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!!
Peace Corps Volunteers to Aid U.S. COVID-19 Response by Deploying to FEMA-supported Community Vaccination Centers
WASHINGTON ? Today, the Peace Corps and FEMA announced they have struck a historic partnership to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. For the second time in the agency?s history, Peace Corps volunteers will serve a domestic deployment, at FEMA?s request ? the first following Hurricane Katrina and now at federally supported Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) across the country.
?The Peace Corps works hand-in-hand with communities on their most pressing challenges, and right now the U.S. faces some of the biggest challenges in our country?s history,? said Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn. ?The volunteers who contribute to this effort will bring valuable cross-cultural experience, language skills and adaptability fostered during their time overseas as they contribute to an equitable vaccination campaign here at home.?
?Working closely with our federal partners, state and local leaders, community-based organizations, and the private sector, is critical in getting as many vaccines to the public as possible,? said Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton. ?Our partnership with the Peace Corps is an example of our commitment to reaching under-served and historically marginalized communities, to ensure equal access to vaccines. FEMA?s employees are excited to work alongside the Peace Corps in this ongoing battle against COVID-19.?
The Peace Corps will soon begin recruiting for this special domestic deployment. Those eligible to serve include returned volunteers evacuated from their overseas posts in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Assignments will focus on urgent needs as identified by FEMA, and on communities that have been traditionally under-served. Volunteers will be assigned to language support, administrative, logistical, and other work that supports vaccination centers? operations. It is anticipated that Peace Corps volunteers will be deployed into the field by mid-May.
The Peace Corps is implementing the COVID-19 domestic deployment through Peace Corps Response, a Peace Corps program that sends individuals with specialized experienced to short-term service assignments of up to 12 months. When the agency activated more than 270 volunteers to respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Peace Corps Response, then called Crisis Corps, also managed the agency?s deployment to aid FEMA?s relief operation in the gulf coast region.
This week, federal pilot community vaccination centers are opening in Boston; Essex, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia and Yakima, Washington.
FEMA, in partnership with CDC, is using the social vulnerability index to look at demographic data and provide the best advice to ensure that we reach under-served and historically marginalized communities so that anyone who wants a vaccine can get one.
FEMA is providing critical support to the COVID-19 efforts across the country via personnel, supplies and funding to help establish or expand more than 500 state led community vaccination centers and over 70 mobile vaccination centers.
The agency has now provided more than $4.47 billion for expenses related to COVID-19 vaccination at 100% federal cost share. These funds cover critical supplies, staffing, training and transportation needs that support increased vaccination efforts.
One year ago, Peace Corps temporarily suspended its global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from 61 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency?s short-term contribution to the domestic response to COVID-19 will not alter its commitment to overseas service once conditions permit. Preparations for returning to overseas posts continue in parallel to this special assignment.
Program Key to Agency?s Diversity Strategy; Deadline April 2
WASHINGTON, D.C.? The Peace Corps is looking for college students across the United States to serve as campus ambassadors. Those selected will work closely with recruiters to raise the Peace Corps? profile on campus and introduce the agency to new and diverse student groups. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 2, at 5 p.m. (PDT). Interested students can submit their applications at https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/university-programs/campus-ambassadors/application/.
Campus ambassadors promote Peace Corps service to students and stakeholders within their campus communities by developing relationships with key partners and offices and sharing their experience through presentations, events, and social media. Contingent on performance, campus ambassadors receive a letter of recommendation from the Peace Corps at the end of the year.
?Our primary goal during this critical time is returning Peace Corps Volunteers back to the countries we know and love,? said Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn. ?We are also committed to taking on the work necessary to return to service in a way that promotes racial equity and justice.?
The Campus Ambassador program demonstrates the agency?s commitment to advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities. The Peace Corps recognizes the urgency of diverse representation among its volunteers and has made this a priority of its 2021 Campus Ambassador cycle.
On March 15, the Peace Corps observed one year since the evacuation of all Peace Corps volunteers from overseas service and the temporary suspension of global operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the agency prepares for its return to service, campus ambassadors will help the agency attract the talent necessary to open posts around the world. Those interested in learning more about Peace Corps service can utilize the agency ?Connect with a Recruiter? tool at: https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/connect-with-a-recruiter/.
The murders of eight people in Atlanta this week?including six women of Asian descent?have shaken the Peace Corps community, particularly those of us who identify as Asian American and Pacific Islander. The persistent rise of violence, discrimination, and racism against members of the Asian community is unacceptable, and is antithetical to the mission of the Peace Corps.
One of the first things Peace Corps volunteers learn is that cross-cultural understanding is what leads to a successful service. Acceptance and celebration of each other is one way we can begin to heal the divisions that exist in our country and our world. This is what we are called to do now.
To members of our Peace Corps family who are hurting or afraid, please know that you are seen, supported, and valued. We could not do the necessary work of promoting world peace and friendship without the perspectives, talent, and humanity you bring to our community.
As we plan to return volunteers to service overseas, I am mindful of the vital work we must do to ensure a safe and equitable future for all of our volunteers, staff, and community members. It is absolutely essential that our systems and culture within our agency reflect our core values of celebrating differences, building relationships, and fostering belonging for all.
One year ago today, for the first time in our 60 year history, the Peace Corps made the difficult decision to evacuate all Peace Corps volunteers and temporarily suspend global operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. We, as individuals, as an agency, and as a global community, will never forget March 15, 2020.
That decision, made as borders were closing and flights were being cancelled, launched an unprecedented effort to return nearly 7,000 volunteers safely to the United States from remote corners of the world in just eight days. That week, communities in 61 countries said abrupt farewells to the volunteers with whom they had lived and worked side-by-side to address issues which still remain. And the nearly 7,000 volunteers returned home to unknown circumstances despite their commitment to serve for two years. None of us envisioned that we would be here, a year later, still preparing for the time when it is safe to return.
How do we measure a year? In many ways, time stood still and yet never stopped moving.
We pause today to remember the more than 2.5 million grandparents, parents, family, friends, and coworkers around the world who we have lost to this pandemic. We reflect on this journey of uncertainty, isolation, and constant adaptation. We offer our gratitude for the Peace Corps family: host communities, counterparts, and governments who welcome us; staff who anchor our work with open hearts; and volunteers whose passion for service never ends. We celebrate the bravery and ingenuity of individuals who have risen to the occasion in countless ways. And, we look forward to the time when we can be together once again.
The world has changed and we are called to be intentional about how we move forward. Peace Corps stands ready to meet this historic moment. Following a period of global isolation and divisiveness, our mission of world peace and friendship is more important than ever.
WASHINGTON ? On Thursday, the Peace Corps held a virtual event in its ongoing forum series to bring together returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are influencers in various fields. The agency hosted professionals working in philanthropy and corporate responsibility, and the event was opened by Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff, who gave remarks about the lasting importance of the Peace Corps and returned volunteers? dedication to public service even after their service ends.
?Peace Corps volunteers are a reminder that we can all be stewards of change in our workplaces and our communities,? Emhoff said.
The event marked the third time the forum was held and was the first time the agency hosted the event virtually.
Panelist Stephany Guachamin Coyago, an AmeriCorps alumna and returned Peace Corps Peru volunteer, spoke about how her service experiences have inspired her to remain mission-driven in her work, including in her current role as the leadership advancement program manager at the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility
When asked what impact her Peace Corps service has had on her professional life, Guachamin referenced the skills she honed during her service in Peru.
?Out of all of the skills I learned in my Peace Corps service, how to apply a humanistic approach when working with others was perhaps the most important,? said Guachamin. ?That has helped me immensely as I continue to be connected to my [Hispanic] community and help them gain access to corporate America.? She added, ?During my service I had to learn to be very comfortable in my own skin, and I?ve brought that forward into my career.?
Peace Corps is a great starting point professionally, she said.
Also on the panel was senior advisor of client services for the Tides Foundation, Harris Bostic. His Peace Corps service in Guinea inspired a new career track.
?My own initial career journey was not headed to philanthropy,? said Bostic. ?But what got me here was that I wanted to make a difference, wanted to be the change. My Peace Corps service was the first time I, as an African American, was part of the majority. This was my home, my people, my land, my culture. In a small Guinean village, I forged connections with some amazing people who took me under their wing. That experience took me from thinking about me, me, me, to you, we, us.?
In Bostic?s current role, he engages social venture and philanthropic partners to accelerate the pace of social change by building capacity and allocating resources through the lens of equity and inclusion.
The panel also included president of The Builders Initiative, Bruce McNamer. In the 1980s, McNamer worked as an investment banker in New York before applying to the Peace Corps.
?My service in Paraguay was a transformative experience, and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life,? he said.
After learning about grassroots development in Paraguay, McNamer brought the experience forward into the work he has done in corporate responsibility and philanthropy since.
?I have a very deep appreciation and admiration for the resourcefulness and insightfulness of people on the ground, in the villages, and in the communities I?ve worked with over the years,? he said. ?They are close to the problems, but also close to the solutions.?
Acting Director of the Peace Corps, Carol Spahn, closed the event by thanking the participants and acknowledging the value returned volunteers bring home after their time abroad.
?Our impressive panelists highlight the value Peace Corps service brings not only to the communities in which volunteers serve, but also to the United States,? she said. ?By living and working side-by-side with people from another culture, volunteers engage with the world in a way that honors difference, questions power dynamics and acknowledges multiple perspectives and solutions to problems. These qualities are what make returned volunteers great leaders.?
WASHINGTON ? Today the Peace Corps celebrates 60 years since President John F. Kennedy established the agency in 1961. The theme for the anniversary is ?The Peace Corps through the Decades: Sixty Years, Countless Stories? and will be commemorated during Peace Corps Week, February 28 ? March 6.
The anniversary and Peace Corps Week commemorate international peace and friendship, volunteerism, and service. Over 60 years, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 141 countries. After working alongside local leaders around the world, these individuals returned home ready to share their skills and passion for service with communities in the United States.
?As the Peace Corps celebrates our 60th anniversary, I am reminded of how far we have come and what an unprecedented time we are in now. The past 60 years have truly prepared us for this historic moment. During a pandemic that has touched every corner of the globe, it?s clear that we are all in this together,? says Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. ?As we look to the next 60 years, I know the Peace Corps will continue to be a community of people?all over the world?willing to do the hard work of promoting peace and friendship.?
To join the commemoration, check out photos of returned Peace Corps Volunteers from each decade since 1961 and key milestones that shaped our history.
More ways to celebrate:
The following is an open letter to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Acting Director Carol Spahn
To the Peace Corps community,
It?s been just over two weeks since I stepped in as Acting Director of the Peace Corps in the middle of a tumultuous January. As the ground continues to shift under our feet here at home and overseas, I am reminded of the importance of our shared experiences as ambassadors of peace and friendship.
Our primary goal during this critical time is returning Peace Corps Volunteers back to the countries we know and love. We are also committed to taking on the work necessary to return to service in a way that promotes racial equity and justice. Peace Corps is in the process of reviewing our structures, programs and policies to identify how we can best recruit and support a diverse cohort of Volunteers and staff, representing the tapestry of American culture, and ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all. We are approaching this work with humility and in the spirit of promoting mutual understanding. I appreciate every person who is and will be engaged in this endeavor.
The values of the Peace Corps?respect, collaboration, and acceptance of others?are more important than ever, both at home and overseas. When Americans return to the United States after completing their service, they are no longer Peace Corps Volunteers, but it is our expectation and hope that they continue to demonstrate these values here at home.
With that in mind, it was stunning news that a former Peace Corps Volunteer was among the violent mob that assaulted the Capitol. Agency staff and I, as well as others in the Peace Corps community, were devastated by the images of people storming the center of American government while members of Congress performed their constitutional duties. Differences of background or opinion do not justify violence and direct threats to our democratic system. The Peace Corps strongly condemns the actions of anyone who participated in the assault on the Capitol, including the former Volunteer reported to have been present.
The Peace Corps mission is to promote world peace and friendship by working alongside the communities that welcome us. I thank you for your continued engagement and partnership with Peace Corps and with our mission.
WASHINGTON, D.C.?The Peace Corps celebrates Black History Month and recognizes and honors the Black volunteers, staff and communities around the world who have been central to the success of the agency for almost 60 years.
The global Peace Corps family recognizes contributions of Black excellence that too often have gone untold and uncelebrated in American history.
"Black volunteers, staff and community members are an integral part of what the Peace Corps does. Our agency, at its core, is about celebrating diversity around the world, building relationships and opportunity, and fostering equity and inclusion for all people,? says Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. ?Without the contributions of our Black team members, the Peace Corps would not be able to achieve its core mission.?
To read more about the legacy of Black volunteers, staff and community members within the Peace Corps community, go to the agency blog and social media pages throughout the month of February and beyond.
WASHINGTON, D.C.? With President Biden?s recent signing of Executive Order (EO)13985, On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, the Peace Corps recognizes the importance of advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities in the United States and around the world.
We believe that addressing systemic racism and injustice in all of its forms is inextricably tied to our mission. We hold that there is no world peace or friendship without justice and equity and we stand against the marginalization of any people. Black lives matter.
We affirm our commitment to peace, intercultural competence and taking measure of our own structures, programs and policies to ensure we promote equity and justice. We are actively working to ensure that our workplace, our volunteer systems and our culture reflect these values. We will continue to engage as an Agency the difficult yet essential work of addressing systemic barriers as we strive to live up to our mission of world peace and friendship.
WASHINGTON ? The Peace Corps is pleased to announce Carol Spahn as the agency?s acting director. She has been delegated the authorities and responsibilities of the director and will fill the role until the Biden-Harris administration selects an individual to serve in the position. (An earlier version of this press release stated Spahn was the chief executive officer. President Biden has since designated her acting director.)
?It is an honor to serve the Peace Corps and our country,? said Spahn. ?From my time as a volunteer in Romania to my years as a country director in Malawi, I have loved my work for the Peace Corps, the American people, and the people of the countries where I have served. I am grateful the Biden-Harris transition team has accorded me the privilege of serving in this new role.?
Spahn brings more than 25 years of public and private sector experience to the acting director position. Most recently, she served as Peace Corps? chief of operations in the Africa Region covering Eastern and Southern Africa. Previously, she was the country director of Peace Corps/Malawi for five years.
Spahn served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1994 to 1996 in Romania, where she worked as a small business advisor. Before returning to the Peace Corps as Country Director, she was the senior vice president of operations at Women for Women International. Prior to that, Spahn was executive director of Accordia Global Health Foundation. She also served as vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and held positions at leading private sector institutions, including GE Capital and KPMG Peat Marwick.
Spahn holds a bachelor's degree from the Catholic University of America and a master?s degree in international development from the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.