James Madison University graduate Pete Isaac (’05, ISAT) has been using his degree in a different way – teaching Ukrainian artisans how to use Etsy.com to sell their products.
They have hosted a series of workshops to teach Ukrainians how to set-up, operate, and promote their goods internationally, said Isaac, who has been living and working in Ukraine as a Peace Corps Business Volunteer since March 2011. Typically, each training includes four or five artisans, a Ukrainian trainer, as well as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Since the workshops began a year ago, they have sold 75 items and raised nearly $2,000. All of the products being sold on Etsy are handmade, usually paintings, embroidered pictures, soaps, beaded jewelry and traditional Ukrainian dolls. To see the website, visit: http://easternrinok.wordpress.com
“It’s really gaining a lot of steam,” Isaac said. “We have trainings taking place all over the country now.”
Currently, the volunteers are working with eight trainers and 28 shops online. The upcoming workshop in November will aim to train an additional 12 Ukrainians and expand the project into 12 new communities. Isaac hopes that sales will surpass $2,500 and more than 100 items will be sold before he completes his Peace Corps service at the end of November. (To help Pete and other Peace Corps volunteers host the training, they have set up a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant. Donate to Isaac’s project here: http://1.usa.gov/14y8Q6N.
Isaac said JMU greatly prepared him for his Peace Corps service: “JMU provided a lot of great life lessons about leadership, flexibility, patience, perseverance, how to think outside the box, and civic responsibility,” Isaac said. “I think most importantly, JMU taught me how to ‘fail forward.’ The professors and staff I had the privilege of meeting and working with taught me that not only was it OK to not always have things go your way, but in fact, that makes you a better person. It causes one to seek out potential solutions to problems, not lose control of your thoughts, determine what outcomes are most important, and learn from your past experiences.”
Since 1961, more than 400 JMU graduates have served as Peace Corps volunteers worldwide. Currently, there are 35 JMU grads working abroad in the Peace Corps.
“I often tell people that the two best decisions I’ve made in my life were applying to JMU and applying to Peace Corps,” Isaac concluded. “Both experiences have provided me the opportunity to grow as a person in many different ways. Not only has Peace Corps given me an opportunity to see the world through a completely different perspective, it has provided me an opportunity to try to have a positive impact on the future leaders of a country emerging from the former Soviet Union.”
Peace Corps pays for travel to and from the United States, a monthly stipend, offers healthcare benefits and gives volunteers money to re-adjust to life in the States when they complete their service. Many universities also partner with Peace Corps, offering volunteers graduate school benefits. JMU seniors can secure their post-graduation job now by applying to the Peace Corps. Visit www.peacecorps.gov/apply to be considered for an assignment departing during spring and summer 2014.
Links to Pete’s information:
Pete’s Peace Corps Blog: http://peteisaac.wordpress.com/