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 - email@example.com. I'll do my best to answer you as quickly as I can. Talk to you soon!!
Peace Corps Honored for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Accountability
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Peace Corps has earned its 13th consecutive Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR) award from the Association of Government Accountants (AGA). The Agency received the award for its 2019 Fiscal Year Agency Financial Report in a virtual ceremony in August.
?This award exemplifies our accountability to the American people, a responsibility we dedicate ourselves to every single day,? said Richard Swarttz, chief financial officer at the Peace Corps. ?I am proud to be part of a team that continues to show its commitment to transparency and excellence for every citizen of this country.?
AGA presents the CEAR award to federal agencies annually for producing high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports and Agency Financial Reports. The CEAR award program was established in collaboration with the Chief Financial Officers Council and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to improve accountability through streamlined, effective reporting that clearly shows agency accomplishments with taxpayer dollars and the challenges that remain.
The Peace Corps welcomes Dr. Darlene Grant to her new role as senior advisor to Director Jody Olsen. In this role, Dr. Grant will work with agency leadership to increase and champion a diverse staff and volunteer corps. She will make recommendations aimed at increasing inclusiveness, removing barriers for underrepresented groups, and creating a more just and equitable Peace Corps.
Dr. Grant?s path to the Peace Corps began after 18 years as a professor of social work at the University of Texas at Austin. There, she taught graduate and undergraduate courses in social justice, clinical practice, research methodology, and working with at-risk youth. She directed funded research projects focusing on juvenile probation, teen pregnancy prevention, and the domestic violence experiences of incarcerated women. Dr. Grant was named 2006 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.
In 2009, she took a leave of absence to serve in Cambodia?s 3rd Peace Corps volunteer cohort as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher and teacher trainer. Her volunteer service was just the beginning of her relationship with the agency. In 2012, she became country director in Mongolia and served in that position until 2015. Subsequently, she retired from the University of Texas and went to Kosovo to serve as a country director once more.
In the Q&A below, we ask Dr. Grant about her newest role as senior advisor to the Director.
Describe your experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cambodia.
My volunteer service in Cambodia challenged everything I had learned from living life as an African American woman whose parents were a part of the great migration of the 1950s?when they traveled from the south to northern cities for opportunities. It challenged everything from my academic pursuits to what I taught as a professor about empathy, resilience, social justice, diversity, power, privilege, and oppression.
The people-to-people work of a Peace Corps volunteer?living at the level of the community in which you serve, building relationships in the face of daily cross-cultural misunderstanding (that, in my case, included helping others overcome stereotypes related to the package that I come in) affirmed my commitment to my profession as it intersects with the mission of the Peace Corps. It solidified my passion for this work and changed my professional career trajectory!
How did your experience as a volunteer shape how you worked with volunteers as a country director?
It is from my own personal experience as a volunteer and my professional framework that I have encouraged volunteers?when they feel their work or presence is not valued?to get back to their why. Why do you want to do meaningful work? Why did you join the Peace Corps?
It is my firm belief that if you can get back to your why, and if you use the staff and peer resources around you, you will tap into your core resilience factor. With resilience, you can succeed.
What are your primary duties as the new Senior Advisor to the Director?
My primary role is to listen to and advise Director Olsen and the agency through the filter of my experience as a clinical social work practitioner; professor-researcher focused on anti-violence, anti-poverty, anti-racism, and oppression; returned Peace Corps volunteer; and former country director.
This position offers a chance to honor the knowledge of the agency?s host country national staff, returned volunteers, and U.S. direct hires with whom I have worked. Together, we will continue to learn from each other and uphold the ethos and mission of the Peace Corps.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role?
I want to create a space where I can truly listen to people?s stories and recommendations on behalf of the agency.
I aim to collaborate with the Peace Corps? Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion to connect the dots in terms of attitudes, policies, and practices that deliberately or inadvertently put up barriers toward attaining the richest possible diversity of applicants, volunteers, and staff from underrepresented groups.
Together, we aspire to establish an environment for everyone to achieve their fullest potential at the Peace Corps.
Why did you decide to accept this new position?
I accepted this new position because I have a very particular set of life experiences and professional skills?skills that I have acquired over a very long career. My unique skills make me sensitive to the desire everyone has to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are, their fears, what they have overcome, and their hopes and dreams.
I accepted this job because the Peace Corps changed the trajectory of my life and career to be one focused on meaningful cross-cultural work which, through an agency embedded within our U.S. government, enables me (and us) to work for a better America and a better world.
I accepted this job because I spent my whole life preparing for it?from childhood when I sat and listened to my Baptist minister maternal grandfather preach the social gospel in the fashion of Martin Luther King Jr.
I grew up in inner-city poverty, surviving for periods on food stamps and government cheese handouts. After flunking out of a predominately white private university where, as a 4.0 student my entire life, I learned the lesson that an ?A? in a low resourced, inner-city school is not the same as an ?A? from a highly resourced school with AP classes.
I accepted this job because of Ellen, Peggy, and Sarah, the white girls from the dorm room two doors down from mine who befriended me when I was in tears after receiving the letter from the university informing me that I had failed and needed to go home. They subsequently coached me in effectively navigating the university probation process so I could prove myself.
And I did. The 3.0 GPA that I earned that following semester and the friendships that started then added to my understanding of the importance of inviting people from diverse backgrounds to form cross cultural bridges.
What makes you excited about your new position?
This new job enables me to continue this work on a larger stage.
After hearing the sad news of the passing of Representative John Lewis (D-GA), I have been framing the dozens of calls for Peace Corps leadership to address organizational racial inequities in terms of his life, his fearless commitment, and his devotion to this work. The challenges and importance of anti-oppression, anti-racism, cannot be overstated.
In this moment, as I emphasize the importance of pressing on no matter how tired, no matter how skeptical that this effort will lead to real change, one quote by Rep. John Lewis particularly resonates:
?Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even fairer, more just society.?
As everyone who reads this response has undoubtedly done, I have ruminated on the meaning of the intersection of the pandemic, the evacuation, and the horrendous killings of Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many others. These events have catapulted our society?and this agency?to a tipping point with a feeling of real possibilities for change.
I am honored that Director Olsen asked me to be a part of her senior advisory team and energized to do this work. I am honored to have the support of so many colleagues throughout the Peace Corps and the world.
TEMPE, AZ ? The Peace Corps and Arizona State University today announced a new strategic partnership agreement that will advance their shared interest in meeting the needs of learners in remote, offline communities globally by leveraging ASU?s innovative technology, SolarSPELL, a tool to build information literacy and to advance high-quality education.
ASU SolarSPELL (Solar Powered Educational Learning Library) delivers a digital library that mimics the online experience by generating its own offline Wi-Fi hotspot to which any Wi-Fi-capable device can connect, so that users can freely surf the library's expansive, yet localized, content. As technology meant for populations in remote and rural locations, Peace Corps volunteers can take SolarSPELL into the communities they serve to improve educational outcomes in schools and support ongoing technology training.
?Regardless of where you live, technology is critical to our continued advancement in all endeavors and it is an essential tool for expanding access to education; this partnership will advance even greater impact,? said ASU President Michael M. Crow. ?Peace Corps volunteers have been making a difference across the globe for decades and we share a commitment for helping people through education which, today, means access to information through technology.?
The Peace Corps and ASU have been working together since 2015 to pair SolarSPELL?s digital library with locally-based trainers, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and their resident teacher counterparts. ASU provides the tools and the training that empowers volunteers and local teachers to utilize SolarSPELL libraries in their schools and communities.
?This strategic partnership will enhance and accelerate the use of SolarSPELL, arming Peace Corps volunteers with what is not only a fantastic tool but, importantly, one that is inexpensive and easily deployed in locations around the world,? said Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen. ?Arizona State University is a global leader in providing access to education, and the Peace Corps has a long history of working with local leaders to tackle the pressing challenges of the day. Through this partnership, together, we can have a transformative impact on communities in need around the globe.?
Currently, SolarSPELL has 365 digital libraries in 8 countries across the Pacific Islands and East Africa. Through this partnership, SolarSPELL will equip hundreds, and eventually thousands, more Peace Corps volunteers with localized, offline, digital libraries filled with 20,000+ educational resources. PCVs will use the technology to build capacities of rural, remote communities around the world.
One of the key components that fuels this innovation to help learners around the world, is students.
?ASU students are involved in every aspect of the SolarSPELL initiative,? said SolarSPELL Founder and ASU Associate Professor, Laura Hosman. ?From curating content to building libraries, to writing software code, to making videos?students are critical to the success of this initiative. And they not only contribute with work in the field, they also learn from opportunities to engage globally, behave entrepreneurially, carry out real-world work with purpose and transform society.?
These positive outcomes not only assist host communities, they also help ASU students and Peace Corps volunteers see the impact they?re capable of making?inspiring them to think about how to drive positive change, whatever their future endeavors.
WASHINGTON ? Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen attended a reception at the State Department today to celebrate the signing by Viet Nam of the implementing agreement between the Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education and Training to officially establish the Peace Corps program in English education.
The event, which also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, included Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell, Viet Nam Ambassador to the United States Ha Kim Ngoc and Deputy Chief of Mission Hoang Thi Thanh Nga.
Viet Nam will be the 143rd country to host Peace Corps volunteers since the agency was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.
?We are thrilled to be entering into this historic partnership,? said Director Olsen. ?I am honored and deeply grateful to the people and Government of Viet Nam for their willingness to open their hearts, schools and homes to Peace Corps volunteers. This program, with its emphasis on cross-cultural exchange and capacity building, will benefit the people of both countries for generations.?
Peace Corps Viet Nam will focus on English education. After arrival in Viet Nam, 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 class of Peace Corps volunteers is scheduled to arrive in Viet Nam in mid-2022 to complete their training and be ready to begin their service when the school year begins in early September.
Director Olsen will sign the implementing agreement next week when the original documents arrive from Ha Noi. The Viet Nam Vice Minister of Education and Training signed those documents in Ha Noi today at a reception with U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink. The country agreement, which established the framework for the program, was signed in 2016.
?Peace Corps volunteers live and work alongside their neighbors, bringing people together in pursuit of peace and friendship,? said Director Olsen. ?This is an extraordinary opportunity for our partners in Viet Nam and the Peace Corps family.?
WASHINGTON ? Director Jody Olsen delivered the following message to the Peace Corps today, June 10:
The Peace Corps family?both at home and around the world?is outraged and saddened by the killing of George Floyd. We mourn his life and all Black lives lost to beliefs, behaviors, and practices that continue to be embedded in systems of racism throughout the United States.
Hundreds and thousands of peaceful demonstrators here in the U.S. and in many countries around the world, including countries where our Volunteers serve, have gathered to demand long-overdue change. As the horror settles into anger, sorrow, and deep hurt, our RPCV community and staff are rightfully demanding that Peace Corps leadership and the agency at large step up to demonstrate our commitment to addressing racial and social injustice via informed, meaningful, and sustained action.
Over the last week, I have heard from many of you. I am grateful for your willingness to share, and I am clear that this moment calls for each of us to courageously align our words and deeds so that, in all we do, both our words and our actions center on human dignity?particularly for those to whom it has been denied. I am simultaneously humbled and energized by your courage and your honesty. I commit to you that under my leadership, Peace Corps is taking the opportunity of this unprecedented moment to step up?and will continue to step up?to model our principles and goals.
With these and many more considerations in mind, I commit to working with leadership to create spaces to engage Peace Corps staff and RPCVs in respectful, authentic conversations about racial injustice. We each have a role to play in creating more transparent, just, and equitable systems.
Transforming the powerful conversations we have had?and will continue to have?into actionable items for the agency will involve short-, medium-, and long-term changes and objectives.
First, I am establishing a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. They will report directly to me and listen, challenge, and provide a voice and a plan to make changes in how we work to erase discrimination in our agency.
Second, as an active component of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, I have asked the director of OCRD and the Chief Diversity Officer to continue facilitating ongoing discussions to help define our path forward. We can benefit from their guidance and wisdom as we encourage conversations on race and inequality both here at home and in the countries we serve.
Third, we are re-energizing the Barriers Analysis group. This group was created just before COVID-19 and was tasked with taking a detailed look at recruitment, hiring, and advancement barriers. Their goal is to ensure more diverse personnel throughout the agency. The group, chaired by our director of OCRD and the CHICO, begins work anew today.
Fourth, I am re-filling my senior advisor position with a former Country Director who has just completed eight years with Peace Corps. Her primary emphasis will be on supporting our offices as they plan our return to service. She will work in collaboration with existing efforts to further strengthen U.S. and international staff tools and strategies for supporting a diverse work and Volunteer force.
Additionally, I commit to putting funding behind developing systems for the:
WASHINGTON ? Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen announced the agency will provide additional financial support to the 7,000 volunteers and trainees who were evacuated from their posts last month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
?Our volunteers returned to the United States during a very challenging time, so I am pleased to announce this $1,500 wellness stipend,? said Director Olsen. ?We are able to provide this one-time stipend thanks to the strong support of the Administration and Congress, which recently authorized a supplemental appropriation for the Peace Corps to cover costs associated with the evacuations and post-service benefits for volunteers.?
The new stipend is intended to help returned volunteers and trainees cover near-term health and wellness costs. These funds will be provided in addition to the evacuation and readjustment allowances that were disbursed in recent weeks.
Evacuees were also provided with two months of health insurance coverage and the option to purchase a third month of coverage. Other benefits include Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal jobs and the opportunity to apply for enrollment in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program, which provides financial support to graduate students.
?Peace Corps volunteers have a wealth of leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that make our communities and the American workforce stronger,? said Director Olsen. ?We are partnering with stakeholders across government, the private sector and higher education to assist returned volunteers as they determine what?s next in their lives, in the workplace, at graduate school or back in the Peace Corps when conditions permit.?
For more information on post-service benefits visit the COVID-19 Updates page.
WASHINGTON ? The Peace Corps is partnering with a host of federal agencies to hold webinars and virtual job fairs where evacuated Peace Corps volunteers can find jobs as they adjust to life in the United States.
?We are here to support our volunteers in every way possible,? said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?Our volunteers have given so much to the world, and we are working tirelessly to ensure their smooth transition to life back in the United States. We also want to recognize our outstanding government partners who are eager to hire returned Peace Corps volunteers and have supported us through this challenging time.?
Returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) can find the full list of virtual job fairs by logging in here.
The participating government agencies are:
This list may be updated as other agencies join the effort.
Additionally, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is conducting online classes to help RPCVs write their resumes, learn how to use the hiring website USAJOBS and navigate the federal hiring system.
WASHINGTON ? From March 1 - 7, 2020, Peace Corps celebrates Peace Corps Week and President John F. Kennedy?s establishment of the agency on March 1, 1961. The theme this year is Peace Corps 2020+: Building the Future.
Throughout the week, people across the United States will participate in events that commemorate Peace Corps? 59th birthday and celebrate all the ways the agency makes a difference at home and abroad.
?With this new decade, we are looking forward,? says Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?The world is much more connected today and we see its opportunities for our agency. This Peace Corps Week, we celebrate the ways our host communities and volunteers are innovating, creating and adapting to create a better future. I thank every returned Peace Corps volunteer for their dedication to service and their willingness to create meaningful relationships across cultures, borders and languages.?
In the lead-up to Peace Corps Week, the agency held a photo challenge asking current and returned volunteers to submit photographs embodying the three goals of Peace Corps. One photo challenge winner will be announced on Facebook and Instagram each day during Peace Corps Week, with a total of six winners.
Over 20 Peace Corps Week events are taking place around the country. Activities include discussion panels with returned volunteers, information sessions with recruiters, film screenings, and storytelling events. Returned volunteers participating in these events will share photos, music, culture and stories from their countries of service. For a full list of suggested activities, visit the Peace Corps Week page.
WASHINGTON ? Peace Corps announced today its 2020 ranking of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities. The schools are classed in large, medium or small categories, as well as a graduate school and an all-time category, which ranks the top Peace Corps volunteer-producing schools since 1961, the year of the agency?s inception.
?These schools are institutions that emphasize being global citizens and service-minded students,? said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?I am excited to know the graduates coming from Peace Corps? top colleges are using their skills to make a positive impact on their communities at home and abroad.?
In the large school category, the University of Wisconsin?Madison continues to hold the No. 1 spot. After placing ninth in 2019, the University of Florida is now in second place; the school sent 70 alumni to Peace Corps service, 14 more than the previous year. At No. 4, the University of Maryland also rose in the ranks with 66 alums joining the Peace Corps, an increase of 11.
Large Colleges & Universities ? Total Volunteers:
More than 15,000 Undergraduates
1) University of Wisconsin-Madison - 79
2) University of Florida - 70
3) University of Virginia - 68
4) University of Maryland - College Park - 68
5) University of Georgia -64
For schools with between 15,000 and 5,000 undergraduates, George Washington University (GW) held the No. 1 spot with 62 alumni sent to Peace Corps service. GW has held the No. 1 spot in this category since 2018. American University is in second place for the third year in a row.
Medium Colleges & Universities ? Total Volunteers:
Between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates
1) George Washington University - 62
2) American University - 48
3) College of William and Mary - 46
4) University of Vermont - 45
5) Tulane University - 34
St. Lawrence University sent 19 former students to the Peace Corps, earning first place in the small schools category. Dartmouth has risen from No. 6 on the list last year to No. 2 in 2020.
Small Colleges & Universities ? Total Volunteers:
Fewer than 5,000 undergraduates
1) St. Lawrence University - 19
2) Dartmouth College - 15
3) Eckerd College - 14
4) Bucknell University - 13 (tied)
4) Allegheny - 13 (tied)
4) Whitman College - 13 (tied)
Though ranked No. 6 last year, GW now holds first place on the graduate schools list. Four schools are tied for the No. 2 spot: NYU, Tulane, University of South Florida and University of Washington, which did not place on the list in 2019.
Graduate Schools ? Total Volunteers:
1) George Washington University - 14
2) New York University - 11 (tied)
2) Tulane University - 11 (tied)
2) University of South Florida - 11 (tied)
2) University of Washington - 11 (tied)
Historically, the University of California - Berkeley has sent the most alumni to Peace Corps service: 3,741.
All Time Since 1961
1) University of California - Berkeley - 3,741
2) University of Wisconsin - Madison - 3,369
3) University of Washington -3,101
4) University of Michigan - Ann Arbor - 2,775
5) University of Colorado - Boulder - 2,556
The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing colleges and universities annually according to the size of the student body. View the complete 2020 rankings of the top 25 schools in each category here.
*Rankings are calculated based on fiscal year 2019 data as of September 30, 2019, as self-reported by Peace Corps volunteers.
WASHINGTON ? Since the outbreak was first reported in early January, the Peace Corps has been closely monitoring the coronavirus with the State Department Bureaus of Medical Affairs and Diplomatic Security, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization, to safeguard volunteers and staff at Peace Corps posts around the world.
Peace Corps medical officers are communicating with volunteers on how to mitigate the risks of exposure, and an interdisciplinary working group is working closely with overseas posts to track and analyze the impact on the agency and to ensure an effective and timely response.
Each Peace Corps program has developed specific protocols for the coronavirus that have been included in their Emergency Action Plans. Volunteers are thoroughly trained in their roles and responsibilities, and posts are prepared to respond to public health emergencies like the coronavirus outbreak.
All volunteers from Peace Corps China were evacuated safely. Globally, no volunteers or staff have been infected.
Peace Corps will remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions until this epidemic subsides.