On Our Radar: July 25, 2014

ONE // 17 Things that Change Forever When You Live Abroad

Travelling is so appealing, but moving leaving your friends and family behind can be daunting. This article clearly articulates how inspiring, eye-opening and fun moving abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer can be.  You will change. You leave behind familiarity in order to step into the unknown. Your native language will mix with your adopted language. Your sense of normalcy disappears. And, you’ll be all the better for it!

TWO // Hair Culture

Culture is a huge part of Peace Corps service. In fact, our second and third goals promote cultural understanding between Peace Corps Volunteers and their host countries. Every Volunteer experiences cultural sharing in different ways from food culture to partaking in traditional events, like weddings, in their community.

Terri writes about hair culture in Zambia. Braiding hair is woven into many aspects of her Zambian site. She even had a braiding session with Zambian girls and Peace Corps Volunteers at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World).

THREE // Happy

moroccohappyThis video makes us happy! Peace Corps Volunteers and staff in Morocco dance along the Pharrell’s catchy song.

FOUR // How Millennials are Changing Travel

Millennials are changing the way we think about work and travel. In her essay for The Atlantic, Amanda Machado champions travel before work and finding balance between work and personal life. Now more than ever, people are choosing to travel. Recent college graduates are choosing to spend months or years travelling before finding a job. Spending a few years travelling can provide clear focus for a career later in life.

Machado’s advice for work-life balance: “It was not only about obtaining education and a good job, but also about focusing on how my career choices contributed to my overall well-being. It was about gaining experiences outside my career, like travel, that would have otherwise been unavailable to me.”

FIVE // International Explorer Club of Panay- Bulabog Puti-an National Park

If a photos is worth a thousand words, this blog is worth quite a few word. A Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines documents time spent at Bulabog Putian in this photo essay. Bulabog Putian is a Filipino national park often considered a living museum for flora and fauna!

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

Wisdom Wednesday: Janet Holt

This week’s #WisdomWednesday comes from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Janet Holt (Mozambique 2009-2011). To learn more about our programs in Mozambique, visit Peace Corps Mozambique’s website

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“Be flexible and determined to make the most of whatever situation you end up in.”

American University Grad, Peace Corps Volunteer Starts Community Garden in Botswana

Washington, D.C., July 21, 2014 – Peace Corps volunteer Lisetta Del Castillo, an American University graduate, and her community members in Botswana recently raised nearly $5,000 and built a community garden for HIV patients and orphans to provide steady access to vegetables. 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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Del Castillo with members of her community in Botswana.

“I was able to fundraise about $4,800 for a community school garden project,” said Del Castillo, 27, of Miami, Fla., who has been living and working in Botswana since 2012. “This project consists of helping HIV patients and orphans get a sustainable source of food, while holding capacity-building workshops for the community on the importance of gardening.”

The produce from the garden will be donated to those most in need such as orphans and people living with HIV. The income from the sale of the surplus produce will be used to support local students by providing them access to educational field trips and basic necessities including notebooks, blankets, and school fees.

10374893_10154319635475651_5164126067782331833_n“We want to ensure that the committee has the necessary understanding and skills to maintain the garden and to succeed with its primary objective to support those in need,” said Del Castillo.

10450631_10154319636010651_711462254623884154_n“The event was a success. This month we have begun planting different kinds of vegetables appropriate for the climate and we are looking forward to harvesting in the next couple of months. This is all very exciting and rewarding!”

Del Castillo and her community began the project in February 2014 and officially completed it in June. Following the completion of the garden project, Del Castillo organized an economic empowerment workshop to help the garden committee acquire basic agriculture and business skills before planting.

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 Del Castillo’s in Botswana can visit: www.peacecorps.gov/donate.

About Peace Corps/Botswana: There are currently 156 volunteers in Botswana working in the areas of health, community economic development and education. During their service in Botswana, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including Setswana and Ikalanga. More than 2,370 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Botswana since the program was established in 1966.

On Our Radar: July 18

July 18, 2014 - We love to read Peace Corps Volunteers’ blogs! They tell the real story of life overseas, the adventures of service and the cultural insights of each Volunteer’s experience. We thought we would feature a few of our favorite blog posts in a weekly round-up every Friday. Whether you are a current Volunteer or thinking about applying, it’s always fun to learn about Peace Corps service around the world. Read some of our favorite Peace Corps stories from this week.

ONE // Through the Windows of Buses

Peace Corps Volunteers take planes, trains, automobiles, buses and boats while in service. Spending time on the bus can often be boring, but if beautiful Morocco is flashing by right outside your window, those bus rides don’t seem so long and tedious.

Thanks to American University alum and Youth Development Volunteer Abbey and her iPhone snapshots, we can live vicariously through her transportation adventures in Morocco.

TWO // Peace Corps Completely Redesigns Application Process

This has been an exciting week here at Peace Corps. Applying to become a Volunteer is now easier than ever! The application itself is shorter, and YOU get to decide where you would like to serve and what you would like to do.

What are your goals? Peace Corps wants to help you achieve them!

THREE // Packing for the Peace Corps: Volunteers Share Their Must-Haves

How do you decide what to pack for two years of service? Fitting the essentials plus all of your favorite mementos in two bags is easier said than done. Devex  is trying to make the packing process easier for new Volunteers and asked Returned Peace Corps Volunteers what their must-have items were while in service. From shoes to spices, see what they recommend (including advice from Regional Recruiter Chuck Cascio!).

RPCV Zambia and Regional Recruiter, Chuck Cascio

RPCV Zambia and Regional Recruiter, Chuck Cascio

FOUR // Nepalis Treat This Peace Corps Volunteer Like Justin Bieber

What do Justin Bieber and Peace Corps Nepal have in common? In reality, nothing! But as Peace Corps Volunteer Hannah Marqusee explains, with the attention she gets as a Volunteer in her rural Nepalese community, it sometimes feels like she’s actually the teenaged heart-throb.

FIVE // Peace Corps in Our Time

How many Peace Corps Volunteers do you know? This Huffington Post article details the ripple effect of Peace Corps. Returned Volunteers are now journalists, prominent business leaders (like Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix and RPCV Swaziland) and members of Congress!

The not so hidden story of Peace Corps is that Volunteers come back from service forever changed and continue to touch the lives of those they surround. It’s why the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer network is so strong and spans the United States and multiple countries.

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

Severna Park, Md. Resident Completes Peace Corps Service in Georgia

July 17, 2014 – Tom Babington, 25, of Severna Park, Md., has completed his service as a Peace Corps education volunteer in Georgia and will return home to the United States Friday, July 18.

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Babington with students in Georgia.

For more than two years, Babington has been living and working in Abasha, Georgia, assigned to a secondary school to co-teach English with Georgian counterpart teachers. He and his community also implemented a project to build hand-pump wells to create reliable access to water on the school grounds.

“After the well was built, students and teachers had reliable access to potable water. The well is used every day by students, teachers, and even neighbors who live near the school,” said Babington. “This project also helped my counterpart develop project management skills.”

Tom in traditional Georgian dress.

Tom in traditional Georgian clothing for a friend’s wedding.

Babington said that his town, Abasha is a small agricultural town in northwestern Georgia, in the province of Samegrelo. One of the most interesting experiences he had in Georgia was serving as the “mejvare,” or best man, in his friend Levan’s wedding.

“I wore the traditional Georgian clothing, called a ‘chokha.’ It was an honor to be chosen, and it was one of the highlights of my service,” said Babington.

Upon returning to the United States, Babington will attend the University of Maryland where he will pursue a master’s degree in Public Policy on a Robertson’s Fellowship.

“Peace Corps has been a huge boost for my education and career goals. I started applying for graduate schools last winter, and I know Peace Corps was a big reason I was offered admission and scholarships from many schools. Graduate schools definitely value the development and international experience that volunteers gain,” Babington said.

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Babington and the world map he painted with students.

A native of Washington, D.C. and a resident of Severna Park, Md., Babington graduated in 2010 from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., earning a bachelor’s of arts in Western European History.  Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Babington worked as a political consultant in New York.

Babington said that he will most miss his Georgian friends and fellow Peace Corps volunteers.

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Tom with a drinking horn in Georgia.

“I will do my best to keep up with them. I promised to come back within the next five years. I am also bringing lots of horns back home. Georgians hollow out horns from rams and other animals, and then use them to drink out of during special ceremonies. I have so many that I cannot count them all, and I will have to leave some here in Georgia!” Babington concluded.

Babington was one of the 199 Maryland residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 5,729 Maryland residents have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

About Peace Corps/Georgia: There are currently 90 volunteers in Georgia working in the areas of English education and community economic development. During their service in Georgia, volunteers learn to speak Georgian. More than 515 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Georgia since the program was established in 2001.

Wisdom Wednesday: Harold Whitaker

This week’s #WisdomWednesday comes from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Harold Whitaker (Panama 2009-2011). To learn more about our programs in Panama, visit Peace Corps Panama’s website

7.16.14 Harold Whitaker

“Never turn down an opportunity; be it a hike into the depths of the jungle, a meal at a new friend’s house, the chance to work on a project in another Peace Corps Volunteer’s community, or a pick-up game of softball. Every moment that you take advantage of will be remembered ten times more warmly once you return and will enrich your service that much more.”

Peace Corps Announces Historic Changes to Application and Selection Process

Peace Corps also Releases New Public Service Announcement from President Obama Calling on Americans to Serve

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2014 – Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced sweeping changes to the agency’s application process that will make applying to the Peace Corps simpler, faster and more personalized than ever before. Under this new recruitment initiative, applicants will now be able to choose their country of service and apply to specific programs, and do so through a new, shorter application.  As part of today’s announcement, Peace Corps also released a new video from President Obama calling on Americans to serve.  It can be viewed here.

“Today our world is smaller and more interconnected than ever before,” said President Obama in the new public service announcement.  “And it presents us with an extraordinary opportunity:  to connect with people in some of the most remote corners of the globe and show them that America is paying attention, that we care, and that we’re here to help. That’s what the Peace Corps is all about.”

“More than 50 years after its founding, the Peace Corps is revitalizing its recruitment and outreach to field a volunteer force that represents the best and brightest the country has to offer, ” Director Hessler-Radelet (RPCV Western Samoa 1981-83) said.  “A modernized, flexible application and placement system will help Peace Corps recruit Americans who are not just interested in imagining a better world, but rolling up their sleeves and doing something about it.”

The key recruitment reforms include:

  • Peace Corps applicants can now choose the programs and countries they want to apply to – selecting the path that best fits their personal and professional goals. Applicants can apply to between one and three specific programs at a time, or they can choose to apply for service wherever they are needed most. The Peace Corps website now lists all open programs by country, work area and departure date, so applicants can browse service opportunities [link].
  • A new, shorter application is now available on the Peace Corps website [link] that can be completed in less than one hour. What used to be more than 60 printed pages that took more than eight hours to complete is now a short online application that focuses solely but rigorously on the most relevant information to help the agency select the best candidates.
  • Each open Peace Corps position now has clearly identified Apply By and Know By deadlines,so applicants know when they can expect to receive an invitation to serve. If they apply on time, they’ll know if they were selected on time – just like applying to college or a job. These deadlines give applicants more certainty than ever and help them plan for the future.

Click here to view an infographic on Peace Corps’ new application and selection process.

“With the tools, technologies and opportunities of the 21st century, the Peace Corps is giving Americans of all backgrounds the freedom to re-imagine their future and redefine their mark on the world,” Hessler-Radelet said. “I believe these changes will help re-ignite the passion of Peace Corps’ early days and that more Americans will seize the opportunity to make a difference across the world and here at home.”

Hessler-Radelet, who was sworn in as the agency’s 19th director in June and comes from a four-generation Peace Corps family, has led an extensive reform effort since joining the agency in 2010.  In addition to the recruitment reforms announced today, the Peace Corps has dramatically improved the quality of support it provides to volunteers, strategically targeted its resources and country presence to maximize impact, and streamlined operations to create a culture of innovation and excellence.