World Wise Schools has matched up Peace Corps Volunteer Julia H. with American TESOL Institute for a two-year exchange of ideas, stories, pictures, and artifacts that help ATI students in the classroom learn about the people, geography, environment, and the culture of the world.
Hey ATI students! Mwa la la po? (how are you all in Oshiwambo, the local language). My name is Julie and I'm currently a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Namibia in Southern Africa and will be here for 2 years. I arrived in Namibia in August when I completed a two-month training program in a town called Okahandja. The training consisted of medical, safety, technical, cultural and language sessions from 8:30 to 5 everyday during the week and sometimes even on Saturdays! There were 45 Americans with us from all over the US since the beginning and we spent all that time together so you can imagine we all became pretty good friends. While in Okahandja, we all lived in different neighborhoods with host families so it was a really good introduction to Namibia and its people and culture.
After 8 weeks as Peace Corps trainees in Okahandja, we swore in as volunteers on October 16 and moved to our sites the next day! The volunteers in our group are spread out throughout the entire country and the majority of our group are English, Science, or Math teachers since we are all education volunteers (there are also health volunteers in Namibia). I am a bit of a special case because although technically I am lumped in with the education volunteers, I actually am not a teacher at a school. I am an ICT Volunteer (Information and Communications Technology) and am working at a community library at my site. Of our group, there are four ICT Volunteers and only two of us won't be at schools.
So now that you have the background, I can tell you a little bit about my site, which I have been at now for two weeks! I was placed in a small town called Omuthiya in Owamboland which consists of four regions in the Northern part of the country. Omuthiya was recently proclaimed a town and is definitely in the PROCESS of developing. I kind of feel like I have the best of both worlds here since I do have some of the amenities of a town but also live 4km off the main road (about an hour's walk) in a village. I definitely mean *some* amenities since there is no grocery store here and I have to travel 80km to my shopping town of Ondangwa to buy food! I am living on a traditional Owambo homestead with a host family who are really awesome. A homestead is a collection of huts and houses owned by one extended family and surrounded by a ton of land. My Meme and Tate (Mother & Father in Oshiwambo) are older and their kids are all grown and have moved away but there are several Namibian students (or learners, as they are called here) who live here and help out because of the homestead's proximity to local schools. Additionally, there are several farmers who also live and work here. I have my own little 4-room concrete house on the homestead and there is no electricity or running water. There is a water tap in a different section of the homestead so I am able to fetch water whenever I need it. A lot of other volunteers on homesteads have bucket showers and pit latrines but I am lucky enough to have a flush toilet and (cold!) shower which are both located in another little house on the homestead.
My job is still pretty new which means I'm still getting the hang of things and figuring things out but I'm really liking it so far. I am currently helping to open a new library in town which has included setting up a computer lab there, helping to move in furniture, facilitating setting up the internet, and organizing and shelving books. Organizing the books is what my days mostly consist of right now. It's very time consuming! I can't wait for the library to actually be open. I have lots of ideas for what I want to do there when community members start using it!
So that's a little snapshot of my life right now. It's all very new and exciting and I'm really liking it! Where are some of the places that you all will be teaching? What are some of your reasons for wanting to teach abroad?? I'd love to hear about you guys!! Feel free to e-mail with any questions - firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll do my best to answer you as quickly as I can. Talk to you soon!!
ï»¿Peace Corps mourns the loss of Mitchell Herrmann
WASHINGTON ? Mitchell Herrmann, a Peace Corps trainee in Namibia,died suddenly Thursday, August 16.
Mitchell, 24, of Lake Worth, Florida, was training to teachscience as a Peace Corps volunteer.
?Theentire Peace Corps family is mourning the loss of Mitchell Herrmann, one of ournewest members and a young man who stood ready to share his passion forteaching with the people of Namibia,? said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?Wesend our deepest sympathies to Mitchell's parents and loved ones. Our heartsand prayers are with them as we set out to honor Mitchell's memory andcelebrate his life.?
Mitchell,who earned a bachelor?s degree in geology from Florida Atlantic University, wasan environmental educator for several organizations before he entered the PeaceCorps earlier this month. Most recently, he taught at the Arrowhead RanchOutdoor Science School in California.
?WhatI primarily desire to bring forth in my time of service revolves around mystrengths in the realm of environmental education, my aptitude to foster asense of nurturing and passion for education, and also my positivity in therealms of encouragement, engagement, and motivation,? wrote Mitchell in anaspiration statement prior to traveling to Namibia to begin his training.
Hisfellow trainees, as well as Peace Corps staff, appreciated his kindness and enthusiasmfor the education program. They are planning a vigil this evening and a formalmemorial service in the near future.
Mitchellis survived by his mother Lisa Mirich, father Eduard Herrmann, stepfatherAlex Mirich, stepmother Dawn Herrmann, brother Ethan Herrmann, sister SierraHerrmann, grandmother Celia Muschett, and a large extended family.
WASHINGTON ?Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen completed a visit to Ecuador this week. She metwith Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and with Fander Falconi, Minister ofEducation, to discuss further cooperation efforts with Peace Corps in Ecuador. DirectorOlsen also delivered remarks at a conference for Peace Corps Country Directorsfrom the Inter-America and Pacific region and visited with Peace Corps/Ecuadorstaff and volunteers. The visit marks 56 years of uninterrupted service ofPeace Corps volunteers in Ecuador.
At the beginning of the visit, Director Olsen traveled to ImbaburaProvince to learn more about volunteers? work. Today, Peace Corps volunteersin Ecuador work in the sectors of education, youth and family development,and community health education, all of which align with the country?s nationaldevelopment plan, ?Toda Una Vida.? There are currently approximately 150 PeaceCorps volunteers serving in Ecuador in 17 provinces around the country.
?I can see that the work our volunteers do atthe community level is both relevant and meaningful,? said Olsen during hervisit. ?I was able to experience firsthand the significant impact their workhas on local communities, and their continued interest in doing more to helpthe people of Ecuador achieve their goals.?
U.S. Ambassador ToddC. Chapman, an avid supporter of Peace Corps in Ecuador, met with DirectorOlsen to discuss the program and accompanied her in meetings with localauthorities. ?Peace Corps volunteers are the face of America in Ecuador,?said Chapman. ?They are people-to-people ambassadors engaged in grassrootsdiplomacy across the country. Welcoming new volunteers to Ecuador is one of myfavorite responsibilities as Ambassador.?
WASHINGTON ? In honorof International Youth Day today, Peace Corps highlights volunteers who aremaking a lasting difference in the lives of children and young adults. PeaceCorps volunteers are teachers, mentors, and friends to young people in communitiesaround the globe. Founded by the United Nations in 1999, International YouthDay acknowledges the need to engage youth in development initiatives.
Currently, elevenpercent of volunteers work in Peace Corps? Youth in Development sector, yet manyvolunteers serving in other sectors also work on secondary projects that engageand empower children. Below find the stories of two Peace Corps volunteersworking on projects related to Youth in Development.
Volunteer Evelyn Estrada of Anaheim, California, works at auniversity in the Philippines, helping almost 300 students from low-incomefamilies graduate successfully with skills for the workplace. She hascoordinated multiple camps for the students, including a RespectingIndividuality and Striving for Equality (RISE) diversity camp. The university whereEvelyn works hosted students from other universities across the Philippines forthe camp. During RISE, students discussed large-scale social issues, such as theimpact of HIV/AIDs and inclusion for people with disabilities. When theyreturned home to their respective universities, these students held smallerdiscussion groups on the same topics they covered at RISE. These break-off discussions reached nearly 600 students across the country. Evelyn says thatthe camp was the biggest success story of her service.
?It was fulfilling for me to witness the collaborationbetween two different cultures address social issues and advocate forinclusivity. It was also a rewardingfeeling to see students feel empowered to facilitate difficult topics to theirpeers?I am grateful for all the people that came together for this event andthe effort invested by everyone.?
In Armenia, volunteer Julissa Reynoso of Homestead,Florida, is an administrator for Teaching Our Boys Excellence (TOBE), a campfor Armenian boys. TOBE teaches boys life skills and helps improve how theycommunicate. It also helps educate young males in Armenia about genderequality. In addition towriting grants, Julissa plans logistics and writes curriculum for the camp.
Julissa also holds a weekly conversation club with youth in her community to help them foster critical thinking and problem solving skills. She says the young people she works with have had the greatest positive impact on her service.
?The youth whom I?ve worked with are truly motivational and amazing. I honestly don?t know what my service would?ve been without them. They really have taught [me] to have fun and challenged stereotypes of what people think Armenians are. We?ve accomplished a lot together.?
Find current open youth in development positions here.
WASHINGTON ? Today, Peace Corps/Sri Lanka Country DirectorKris Besch and Sri Lankan Secretary to the Ministry of Education SunilHettiarachchi announced a new Memorandum of Understanding to formalize effortsto develop an English education sector. Chargé d?Affaires to Sri Lanka andMaldives Robert Hilton and Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasamwitnessed the signing at the Ministry of Education.
?The Peace Corps has a long history of partnership with the people of Sri Lanka, and I am honored to be here today to formally confirm our commitment,? said Besch. ?I look forward to collaboration with the Ministry of Education, local schools and community partners as we develop our program, create new success stories and strengthen our long history of respect, partnership and friendship.?
The event was attended by leaders in the education sector, government officials and community members. An oil lamp was lit to formally commence the signing ceremony as is customary at important occasions in Sri Lanka. Head of the International Relations Department at University of Colombo Dr. Manisha Wanasinghe-Pasqual delivered keynote remarks. Chargé d?Affaires Hilton and Minister Kariyawasam delivered closing remarks expressing gratitude to everyone who made the new program possible.
?Let me welcome the Peace Corps back to Sri Lanka and once again thank our Sri Lankan partners for working with us in this great endeavor," said Hilton.
Peace Corps? efforts in Sri Lanka will focus on English language education. Once in Sri Lanka, volunteers will undergo three months of comprehensive cultural, language and technical training before they are given their assignments to serve for two years. The first 25 Peace Corps volunteers are scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka in late 2019.
In 2016, the Government of Sri Lanka invited Peace Corps to return to work and assist in furthering the country?s development goals. A new bilateral agreement to re-establish the program was signed in February 2018. From 1962 to 1998, more than 370 Peace Corps volunteers served in Sri Lanka, working in education, health and youth development.
WASHINGTON ? WhenPeace Corps volunteer Keshia Engwenyi of Fort Worth, Texas, arrived in hercommunity, a small village in rural Ghana, she was ready to spend the next twoyears supporting local efforts to grow more food. The resolute Texan could nothave predicted that she would spend the rest of her service as an agriculturevolunteer on a quest to find something even more essential, clean water for herneighbors.
?The community hasnever had a clean source of water, and depended instead on a river about 30minutes away,? said Engwenyi in a blogpost. ?Watching young kids and babies consume this contaminated water on adaily basis broke my heart. Thinking about the long-term effects it could haveon their health, I knew something had to be done.?
Over the course ofa year, Engwenyi and members of her community tried several options. Afiltration system and dam proved to be too expensive. They attempted to drillboreholes 10 times but failed due to the surrounding terrain. Then one day Engwenyicame across a solar-powered filtration unit constructed to provide clean,filtered water to a nearby community. The project was funded by the U.S. AfricaDevelopment Foundation through New Energy, a Ghanaian organization.
?I would ride mybike there at least four times a week to fetch water for bathing and cooking,? saidEngwenyi. ?The system is very efficient ? I wondered if my community couldn?tbenefit from it as well.?
Together with hercommunity, Engwenyi worked with New Energy to coordinate an extension of theproject to her village. Using funds from a Feedthe Future grant provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development andsupport from community members, water was piped over two kilometers from onevillage to another. The piped water is reserved in two 10,000-liter tanks forconsumption.
?It?s soencouraging to see how impactful easy access to water has been in thecommunity,? said Engwenyi. ?You see more women preparing nuts for shea butterprocessing and kids making it to school on time. Hours of fetching water hasbeen reduced to minutes, home gardens are springing up, and most importantly,the kids can now drink clean water. Across my community there is a positiveatmosphere filled with hope. Water is indeed life.?
WASHINGTON ? In honor of International Day of Friendship today, Peace Corpscelebrates the special bonds forged between volunteers and community members.Proclaimed by the United Nations in 2011, International Day of Friendshiphighlights the importance of friendship as an essential part of life andcrucial to building bridges between peoples of different countries and cultures.
Peace Corps promotes world peace and friendship through itsthree goals. Volunteers, who serve in host communities for two years,have the unique opportunity to develop personal connections with people ofdifferent backgrounds. Below are examples of how Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay,China, Tonga and Macedonia have embraced Peace Corps? mission and formedlifelong friendships with members in the communities where they work and live.
Volunteer Yumiko Gely of Colombia, Missouri, struggled to find friendsin her community at first. Most other women her age were married and had children,and she was afraid she wouldn?t find anyone to relate to. Yumiko eventually metTamara, a member of her community, and now has a lifelong friend. Though almostten years apart in age, Yumiko and Tamara have similar interests andpersonalities. They co-teach a Zumba class and Tamara is the ?godmother? ofYumiko?s dog. Yumiko says that she can be herself around Tamara. ?She?s my bestfriend, my sister, and my person ? and she will stay in my life for the rest ofmy life, as I will in hers.?
When volunteer Elizabeth Utset of Atlantic Beach, Florida, agreed to doa language exchange with Miranda, a student at the university where she works, shedidn?t expect that it would start a lasting friendship. Since their firstmeeting, Miranda and Elizabeth have met every week to talk while eating Lanzhoulamian, or Lanzhou noodles, one of Miranda?s favorite foods. The two areeven planning a body positivity and beauty conference to empower other women.Elizabeth says, ?[Miranda] is one of the most passionate people I have ever metin my life, and I feel so lucky that we have both had to chance to learn andgrow together!?
?You can havefriends across ages,? says volunteer Jocelyn Hill of Worcester, Vermont.Jocelyn is best friends with her 8-year-old host bother Kiko. They help eachother with language homework and are always having fun. Jocelyn and Kiko playcards, watch movies, dance to songs on the radio, and go for long evas,or ?wandering walks? exploring their community. Jocelyn is excited to see howher little brother grows up and will miss him when she leaves Tonga.
VolunteerHaley Hogenkamp of Celina, Ohio, has also fostered an intergenerationalfriendship with 77-year-old Stoilko, a member of her community. ?Nomatter the language, no matter the age, I am further convinced that truefriends can always manage to find each other,? she says of her friend. Stoilkois a history enthusiast and often goes on long strolls with Haley, telling herstories about the history of Macedonia and their city.
Do you have a storyto tell? Share a story from your Peace Corps service, past or present, here.
WASHINGTON ? PeaceCorps is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, whichpartners with volunteers around the world to transform lives through the joy ofsports and create a culture of inclusion.
Members of the PeaceCorps community will be in Chicago this week for games and events commemoratingthis milestone. Athletes and their families, friends, and coaches will also paytribute to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, wife of the first PeaceCorps Director Sargent Shriver.
Peace Corps DirectorJody Olsen, who is pictured above with Special Olympics Chairman TimothyShriver at the new Special Olympics exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museumof American History, stated, ?As we all know, the Shriver family played a vitalrole in the creation of Peace Corps, making our strategic partnership withSpecial Olympics even more meaningful. Peace Corps is proud to support the workof Special Olympics and all they do to create an inclusive, just world for allpeople. Please join me in wishing our special partner a happy 50th anniversary.?
More than 1,200 PeaceCorps volunteers are working with people with disabilities in 44 countries. Volunteersin Mongolia, the Philippines, Paraguay, and Senegal work directly with SpecialOlympics to lead sporting events, youth camps, adult training sessions, and healthprogramming.
Daniel Ryave, a PeaceCorps volunteer in Togo, wrote about his work with Special Olympics in thisstory.
WASHINGTON ? Peace CorpsDirector Jody Olsen joined Members of Congress for a recruitment event onCapitol Hill today, encouraging more than 100 Congressional staff and interns toconsider serving in the Peace Corps.
Director Olsen, speaking inthe House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing Room in the RayburnHouse Office Building, recalled her experiences as a recent graduate volunteeringin Tunisia.
?I discovered who I was in theface of challenges and circumstances that I had never known,? she said. ?Ilearned to listen to, respect, and honor people who were different than me. Ilearned about a way of life in North Africa that was unlike mine in Salt LakeCity, Utah. I learned that regardless of differences, there was so much thatconnected us. I also learned what it meant to serve my country?to be part ofsomething far, far greater than myself.?
Congressmen John Garamendi(CA-3), Joseph Kennedy (MA-4), and Garret Graves (LA-6), co-chairs of the CongressionalPeace Corps Caucus, also delivered remarks and took questions during the annualevent.
Congressman Garamendi servedin Peace Corps Ethiopia with his wife Patti. Congressman Kennedy was a volunteer in theDominican Republic. Congressman Graves, a longtime service leader in the SouthLouisiana community, has family members who are returned Peace Corpsvolunteers.
The Members of Congressemphasized the value of national service, the personal and professionaldevelopment opportunities that Peace Corps offers, and the importance of the PeaceCorps mission.
?If you want to have a goodlife, make it a life of service,? said Congressman Garamendi, who returned to workin Ethiopia in the 1980s. ?In the Peace Corps you learn peace, and you practicepeace. You never move away from that.?
?There?s not a single day thatgoes by that I don?t draw on my experience in the Peace Corps,? saidCongressman Kennedy, citing the problem solving and organizing skills hedeveloped in the Dominican Republic. ?It has been a profound impact on my life,and I wouldn?t be here today without it.?
?The Peace Corps is aphenomenal investment,? said Congressman Graves, sending ?ambassadors who workin other countries to help them learn who Americans really are.?
WASHINGTON ? Grilling hot dogs, linedancing and games of capture the flag may not be traditional summertimeactivities in Albania, but Peace Corps volunteer Cassandra LeBlanc of Sunrise,FL plans to share them with her community on July 4 anyway.
Since its founding in 1961, Peace Corps? mission and goals have remained unchanged. American holidays, like IndependenceDay, present opportunities for volunteers around the world to fulfill theagency?s second goal: To help promote abetter understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
Sharing the culture and diversity ofAmerica goes much deeper than holiday celebrations, as LeBlanc, a healtheducation volunteer of Haitian descent, knows from experience.
?A lot of people [in Albania] don?tbelieve I'm American at first and it takes a lot of explanation. There arepeople in [here] who have never seen a person of color before, and I understandthat I am the first,? says LeBlanc.
?I often use this as an opportunity to educate others, [to explain] that ?American culture? is the combination of different traditions and customs and is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world because our population was built by immigrants.? LeBlanc is excited to host an American-style barbecue at her partner school, filled with celebratory activities and a brief U.S. history lesson.
As of 2017, 31 percent of Peace Corps volunteers self-identified as belonging to an ethnic or racial minority. This number is up from 20 percent in 2012. For many volunteers, service abroad means sharing lessons on America?s racial and cultural diversity, along with the more traditional work of teaching nutrition and English classes.
In Morocco, Young Kwon, a youth development volunteer from St. Louis, MO, has started sharing her Korean-American heritage by teaching a Korean language and culture class, as well as an ?around the world? English class. She wrote a blog post about her experience.
?In my ?around the world? English class,? says Kwon, ?we try to learn about different cultures around the world, explore different cross-cultural topics and discuss the effects of stereotypes, how we can challenge ourselves to dispel the myths that perpetuate stereotypes and how to be respectful toward cultures that are different.?
As a Mexican-American volunteer serving in the Dominican Republic, Ray Sánchez of Dayton, NV hopes to change his community?s perceptions, not just about him, but about themselves.
?I love showing the people of this country that someone of color can make positive changes and help them achieve their goals,? says Sánchez. ?I?d rather have the people here see me as a real life example of what someone with a similar background is capable of doing. I would rather they begin to think that it is not the color of skin that matters but instead what is inside a person?s mind and heart.?
For LeBlanc in Albania, Peace Corps? second goal is personal. She says her community loves learning about her family and friends from back home in the U.S. ?I love showing them all of the pictures of my loved ones, and explaining how we are all Americans. It doesn?t matter that we all look different. That?s the beauty of the United States: that people come from all walks of life.?
WASHINGTON ? This week, Peace Corps celebrates 50 years ofservice in Fiji. Since the program was established in 1968, over 2,495 volunteershaveserved alongside their neighbors in all fifteenof the country?s provinces, learning to speak Fijian and Hindi.
Theanniversary is being celebrated throughout the week and will culminate in thelaunch of a Peace Corps exhibit at the Fiji National Museum in Suva on June 28.The exhibit will feature photos, books and articles that highlight 50 years offriendship and collaboration between Fijians and Peace Corps volunteers. The formerPresident of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, will speak at the launch reception.
Other events during the week include a traditional sevusevu welcome ceremony conducted in Fijian, reunion gatherings, visits to volunteer sites and a celebration at the U.S. Embassy. Earlier this year, Post Fiji honored the Peace Corps with commemorative stamps for the 50th anniversary, depicting volunteers past and present. A number of volunteers who have served in Fiji during the past 50 years are returning to Fiji for the historic milestone.
?The work of cultural exchange, the work of being ambassador, the work of maintaining that connection and sharing that connection [with] the people back home goes on for the rest of their lives,? says Country Director Dennis McMahon of volunteers.
Currently, there are more than 60 volunteers in Fiji working with their communities on youth development projects. Peace Corps volunteers in Fiji work with various local ministries to implement healthy living programs for youth and develop the Community Youth Empowerment Project (CYEP) framework. CYEP focuses on capacity-building activities to encourage youth to make healthy decisions and teaches parents how to best encourage youth development. To support CYEP and other projects in Fiji, visit the Fiji Country Fund page here.