Falls Church, Va. Resident Completes Peace Corps Service in Costa Rica


Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2014 -
 Katharine Turner, 25, of Falls Church, Va., completed her service as a Peace Corps economic development volunteer in Costa Rica on August 9. She is currently working with a group of non-profit organizations in Costa Rica and will return to the United States in May 2015.

For more than two years, Turner lived and worked in Costa Rica to improve local businesses and non-profit development. Her work involved education planning and management courses.

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Turner (center) with students from her business management course.

“I am most proud of my computer lab grant project,” said Turner. “Working side-by-side with a development association and a local non-profit, I was able to obtain a $5,000 grant in order to transform a classroom into a computer lab so that the community could enjoy free classes using the technology.”

Turner is the daughter of Susan Monteverde, of Falls Church, Va., and Bruce Turner, of Winchester, Va., and a graduate of George Mason High School in Falls Church. She then attended the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. earning a bachelor’s degree in International Development in 2011. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Turner worked as a marketing and development associate at the Creative Cauldron in Falls Church.

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Turner (second from right) with children from her community.

Turner said that she was invited into the lives of others as if she was a daughter or sister and will most miss her host family and friends in Costa Rica.

“The Peace Corps has truly changed my life. It has allowed me to figure out what I am passionate about and where I want to take my life in the future. It has allowed me to view a different type of life and it was an experience that I will cherish forever,” concluded Turner.

Turner was one of the 267 Virginia residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 7,241 Virginia residents have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

About Peace Corps/Costa Rica: There are currently 120 volunteers in Costa Rica working in the areas of youth and community development and English education. During their service in Costa Rica, volunteers learn to speak Spanish. More than 3,500 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Costa Rica since the program was established in 1963.

Richmond Native Builds Latrines for 12 Families in Peace Corps Senegal

Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 2014 - Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen Kyle, 39, a native of Richmond, Va., is working with her community in Senegal to improve hygiene and decrease health risks by building latrines. A portion of the funds for the project were raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), a program that helps support Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide.

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Kyle with her three host brothers and two host cousins.

“The expected outcome of this project will be improved access to sanitary latrine facilities for 12 families in my community,” said Kyle, who has been living and working in Senegal since September 2013. “As a result, the residents will enjoy a better quality of life, improved hygiene, and decreased risk of sickness.”

Kyle and her local community counterparts will select 12 families that live where latrines are currently inaccessible or nonexistent and work with them to build the new facilities. Kyle’s community has committed to contributing financially to the project and is providing materials and labor toward the construction.

“Given that the project was proposed and designed by community members, it already demonstrates a commitment and capacity from the town,” said Kyle. “The benefits of improved health include a more reliable workforce in the adult population and the opportunity for better education in the youth population. These benefits in turn will boost the community’s economic stability and allow for further improvements.”

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Kyle’s community counterpart, Issa Wathie, at the construction site of a latrine.

Once the latrines are constructed, the families and school will be responsible for their maintenance and they should last for 20 to 30 years with proper care.

Kyle is originally from Virginia and attended St. Catherine’s High School in Richmond, Va. She has lived in Boston, Mass. since 2004 and is a graduate of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Ill. (Biology, 1997) and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, 2002).

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 projects like Kyle’s in Senegal can visit: www.peacecorps.gov/donate.

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.

On Our Radar: September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014

ONE // Returned Volunteer Uses Peace Corps Skills in Baltimore City School

Brooks Binau, RPCV Zambia (2011-2013), and Greg Couturier, RPCV Peru (2009-2011), are Peace Corps Shriver Peaceworker Fellows at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Baltimore, Md. As part of their fellowship, they work at Lakeland Elementary in Baltimore. Last week, they spent the day with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and showed off their community garden project, which includes solar ovens and dehydrators.

Joby Taylor, Director of UMBC’s Shriver Peaceworker Program, did an excellent write-up of the day’s events here.

TWO // 6 Reasons You Should Apply

Are you sick of the status quo? Join the Peace Corps! Language, job, travel benefits and more!

THREE // Farming in Thailand

Christine has been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand since January 2013. In this post, she instructs us that it’s not just rice that’s grown in Thailand. While many of us in the U.S. may be familiar with how corn is grown, do you know how Thai people produce sugarcane, palm oil or rubber? Make sure to check out her post on Thai fruit, too!

FOUR // The Dog and The Cat

Anna Lena, an English Volunteer in Kosovo with Charlie, shares a few art projects from her primary students’ exhibition at Muzeu e Junik. The event showcased the talents of both her primary students and the university students’ photography. Even cooler, the event was held in old historic structures called Kullas which helps link the town to its past!

FIVE // One Year Later

Meet Grayson: a Community Health Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. We had trouble picking a favorite post from her blog, but she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary in Peace Corps! Her post touches on the life lessons that many Peace Corps Volunteers learn while in service. She also writes about growing her own spectacular garden! Congrats Grayson!

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

American University Graduate Begins Peace Corps Service in Macedonia

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 11, 2014 – Katie Burk, 22, of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., an American University graduate, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Macedonia Sept. 12 to begin training as an English Education Volunteer. Burk will live and work at the community level to improve the English curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

katieburk“My love of travel and education drew me to the Peace Corps,” Burk says. “I believe the time commitment required for Peace Corps volunteers provides a unique chance to truly embrace another country as your home.”

Burk is the daughter of John and Michelle Burk and a graduate of Arlington High School in LaGrangewille, N.Y. She then attended American University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 2013.

“American is a globally aware campus, with an impressive emphasis on foreign affairs and service. Students were strongly encouraged to study abroad, volunteer, and actively engage in the global community,” Burk says. “I studied for a semester in Chile and spent a spring break in Cuba, both through AU programs. American is a campus that prides itself on openness to all views and perspectives.”

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

Burke joins the 43 American University graduates currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 942 Eagles have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

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.

Wisdom Wednesday: Christa Register

This week’s #WisdomWednesday comes from returned Peace Corps Volunteer Christa Register (Togo 2010-2012). To learn more about our programs in Togo, visit Peace Corps Togo’s website and explore their job listings

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Cultures are neither right nor wrong. They are different. The sooner you accept that your host country is not doing things wrong, but doing things differently, the sooner you will learn to adapt your behavior accordingly. When you work within the realm of their culture, rather than imposing yours, you can make all the difference in the world.”

About Peace Corps/Togo: There are currently 84 volunteers in Togo working in the areas of education, environment and health. During their service in Togo, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: Bassar, Ewe, Haoussa, Kabiyé, Kotokoli, Mina and Moba. More than 2,760 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Togo since the program was established in 1962.

Blog Star: Teaching Frank vs. frank with Charlie

Charles “Charlie” Warner is an English Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosovo. He left for Kosovo in early June and is part of the first group of Volunteers there. We’ll be following Charlie throughout his service from trainee to Volunteer to RPCV. He’s already shared his packing tipsfirst impressions of Kosovo and thoughts on training with us. For his fourth post, he shares a fun story of teaching adjectives to his Kosovar students. 

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Charlie (third from right) with other Peace Corps Volunteers and some students.

As a native English speaker, there are more than a few subtleties in the English language that rarely cross my mind. That is to say, they rarely cross my mind until I have to explain them to a classroom full of Kosovar students. Like many native English speakers, I either do not consciously consider certain subtleties or I just do not regularly employ certain potentially problematic vocabulary. But I can assure you such subtleties can arise in the classroom in a hurry and potentially lead to a tongue-tied teacher and a number of blank looks from students. Which brings us to the blog post “Frank vs. frank.”

Before I get ahead of myself with describing how I and my co-teacher Anna Lena found ourselves attempting to explain the difference between a person named ‘Frank’ and a person who is ‘frank,’ allow me to elaborate a little on what brought us before a classroom of eager young students in the first place…

A two week long teaching practicum is part of our Pre-Service Training (PST; see my last blog post for more details about PST) and although this practicum is mandated by Peace Corps for Trainees to complete, it is up to the Trainees to organize, plan, and execute the practicum. While referring to this learning objective amongst ourselves as “the practicum,” we were in actuality creating an ESL Summer Camp for students in our respective villages. During the practicum/camp, we develop lesson plans, plan learning activities, and teach while being evaluated by Peace Corps staff. At the end of each daily teaching session, we discuss the staff member’s evaluation, mistakes we made, and changes for the coming classes all with the goal of improving our skills with classroom management, lesson plan development, and working with co-teachers.

frank vs frank 2One of our main orders of business prior to and during the camp was developing lesson plans and activities for the two weeks of camp. In this task, at least initially, we were flying a little blind. For we had to develop lesson plans without knowing the level of English comprehension or even the ages of our potential students! So needless to say, as the first day of the camp approached, we were somewhat apprehensive if not totally in the dark about how effective our lessons might be; an apprehension that, it turns out, was completely unfounded. Their level of comprehension of English and their command with speaking the language was truly incredible. So instead of teaching above their skill levels or losing their interest by doing activities intended for students with less command of the language, we were able to challenge them and teach them new dynamics of English, creative writing, and American culture.

Speaking of the classroom, I think it is time to circle back around to where I left off… with Anna Lena and I standing at the front of the classroom, shooting brief looks at one another, and trying to clearly explain the difference between ‘Frank’ and ‘frank.’ Now, as luck/fate would have it, one of the other co-teachers is named Frank and was present during our let’s-explore-new-adjectives lesson. Adjectives: an easy concept the basics of which were already understood by most of the students. Then we had to go and muddy the waters:

Me:  “Yes, he is Mr. Frank but I can also be frank… a person being honest is frank.  And frank is the adjective.  See [writing on the chalkboard] how Mr. Frank’s name has a capital ‘F’ and the adjective ‘frank’ has a lower case ‘f’?”

Students:  Blank stares.

Anna Lena:  “When someone says they are being frank, it means they want to be honest.”  (It was at this point that I decided to come up with a not-so-well-thought-out verbal example…)

Me:  “For example, if I were to say ‘Miss Anna Lena, I have to be frank. I do not like the skirt you are wearing”, that is how you could use the adjective ‘frank’.”

Anna Lena:  Brief glare at me (for whatever reason) then smiles.

Students (and other co-teachers):  Laughter after seeing the look on Anna Lena’s face and processing what I had said. But also a few students’ eyes lit with comprehension!

frank vs frank 3And so we made a few more attempts to clarify Frank vs. frank and other issues with adjectives before embarking upon the main exercise of reading various pieces of literature that described different aspects of American culture. The students, with the help of the co-teachers, read the material, picked out the adjectives used by the authors, and then presented the adjectives they found as well as the overall theme of their particular article to the class.  A fun lesson that strengthened adjective comprehension and, for my group of students, knowledge of why and how Halloween is celebrated in the United States!

Minus a few other small bumps in the road, we, trainees and students alike, worked through the summer camp with high spirits and a lot of fun. Our lessons ranged from giving directions to creative writing to geography. And at the end, the number of students had increased, we Trainees learned more about classroom management and lesson development, and the students came away with a broader understanding of the English language and American culture.

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Proud graduates and teachers of Peace Corps’ first ESL Summer Camp. (Charlie and Anna Lena top left)

On Our Radar: September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014

ONE // “AHAs” in Cultural Exchange

Peace Corps Volunteer Wendy is breaking down cultural barriers in Paraguay this week. In her women’s club meeting, Wendy spoke candidly with Paraguayan women about cultural differences. The conversation covered everything from food to people’s appearance.

TWO // A Note Per Day

Peace Corps sites are different from Volunteers’ homes in the United States, but sometimes Volunteers struggle to convey those differences. Sarah wrote a line everyday of the oddities she experienced during her service in the Philippines. Funnily enough, those oddities she noticed no longer seemed odd to her after living at site for just over a year.

THREE // Let Them Eat Cake

Rachel is an Agriculture Volunteer in Paraguay. In her post, Let Them Eat Cake, she shares how she incorporates teaching nutrition to her community and the trials and tribulations that come with introducing a new food like pizza to her site. While pizza may not have been a hit, the grapefruit cake she made with a group of girls was gobbled up! The pictures are adorable!

Honestly, what better way to celebrate an afternoon of baking than eating your cake with a pink themed picnic?

FOUR // 26 Signs You Are Most Definitely a Travel Junkie

One of the obvious Peace Corps perks is the ability to travel. Peace Corps Volunteer is often synonymous with travel junkie. Buzzfeed’s list nailed it. We heart number 26!

Peace Corps did a Buzzfeed too! Check out 7 Peace Corps Volunteers You’ll Meet (Or Be) During Service!

FIVE // Banate Bay Boat Launching Ceremony

After Hurricane Yolanda hit the Philippines last year, the provincial government in Peace Corps Volunteers Alan and Lauren’s site donated money to build new boats. The boats were all made by local fisherfolk and two municipalities held an official boat launching this week. Check out the wonderful photos and our job listings in the Philippines.

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