“Peace Corps will be nothing like you expect it to be but a hundred times better than you hope it will be. Be open to new ideas, ask for support when you need it, and don’t be afraid to laugh at your mistakes.”

- Skyler Dobert, Mid-Atlantic Regional Recruiter and RPCV Togo (2010-2012)

Skyler

Montgomery Co. Peace Corps Volunteer Installs New Blackboards in Macedonian School

Washington, D.C., April 24, 2014 - Peace Corps volunteer Zachary Levin-Epstein of North Potomac, Md., is working with his community in Macedonia to replace 40-year-old deteriorating blackboards in a local elementary school. A portion of the funds for the project will be raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), a program that helps support Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide.

Zachary Levin-Epstein of North Potomac, Md. in Macedonia with students.

Zachary Levin-Epstein of North Potomac, Md. in Macedonia with students.

“Our students are constantly asking [for clarification] in class about what I write on the board as they are unable to make out the words on the stained blackboards. Putting in new boards will allow the students and teachers to learn and study without such unnecessary challenges,” said Levin-Epstein, a graduate of Arizona State University who has been living and working as an English teacher in Macedonia since September 2012.

While the school has gone through significant infrastructural improvements, the blackboards – which are the main teaching tool – have been neglected for nearly 40 years.

“It is essential that teachers to have effective teaching tools and equipment, especially those that they use every day for every class,” said Levin-Epstein, who graduated in 2007 from Thomas S. Wootton High School (Montgomery County) and worked in AmeriCorps in the Rockville area after graduating from Arizona State. “Simply put, new blackboards will make a dramatic difference in the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn.”

Zachary Levin-Epstein of North Potomac, Md.

Zachary Levin-Epstein of North Potomac, Md.

Upon completion of this project, Levin-Epstein and people in his community will also be creating a new English classroom at the school, and the school will be buying a “SMART board,” the first of its kind to be purchased at the school to be used in a classroom.

Municipal officials have supported the effort and have pledged to work with school officials to replace the current blackboards. Municipal support will ensure an ongoing relationship between local and school officials at a critical juncture — the first project of its kind developed and implemented with a Peace Corps volunteer at the school.

In order to receive funding through the PCPP, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline success indicators for the individual projects. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible PCPP donation goes toward a development project. Those interested in supporting Levin-Epstein’s project in Macedonia can visit: www.peacecorps.gov/donate. Zachary Levin-Epstein’s project number is: 14-249-001.

About Peace Corps/Macedonia: There are currently 108 volunteers in Macedonia working in the areas of English education and community economic development. During their service in Macedonia, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Albanian and Macedonian. More than 540 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Macedonia since the program was established in 1996.

Happy Earth Day 2014!

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 2014 - Peace Corps volunteers lead grassroots efforts to protect and preserve the environment in the countries in which they serve. Volunteers promote reforestation, build fuel-efficient cook stoves, enhance food security and institute environmental education programs. By strengthening awareness and understanding of environmental issues, volunteers share knowledge that empowers their communities to develop their own programs and make their own choices about how to best protect and preserve the local environment.

About 17 percent of Peace Corps volunteers focus on environment and agriculture projects, while many others incorporate environmental protection into their classroom activities and secondary projects.

Learn more about how the Peace Corps is protecting our planet by visiting and sharing this infographic created in celebration of Earth Day. First observed in 1970, Earth Day is now celebrated in more than 190 countries!

PC_Earth_Day_infographic_2014_sm

Farmville, Va. Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in the Kyrgyz Republic

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 2014 - Taylor Southall, 22, of Farmville, Va., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for the Kyrgyz Republic April 23 to begin training as an English education volunteer. Southall will live and work at the community level to make a difference by teaching conversational and content-based English, while developing educational materials with local teachers and getting involved in community-based projects.

“I wanted to join the Peace Corps because it would be an honor to be a part of an organization that cares so deeply about the condition of mankind,” Southall said.

Taylor Southall leaves for KyrgyzstanSouthall is the daughter of Jennifer Foster and Charles Southall Jr. and a graduate of Prince Edward High School in Farmville, Va. She then attended Longwood University in Farmville, Va., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2013. She has also worked through an AmeriCorps VISTA internship with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C.

During the first three months of her service, Southall will live with a host family in the Kyrgyz Republic to learn the local language and integrate into the local culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills that will help her make a lasting difference, Southall will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in the Kyrgyz Republic where she will serve for two years.

Southall will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in the Kyrgyz Republic and help Southall develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

“I hope to grow as a person while providing useful, lasting services to the people I will be working with every day,” Southall said.

Southall joins 267 Virginia residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 7,241 Virginia residents have served in the Peace Corps since its establishment in 1961.

About Peace Corps in the Kyrgyz Republic:There are currently 73 volunteers in the Kyrgyz Republic working in the areas of education, community economic development and health. During their service in the Kyrgyz Republic, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Kyrgyz and Russian. More than 1,020 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Kyrgyz Republic since the program was established in 1993.

Alexandria Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Guyana

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 21, 2014 - Ahad Khilji, 22, of Alexandria, Va., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Guyana April 28 to begin training as a high school English teacher volunteer.

Khilji was motivated to serve in the Peace Corps because of its “the stellar reputation and main focus of international development, diplomacy and service.”

Ahad Khilji leaves for Peace Corps Guyana.

Ahad Khilji leaves for Peace Corps Guyana.

Khilji is the youngest son of Ghazala and Nasir Khilji and a graduate of West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Va. He then attended The Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations in 2013. He also interned at various institutions around the District including Ed Gillespie Strategies, The German Marshall Fund, and the Washington Speakers Bureau.

“The liberal arts education I received at CUA helped me realize the importance of service to others,” said Khilji. “My degree in International Relations motivated me to become a part of an organization that promoted diplomacy around the world.”

During the first three months of his service, Khilji will live with a host family in Guyana to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist his community, Khiliji will be sworn into service and be assigned to a community in Guyana, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.

Khilji personal goals during his Peace Corps service are to “sustain involvement in community, continue education, and live a well-rounded healthy lifestyle.” While professionally, he aspires to “design a career around a personal passion in international development and policy.”

Khiliji joins the 267 Virginia residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 7,241 Virginia residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

About volunteers in Guyana: There are currently 61 volunteers in Guyana working in the areas of education and health. During their service in Guyana, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including English and Creolese. More than 715 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Guyana since the program was established in 1966.

Lexington, Va. Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in the Kyrgyz Republic

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 18, 2014 – Lila Sandage, 25, of Lexington, Va., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for the Kyrgyz Republic on April 23 to begin training as a secondary education English teacher. Sandage will live and work at the community level to make a difference by serving as a TEFL teacher by enriching the classroom experience, sharing resources, developing teaching materials with local teachers and becoming involved in community- and school-based projects.

“I thought it would be a good way to gain perspective of life outside of my country and to challenge myself,” Sandage said of her reason for joining the Peace Corps.

Sandage is the daughter of Greg and Patricia Sandage and a graduate of Rockbridge County High School in Lexington, Va. She then attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies in 2011. She has also worked as an English teacher at JungDong Kid’s College in South Korea.

“I majored in international studies and I did a study abroad program in Peru, working in an elementary school as a teacher’s assistant and was a workshop leader working with women groups,” Sandage said.

During the first three months of her service, Sandage will live with a host family in the Kyrgyz Republic to learn the local language and integrate into the local culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills that will help her make a lasting difference, Sandage will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in the Kyrgyz Republic where she will serve for two years.

Sandage will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in the Kyrgyz Republicand help Sandage develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

“I hope to immerse myself in the culture and develop good language skills, and to become a better leader in my future community,” Sandage said.

Sandage joins 267 Virginia residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 7,241 Virginia residents have served in the Peace Corps since its establishment in 1961.

About Peace Corps/Kyrgyz Republic: There are currently 73 volunteers in the Kyrgyz Republic working in the areas of education, community economic development and health. During their service in the Kyrgyz Republic, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Kyrgyz and Russian. More than 1,020 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Kyrgyz Republic since the program was established in 1993.

Wisdom for the Week

We are kicking off a new blog series here called “Wisdom of the Week!” Each week, learn from returned Peace Corps volunteers as they share words of wisdom inspired by their own service.

Our Acting Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, kicks-off the series. She served as an education volunteer in Western Samoa from 1981 to 1983.

“Have fun; take your work seriously, but not yourself.  Your sense of humor will be one of your best assets.  And don’t forget to write down those humorous situations, language bloopers, and emotional moments.  They will sustain you long after you complete your Peace Corps service.”