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 and FEMA to Hold Media Availability in Dallas on Historic US Partnership in Fight Against COVID-19
DALLAS, TX ? On Wednesday, May 19, Carol Spahn, Acting Director of the Peace Corps, and John Rabin, Assistant Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will hold a media availability to discuss the agencies? historic partnership to combat COVID-19. Peace Corps Response volunteers will also be available to talk about their upcoming deployments to FEMA-supported Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) across the U.S.
?The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every country around the world, and it is urgent that we come together, as a global community to respond,? said Spahn. ?While Peace Corps prepares to return to service overseas, we are very proud that returned Volunteers have stepped up to support this unprecedented effort here in the U.S.?
Peace Corps Response volunteers will serve, at FEMA?s request, in a domestic deployment for the second time in the agency?s history. The first deployment occurred in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers will be in Dallas to attend training and be sworn into service from May 18 to 19. They will deploy to CVCs in Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon on May 20. Volunteers will be assigned to language support, and administrative, logistical, and other work that bolsters the CVCs? operations.
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.
WHO: Carol Spahn, Acting Director of the Peace Corps; John Rabin, Assistant Administrator of FEMA and Peace Corps Response volunteers
WHAT: Media availability
WHEN: Wednesday, May 19, 2021 from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. CST
WHERE: Please email email@example.com for location details.
WASHINGTON ? On Wednesday, May 19, 2021, the Peace Corps will hold its second virtual Thought Leader Forum, focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The event is part of a series that brings together returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) who are influencers in various industries. This month?s event will feature three panelists who have successfully integrated DEI work into their chosen fields. Their collective experience spans the fields of higher education, workforce training, writing, and psychology, as well as organizational, cultural, and leadership consulting.
?This Thought Leader Series will explore one of the most critical topics in our world today.? said Carol Spahn, Acting Director of the Peace Corps. ?We know that Peace Corps volunteers have not only experienced but also lived at the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion in their work overseas and many are at the forefront of this work in the United States.?
May?s event panelists are Dr. Anthony L. Pinder, inaugural vice provost for internationalization and equity at Emerson College; Hermence Matsotsa, founder and CEO of uBuntuSpeaks, a professional development, DEI, organizational, cultural and leadership consulting firm; and Dr. Huong Diep, psychologist, author and international consultant. Panelists will discuss how their Peace Corps service informed and influenced their career choices and how the knowledge, skills, and abilities they gained through service have helped them make a positive impact in the United States.
The Peace Corps will also provide an update on the agency?s intercultural competence, diversity, equity and inclusion work.
This event is part of Peace Corps? ongoing 60th anniversary celebration. In March 2021, the Peace Corps hosted a virtual Thought Leader Series on Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. Those interested in attending the May event can register here. There is no deadline to register, but there will be a 500-person capacity limit. For full panelist bios, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON ? At the request of the Peace Corps, the Sexual Assault Advisory Council (SAAC), an independent team of subject-matter experts and former volunteers that reviews the Peace Corps? policies and procedures as they relate to sexual assault risk reduction and response, convened for a special meeting on Wednesday. Acting Director Carol Spahn issued the following statement on the meeting and the agency?s efforts:
?As part of the agency?s plans to improve our systems to more consistently and comprehensively mitigate risk and provide support to sexual assault survivors, the Peace Corps requested a special meeting of the SAAC. In this meeting, we asked the SAAC to review progress on past recommendations and to work with management as we prioritize new recommendations from the Council and the Peace Corps community. We thank the Council for their service, time and attention to this matter.
?An important piece of feedback we have received, and shared with the SAAC, is that the agency must improve its communications with the Peace Corps community and general public. And we agree. We are committed to more proactively communicating the agency?s long term, systemic and structural progress around sexual assault risk reduction and response as well as other priority areas of the agency. We will publicly share updates on a regular basis and intend to have our first update available at the end of May. For those who are not already on our contact lists, there will be an option to subscribe to these updates.
?This is a critical time for Peace Corps as we reaffirm our commitment to volunteers and the communities we serve as well as to the agency?s overall transparency and accountability. We look forward to the SAAC and our community providing us valuable feedback and input.?
Returned volunteers who have been impacted by sexual violence, or any crime while serving in the Peace Corps, can contact the Office of Victim Advocacy (OVA), which is available 24 hours a day and can provide confidential services and referrals, by phone or text at 202-409-2704 and email at email@example.com. As required by the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018, any staff member you may contact, including the Acting Director, is required to immediately notify OVA when the matter relates to sexual assault.
WASHINGTON ? Today, nominations for the Peace Corps? Lillian Carter Award will open and be accepted until Sunday, May 23, 2021. This biennial award honors outstanding individuals who served in the Peace Corps at age 50 or older.
The Lillian Carter Award was established in 1986 in honor of President Jimmy Carter's mother, Lillian Carter, who, at age 68, served as a Peace Corps health volunteer in India. Lillian Carter?s commitment to Peace Corps service was an extension of her dedication to humanitarian efforts at home and abroad.
?Nearly 14,000 older Americans have answered the call to service and advanced the Peace Corps? mission of promoting world peace and friendship. These volunteers bring their rich life experiences to the communities they serve,? said Acting Director Carol Spahn. ?The Lillian Carter Award is given to one outstanding senior volunteer who demonstrates that service?both at home and abroad?can be impactful at any age.?
Those who are interested in nominating a returned Peace Corps volunteer for this award can do so here.
Candidates for this award must demonstrate a commitment to civic engagement and service, with a track record of supporting the Peace Corps? mission. They should also have a history of advancing the Peace Corps' Third Goal of strengthening Americans' understanding of the world and its people.
Over 240,000 American citizens?13,898 of whom served over the age of 50?have dedicated themselves to promoting world peace and friendship since the Peace Corps was established 60 years ago in 1961.
?USA Today recently published an article on sexual assault experienced by volunteers during their service. To those volunteers who have told their stories about sexual assault in the Peace Corps: I am so very sorry for the trauma you have experienced. You have each shown tremendous courage, and I am grateful that you have come forward.
?These are devastating stories, and the agency is working to get to the root of the very serious issues that were raised.
?As we approach the return to service of volunteers, we are intensifying and cementing our commitment to mitigating risk, wherever possible, and providing victim-centered and trauma-informed support to sexual assault survivors. We must always be an agency that empowers survivors and tears down barriers to reporting, services and care.
?As the new Acting Director of the agency and a returned volunteer myself, I am personally committed to ensuring the following systems are in place prior to the return of volunteers to service:
?To ensure robust and systemic implementation of best practices, we will conduct an external review of the structure of our Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response (SARRR) Program to ensure that all of our policies and procedures are being properly followed. I have requested that the Sexual Assault Advisory Council (SAAC), a team of independent experts, review progress on all recommendations to the agency. We will make those findings public.
?Although Peace Corps has made improvements in our risk reduction, response and support programs over the last decade, these stories demonstrate that there is still work to be done.
?The Peace Corps remains committed to this vital work at every level within the agency.
?I have asked the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to review all the cases of sexual assault referenced in this article. I have also assigned a dedicated team at headquarters to review open OIG recommendations and take corrective action.
?If there are others who are willing to share their stories with us, we would like to hear from them.* We invite and encourage survivors to submit information any time confidentially to the Office of Inspector General at OIG@peacecorpsoig.gov or to me personally at Director@peacecorps.gov. And anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence in the Peace Corps can contact the Office of Victim Advocacy, which is available 24 hours a day and can provide services and referrals. OVA can be reached by phone or text at 202-409-2704 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.?
*Update - 4/28/21: As required by the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018, any staff member you may contact, including the Acting Director, is required to immediately notify the Office of Victim Advocacy when the matter relates to sexual assault.
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.?