On Our Radar: November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014               

ONE // Photos from Lo Manthang

Want to experience Nepal? Live vicariously through Hannah, a Food Security Volunteer in Nepal. Her photo series from her trip to Lo Manthang is spectacular!

TWO // Greater than Average

Did you know that there’s no upper age limit to serve in the Peace Corps? Peace Corps isn’t all about the twenty-something, recent college grads. Beth writes about her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho in her 30s.

THREE // Coming Home

Katie has closed her service in Burkina Faso as a Community Health Volunteer. She wrote about the last few days of her service and what it’s like to officially be an RPCV. Congrats Katie!

FOUR // Harusi

Abir recently attended a Tanzanian wedding. If you want to know the differences between a Tanzanian wedding and a typical American wedding, she did a great job!

FIVE // Sesame

Ever wonder where your familiar bagel topping comes from? Let this PCV in Senegal teach you a thing or two about sesame.

// Do you have any favorite Peace Corps blogs? Let us know in the comments!

Turning students in Morocco into business leaders

Peace Corps is excited to participate in the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, November 19-21, where we are helping the U.S. government promote economic and social entrepreneurship around the world. This post highlights one way that Volunteers promote entrepreneurship every day.  

Teaching a group of teenagers in rural Morocco how to become entrepreneurs can be a daunting task – especially if you have no experience with entrepreneurship. But that didn’t stop Martha Fedorowicz from successfully piloting a partnership between INJAZ, a nonprofit working to help students become business leaders in their communities, and Peace Corps.

As Martha sat in her site placement interview that would determine what community she would live in, she was asked what she wanted to do during her service. She told them that she wanted to do vocational training for youth. When she expressed interest in a new Peace Corps partnership with INJAZ she quickly found herself as the Volunteer piloting the program. INJAZ currently runs several programs in Morocco designed to help students gain a better understanding of everything from financial literacy to leadership and career goals.

When Martha got to her community, she ran an assessment to see what programs would work well there. Within a few months, INJAZ had launched their first program with Peace Corps, an Entrepreneurship Masterclass in Martha’s youth center. The participants in this program took a skills assessment quiz to see what entrepreneurial skills they already possessed, they then were given roles in a company based on the results from these quizzes and those companies produced a project that were then judged by a panel. This program was not only a successful launch to the partnership between Peace Corps and INJAZ but was also the first time any of the students in her community had participated in any type of vocational training.

Prior to its partnership with Peace Corps, INJAZ worked out of large, urban schools, but part of the new partnership was to get Peace Corps to bring the program into smaller, rural youth centers, which is where Martha worked. When Martha piloted the program, she had to not only figure out how to recruit participants and market the programs but also figure out how to get students to attend regularly, even though attendance wasn’t mandatory. To do this, she implemented a policy where participants could only miss so many sessions or they won’t be allowed to participate.

After the success of the first program, INJAZ decided to expand the partnership with Peace Corps. They opened their programs up to more volunteers in Morocco and had Martha test out two additional, more intensive classes.

For the second program, students spent six weeks learning about entrepreneurship. They participated in entertaining activities, such as creating a commercial for a product, developing a business plan for a non-profit and participating in a mock stock market that were meant to teach them the basics of business such as marketing and interpreting the stock market.

For the third class, she helped a group of 20 or so students create and run a business over a four-month period. The premise was to create a good or service that had never been seen before and then find small investors in the community, such as friends and family, to be company backers. The students would then run the company, liquidate it and return dividends to their shareholders, and write a final report summarizing their activities. Her students chose to set up a kiosk at their school to sell snacks and school supplies to their classmates. They sold over 100 shares and made close to $300 over a two-week period.

Martha says “the students who committed to this program worked harder than I’ve ever seen the students in any of my classes work before. Although the activities were incredibly challenging at times, the students rose to the challenge and gave more to the project than I expected of them”. In the end, their hard work paid off. At the end of the 16-week period, her students went to Casablanca to compete in the regional competition against other INJAZ participants from large, urban high schools. Martha was unable to attend because she closed out her service just three weeks shy of the event, but her site mate went and made sure to call Martha upon the exciting outcome: Her students won the regional competition and moved on to the national competition. When she heard the news, Martha was “so excited, [she] started jumping up and down” but says she had a feeling they would win. She knew that they worked so hard and put so much time and effort into their projects.

A few weeks later they attended the national competition and came home with the award for most heart.

Awards aside, the students’ hard work gives back to their community. INJAZ’s emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurial skills that students will spread throughout their communities is especially important in rural Morocco, where communities can go an extended amount of time using traditional and outdated business practices. Programs like this not only help these communities modernize, they also help students develop skills that make them leaders in their community.

This article was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog on November 19, 2014.

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. The actual day of the graduation I got on stage and conducted them in front of a crowd of their peers, family members and local respected officials. It was a firm reminder that anything was possible when the students and teachers believed in you as an educator, as well as a reminder that even the most daunting tasks were manageable. Being able to teach and see the outcomes of the fruits of my labor was a wonderful thing. (Photo above courtesy of Jessica.)

Hannah: As an elementary school English teacher, I had the opportunity to travel with a group of students to a regional spelling bee. My community did not have a formal English teacher, but, despite this obstacle, my students placed first and third in the competition. This experience allowed my students to see that hard work and focus in school could lead to exciting opportunities outside of the classroom. This experience was at the end of my Peace Corps service and solidified by desire to become a teacher.

Amy: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. But PC gave me the skills and experience to be a confident leader in the classroom. Specifically, it was being a role model to the female students and showing them it was acceptable to be a strong and smart woman. Papua New Guinea is a very male dominated society so for some of these girls, they didn’t know it was possible to be more than a wife and mother. This was a big realization for me: that teaching is more than helping students learn the curriculum.

Curtis: Whether it is observing students walking barefoot to school every day, with pen and paper in hand, or seeing a student doing homework by candlelight, multiple PC experiences reinforced in me the importance of education as a tool to rebuild communities.

Benjamin: I was running a role play between two teams. The girls represented a large travel agency chain from the U.K. and the boys were the builders of a large, incomplete seaside resort that had recently been destroyed by a storm. Hundreds of vacationers’ time and money were hanging in the balance, and the two teams were to meet to discuss reparations. The girls arrived in their best suits, makeup and hair done just so, each with an assigned role and adopted British name. They were extremely well organized and carried themselves very professionally. The Russian boys, wearing their typical casual outfits and relying on their quick wit, got their lunch handed to them. It was beautiful.

Elizabeth: My favorite part of each day in the Peace Corps was when I walked home from school. During the 10-minute walk through the village I lived and worked in, students would become attached to my hand to walk me home, ensuring I made it to my house safely. Although many of the children I encountered were from a low-income family, struggling to put food on the table and to buy books for school, they were the most caring and thoughtful children I’ve ever met. These relationships influenced me to continue working with students who, although living in an impoverished neighborhood, are loving and hardworking individuals.

RPCV Teachers

Jessica Miguel (Philippines 2010-2012, Education) is currently works as a special education instructional aid with the Clovis Unified School District, and she is earning her Master’s in Education with a Multilingual Multicultural Emphasis at California State University, Fresno. She acquired her preliminary credential through the state of California.

Curtis Valentine (South Africa 2001-03, Education) taught 8th grade after service, then returned to international development for five years. He went back into education as the Executive Director of an education policy non-profit and as a Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations studying international best practices in public education. He is now as At-Large School Board Member of the 17th largest school system in the U.S.

Emily Trudeau (Togo 1997-1999, Community Development) taught history for a year at a public/private school in New England. She then went back overseas for a year to teach ESL classes at a variety of institutions in Eastern Europe. She then earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Boston University.

Hannah Engel-Rebitzer (Costa Rica 2010-2012, Community Economic Development) is assistant math teacher at E. L. Haynes High School in Washington, D.C., and became a certified teacher through the Capital Teacher Residency.

Amy Cohen (Papua New Guinea 1998-2000, Education) already had a teaching degree when she began Peace Corps service. She and her PCV roommate were the first white women on the island that were not nuns. Amy currently teaches at a high school in St. Louis, MO.

Benjamin T. Houle (Russia 2001-2003, Education) received a five-year, K-12 Virginia teaching license with an ESOL endorsement in 2010 from the University of Virginia. He received a second MA in Social Foundations of Education in 2012.

Elizabeth Miller (St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2010-2012, Community and Youth Development) is currently enrolled in a master’s program that includes a full time teaching position at an urban school.

This article was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog on November 20, 2014.

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. Peace Corps realized that a more efficient way to collect these requests and communicate with volunteers was needed. The health and safety of volunteers is our top priority, and we are always looking for new ways to improve internal processes.

At a recent convention in Atlanta, the Peace Corps’ Director of Innovation met with several inspired developers to describe this global challenge. Excited, developers volunteered their time and skills to help improve the medical resupply process. The result is PC Medlink. As seen in the video, the application allows Volunteers to easily text in a request to refill supplies, allowing medical staff to focus on outreach, prevention, and treatment of volunteers, rather than administrative tasks.

This application is another step in our efforts to create a 21st century Peace Corps and followed many of the same steps outlined in the recently released U.S. Digital Services Playbook. We will continue to leverage open source, crowd-based solutions to better serve volunteers in the field.

We are excited that the developer community has shown support for and developed PC Medlink and we invite you make a difference by plugging into Peace Corps’ mission on GitHub.

Official Portrait of Carrie Hessler RadeletCarrie Hessler-Radelet is the Director of the Peace Corps and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Western Samoa 1981-1983.

 

 

 

FordeBrian Forde is the Senior Advisor for Mobile and Data Innovation, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and a Returned Peace Volunteer, Nicaragua 2003-2005.

 

 

This article was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog on October 31, 2014.

Wisdom Wednesday: Eric Stafne (Senegal, 1994-1996)

This week’s #WisdomWednesday comes from returned Peace Corps Volunteer Eric Stafne (Senegal, 1994-1996). To learn more about our programs in Senegal, visit Peace Corps Senegal’s website and explore our current job openings.

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“Don’t be afraid to fail.”

About Peace Corps/Senegal: There are currently 278 volunteers in Senegal working in the areas of agriculture, environment, health and community economic development. During their service in Senegal, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: French, Wolof, Pulaar du Nord, Fulakunda, Pulafuta, Seereer, Malinke, Mandinka and Jaxanke. More than 3,435 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Senegal since the program was established in 1962.

Peace Corps Celebrates International Men’s Day

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 19, 2014 – To celebrate International Men’s Day,commemorated annually on Nov. 19 in more than 60 countries worldwide, the Peace Corps recognizes volunteers who promote gender equality and positive gender relations in their communities abroad.

International Men’s Day is a United Nations initiative that began in 1999 and focuses on highlighting positive male role models and their contributions to family and community development.

Below find an example of how Peace Corps volunteers are advancing gender equality in Burkina Faso through a summer camp for girls and boys.

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Camp G2LOW participants.

Inspired by the widespread success of Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), Peace Corps volunteers in Burkina Faso have been organizing Camp G2LOW (Girls and Guys Leading Our World) to teach both girls and boys about gender equality. At the most recent Camp G2LOW, more than 60 secondary school students came together for two weeks from four different cities across Burkina Faso.

“Our goal through the camps is to teach male youth the value of working with women as equals,” said recently returned Peace Corps volunteer Sara Goodman, who helped organize the past two G2LOW camps.

During the camps, students learn about healthy relationships and gender attitudes, and discuss their roles and responsibilities. The most recent camp included educational sessions on proper hygiene habits, healthy lifestyle practices, critical thinking and decision-making, ending domestic violence, and the importance of working together to accomplish goals. The camp culminated with educational skits, campfire activities, and a cultural night with dancing to American and Burkinabe music.

Camp G2LOW participants.

Camp G2LOW participants.

“It was incredible to see the effect of the American summer camp experience in Burkina Faso,” Goodman said. “The participants learned a lot about the value of working together as equals.”

Each community nominated an equal number of boys and girls to attend the camp based on their school performance and character. Sessions were led by Peace Corps volunteers and local community members, who teamed up to encourage community engagement.

“The creators of the camp put forth a lot of effort to assure community participation and sustainability of the camp, which is critical to its success,” Goodman said.

Volunteers and their local counterparts have generated funds for the camps with the help of the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). To receive funding through the PCPP, a community must make at least a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline success indicators for each project, which helps to ensure community ownership and long-term sustainability. Participating communities have contributed additional funds to support Camp G2LOW, covering students’ transportation, housing and educational materials.

About Peace Corps/Burkina Faso: There are currently 110 volunteers in Burkina Faso working in the areas of education, health and community economic development. During their service in Burkina Faso, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: Bissa, French, Fulfuldé, Gulmancema, Gurunssi, Hidi, Itanikom, Jula, Kanuri, Kapsiki, Karunfe, Katsena, Lobiri, Lyele, Mandara, Mooré, Mungaka, Siamou and Yemba. More than 1,880 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Burkina Faso since the program was established in 1967.

This article was originally posted on PeaceCorps.gov on November 19, 2014.

World Toilet Day

It’s ‪#‎WorldToiletDay‬ and it’s no joke!

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On Tuesday, June 3, 2014, the students of Tawa Fall Elementary School, Thies region, Senegal, celebrated the completion of their long-awaited bathroom. Far right: school director, teachers, treasurer. Far left, grant manager PCV Karen Chaffraix, and project organizer, Ibu Dhiakhate.

Did you know that 2.5 billion people – 36% of the world’s population – don’t have access to a clean and safe toilet? Access to hygienic and private facilities prevents the spread of disease, keeps girls in school, improves students’ performance, and increases safety for women.

Peace Corps Volunteers have constructed toilets at schools in Senegal, Peru and in many other countries around the world. Search 16 current health openings to begin your journey of improving sanitation and hygiene around the world.