she got to participate in part of the batik fabric-making process. At Aklala Batik Boutique, Chantal sells sandals, shirts and bags made from traditional cloth, called aklala in Ewe, the language spoken across southern Togo.

As a seamstress in southwestern Togo, Chantal served as the Secretary of Kloto Tailors’ Training Center, where she provided free trainings to orphans and disadvantaged young women to prepare them to become economically independent. Continue reading

5 ways PCVs are feeding the future

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This story was originally posted on Feed the Future’s blog.

Through a partnership with USAID, Peace Corps Volunteers have been working with the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative to support its goals to reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition around the world. To date, more than 1,200 volunteers have served or are serving as Feed the Future Peace Corps Volunteers, improving global food security at the grassroots level.

PCVs are uniquely positioned to work at the community level on improving food security. They respond with a multi-faceted approach, tailored to community needs, that addresses key areas like household food production and improved nutrition. Volunteers also employ activities and practices that address climate variability and improve families’ ability to access food through local markets and elsewhere.

After the jump, see five things PCVs are doing to help feed the future.  Continue reading

International Women’s Day: PCVs still addressing inequalities in 2014

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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

Blogging off the grid

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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