American TESOL Institute & World Wise Schools


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 - I'll do my best to answer you as quickly as I can. Talk to you soon!!


The Peace Corps Announces Return to El Salvador

WASHINGTON ? The Peace Corps will reopen its program in El Salvador, Director Jody K. Olsen announced today.

?El Salvador and her people have been a cherished part of the Peace Corps family since our earliest days, and I am so pleased to share this good news as we begin commemorating our 60th anniversary,? said Director Olsen. ?I want to thank our many community and government partners in El Salvador for their support and enthusiasm and the Peace Corps staff who worked diligently to lay the groundwork for this important decision. We look forward to opening a new Peace Corps office in San Salvador soon.?

More than 2,300 Peace Corps volunteers have worked on community and youth development projects throughout El Salvador since the program was established in 1962. The program was suspended in 2016 due to security concerns.

Peace Corps staff traveled to El Salvador in the fall of 2019 to meet with ministry officials and carry out assessments focused on safety and security, health, management and operations, and programming and training. They reported favorable results, including a commitment from the Ministry of Tourism to support volunteer projects around the country.

The Peace Corps is planning to send community economic development volunteers to El Salvador in 2022.

Publ.Date : Fri, 20 Nov 2020 18:18:51 +0000

Peace Corps staff member works to improve support of Deaf Volunteers

Allen Neece was hired to advise the Office of the Director on how best to improve the recruitment and placement of Deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) Peace Corps Volunteers. His duties include expanding the inclusion of people with disabilities in project-planning at various Peace Corps posts around the world.

Allen has worked at headquarters since 2015, but his experience with the Peace Corps started long before that.

After seven years of teaching English to Deaf adult immigrants and high school students in Los Angeles, Allen applied to the Peace Corps and was assigned a Deaf education position in Kenya. Just weeks after completing his in-country training, he was evacuated due to post-electoral instability and reassigned to Zambia for ten months. When Kenya re-opened, Allen returned and began a Peace Corps journey that would last for years to come.

When Allen served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, he worked at TumuTumu School for the Deaf.

What made you want to return to your original post after you were evacuated?

At the time, Kenya was the only Peace Corps post that had a Deaf Education project. With my background as a teacher, it made sense for me to return. Whenever a post shuts down, so much knowledge is lost and the staff often have to rebuild from scratch. The Peace Corps Kenya staff specifically invited me to return as they reopened because they knew I could contribute to rebuilding the project. It was exciting to be able to share my knowledge and expertise as a teacher, as well as a recent Trainee familiar with the Kenya context.

Describe your work as a Volunteer in Kenya and Zambia.

I was originally placed in western Kenya in the town of Kakamega, but I was there only a few weeks before I was evacuated. I then transferred to Zambia where I worked in a capacity-building role with the Zambia National Association of the Deaf (ZNAD) in Lusaka.

I was exceedingly grateful to the Zambia post for inviting me and several other transfers, because I certainly didn?t want to return home. I worked alongside ZNAD in developing advocacy strategies to meet the socio-economic needs of Deaf communities in Zambia. One major accomplishment was securing funding for a Zambian Sign Language poster as a medium for teaching signs pertaining to health and reproduction. This was modeled on a similar poster previously developed with funds from PEPFAR in Kenya.

When I returned to Kenya, I was placed in the TumuTumu School for the Deaf in central Kenya. TumuTumu is a residential primary grade school for the Deaf perched on a hill named TumuTumu. Surrounded by farms that cultivated crops on ridiculously fertile soil (a gift from the legacy of Mt. Kenya, which looms in the distance), TumuTumu was known for being a hide-out for Mau Mau freedom fighters during the days of the war for independence.

I taught English to students in grades 3 and 4, and geography to 8th graders. I had many secondary projects, ranging from cleaning up and opening the school library, to securing dictionaries for the Standard 8 students, to finding funds to pay tuition fees for the students continuing on to secondary school.

I also participated in planning, designing, and implementing sessions for incoming Deaf Education trainees at Peace Corps? Pre-/In-Service trainings, a task which helped the post regain its footing after resuming operations in country.

Allen shows off a chameleon to a group of students at TumuTumu School for the Deaf.

What were some challenges you faced as a Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Volunteer?

I didn?t encounter many challenges different than then ones that faced hearing Volunteers. The only real exception was having to navigate the attitudes some people in Kenya and Zambia have towards individuals with disabilities, especially Deaf people.

These attitudinal barriers were reflected in many schools for the Deaf. I responded by positioning myself as a role model, demonstrating ideals and values by virtue of my life experience. I hoped I could plant seeds of confidence and pride in the youth I taught and the colleagues I worked with.

After you completed your service in Kenya, you became a Response Volunteer in Guyana. Why did you make that choice?

I really didn?t want to return to the States, and I enjoyed living, working, and traveling overseas. The opportunity for Guyana happened at exactly the right time. I finished my service in Kenya in December of 2010, and started the very next month in Guyana.

I was particularly excited because the position gave me the opportunity to work at a government ministry level, something I wish I could?ve done in Kenya. Personally, I think the Peace Corps should offer more opportunities for highly experienced Volunteers to work at the ministry level. Many education ministries across the world are very top down?meaning that the best location to effect reforms is within these bureaus.

Describe your work as a Response Volunteer in Guyana.

I worked with the ministry to modify the national curriculum to eliminate bias against Deaf language learners and ensure they were taught in Guyana Sign Language as their primary modality of communication and instruction. I provided in-service training to teachers of the Deaf and visited some remote locations to provide sensitization classes and assess students there.

As a DHH Volunteer, what special skills or perspective did you bring to your Peace Corps services?

In many cultures, disability or deafness is viewed as moral failing on the part of the parents?a sign that they were being punished by God for their sins or that witchcraft was involved. I observed that some people had internalized disability as perhaps unique to Africa or to their ethnic group.

In my work and travels across the world, I encountered many people who were shocked or amazed that someone like me?a 6 foot 4 inch, 240lbs, white American male?could not only be Deaf, but also be a Deaf person in a position of influence.

When I appeared in my role as a Volunteer to teach and work along folks in a professional capacity, there was genuine surprise and appreciation. Some people took it well, some did not. I think my presence entailed a paradigm shift in how they viewed people, especially Deaf people, as members of society. I would say the vast majority of people accepted what I had to share, but I did encounter some resistance when people had to re-evaluate and adjust their attitudes and views towards people with disabilities. Change isn?t easy for some people, but that?s why I was there: to learn from the people I met, offer them an opportunity to view the world through a different lens, and represent the diversity of the American people.

Allen was evacuated from Kenya, but later returned to complete his Peace Corps service.

What did you do after finishing your Response service?

I finished my service in Guyana in November of 2011. In January of 2012, I started a two-year stint as a Volunteer with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Kigali, Rwanda. I worked for two years as a capacity adviser with the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD).

In this role I wore many hats: I worked alongside the RNUD to secure official approval as a government sanctioned NGO. We received $25,000 in funding from the Disability Rights Action Fund and also secured a $5,000 grant from UN AIDS to develop sign language material for HIV/AIDS awareness. I wrote a position paper for RNUD and attended many seminars and work-shops with RNUD staff.

My proudest accomplishment was managing the development of a Rwandan Sign Language dictionary and accompanying curriculum via DVD format for a pilot-inclusive education project. That pilot was implemented in two schools where Deaf students were mainstreamed with hearing students.

You currently work as a Program Specialist at the Peace Corps. What are your main duties in this position?

I was hired as an expert consultant and placed in the Office of the Director as an advisor on how to improve the recruitment and placement of DHH Trainees/Volunteers. I also work to expand the inclusion of people with disabilities in project-planning at various Peace Corps posts.

How does your experiencing serving as a DHH Volunteer in Kenya, Zambia, and Guyana help you support DHH Volunteers in your current position?

I lived and worked for nearly seven years as a Deaf Volunteer and educator for both Peace Corps and VSO in four countries, so I bring considerable knowledge and life experience to this position.

What do you think the Peace Corps can do to better support our DHH Volunteers?

I would say the biggest barrier facing the inclusion of DHH Volunteers is an attitudinal barrier. With staff turnover at our agency comes a certain lack of institutional knowledge. I?m still encountering agency staff who are surprised at the long legacy of DHH Americans serving as Volunteers, but more than 75 DHH Volunteers have served since 1969.

If I were to speak for DHH people worldwide, I would say that many of us don?t consider ourselves as having a disability at all. We reject the medical perspective that is focused on ?fixing? the ?hearing loss.? We instead counter that we have ?Deaf gain,? and view ourselves from a cultural-linguistic minority perspective. Equitable access to language, particularly sign language, is the primary challenge we face.

In my role, I?ve strived to frame Deafness from a perspective of language, not disability. Not every DHH Trainee or Volunteer may have a need for sign language, and it?s important to stress there is a wide variety of intersectionalities within the spectrum of Deafhood. However, by and large, the majority of DHH Volunteers who serve do use sign language as their primary modality of communication. Recently, Kenya and Ghana posts have had Deaf education projects where sign language interpreters are provided to facilitate language needs at Peace Corps trainings, which is a big step forward.

Publ.Date : Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:15:04 +0000

Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Receives Award for Excellence

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Peace Corps Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an Award for Excellence at the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency?s (CIGIE) 23rd Annual Awards Ceremony held virtually October 13.

Each year, CIGIE?s Awards highlight the outstanding achievements of inspector general staff from across the federal government, including numerous examples of strong interagency cooperation among offices of inspector general to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in government programs and operations. CIGIE presented the Award for Excellence in Evaluations to a Peace Corps OIG team for its ?exemplary and timely evaluation of Peace Corps Comoros.? In January 2019, a team of evaluators identified critical improvements needed for volunteer health and safety support.

Thanks to the outstanding work of OIG?s evaluation team, Peace Corps Comoros made key improvements to its volunteer site identification and approval practices and improved medical emergency response support for volunteers. The OIG said continued implementation of recommendations should have a positive impact on post operations and volunteer health and safety. Assistant Inspector General for Evaluations Jerry Black and Evaluator Alexandra Miller received the award.

Inspector General Kathy A. Buller stated, ?The award our team received today exemplifies the outstanding work performed by Peace Corps OIG to help keep volunteers safe and healthy. I am so proud of our team and their efforts in exemplifying our motto: ?Together we make a better Peace Corps.??

The Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, established OIGs within federal agencies to combat fraud, waste, and abuse and to improve economy and efficiency. The federal inspector general community has more than 14,000 audit, investigation, inspection and other professionals across 72 IGs.

CIGIE is an independent entity within the executive branch representing these 72 OIGs. CIGIE?s mission is to promote integrity, economy and effectiveness in government agencies as well as to increase the professionalism and effectiveness of personnel in the community of inspectors general. For more information on the IG community, visit

For more information, visit the Peace Corps OIG website and Twitter account.

Publ.Date : Mon, 19 Oct 2020 18:41:00 +0000

Director Olsen announces return of volunteers, commemorates ?founding moment?

WASHINGTON ? Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen announced volunteers will begin returning to service in January.

Speaking to staff today during a town hall meeting launching the agency?s yearlong 60th anniversary celebration, Director Olsen said public health conditions permit the return of volunteers to the Eastern Caribbean.

The agency suspended global operations in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

?I am thrilled to share this good news as we commemorate our founding moment, when then candidate John F. Kennedy planted the seed for what would become the Peace Corps during an early morning speech October 14, 1960 at the University of Michigan,? said Director Olsen. ?Our decision to return to the field follows months of extensive preparations and review, and I am extremely grateful to the many staff and host country partners who contributed to this effort. I also salute the evacuated volunteers who are joining us as we take these first steps to resume operations and begin the celebration of our 60th anniversary.?

President Kennedy formally created the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961.

At the time of the evacuations in March, nearly 7,000 volunteers were serving in 60 countries. Since that time, the Peace Corps has worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive process to safely return volunteers, including evaluating each post based on medical, security, programmatic, administrative and logistical criteria.

Staff from each post worked closely with the Peace Corps medical and safety and security experts to develop COVID-19 emergency response plans. Returning volunteers will be tested for COVID-19, quarantine for 14 days after arrival in their host country and receive training to safeguard against exposure to the virus during their service.

Conditions are subject to change, but the Peace Corps is set to begin screening evacuees for their return to the Eastern Caribbean. Decisions on the resumption of operations in several other countries are expected this fall.

?The idea of the Peace Corps?that volunteers could serve their country for the cause of peace by living and working in other countries?struck a chord with thousands of Americans in the early 1960s. That enthusiasm continues today,? said Director Olsen. ?We are working together across the agency to ensure that mission continues into the future.?

Director Olsen also announced the revival of several awards that will be presented to returned volunteers and members of the Peace Corps community in the coming months as part of the agency?s 60th anniversary celebration.

Those awards include the Franklin H. Williams Award, which recognizes returned volunteers from diverse backgrounds who demonstrate a lifelong commitment to civic engagement, service, diversity and inclusion, and the Peace Corps? Third Goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Franklin H. Williams was an early architect of the Peace Corps. He worked at the agency from its inception in 1961 to 1963 and helped Sargent Shriver?the first Peace Corps director?promote the agency and its programs to the world.

Click on the following link to nominate a returned volunteer for the Williams award:

The Peace Corps will also present the John F. Kennedy Service Award and the Lilian Carter Award, carry out research on the contributions of returned volunteers to American communities and celebrate the personal stories of people who volunteered in each of the agency?s six decades.

More information about the awards and news about other 60th anniversary commemorations will be announced soon.

Publ.Date : Wed, 14 Oct 2020 17:04:06 +0000

Peace Corps Commemorates 35th Anniversary of Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Peace Corps celebrates today the 35th anniversary of the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, as well as the establishment of six new university partnerships. The Peace Corps created the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program in 1985. The first Fellows program was at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Peace Corps now partners with more than 120 institutions of higher education across the country in 37 states. This partnership now includes more than 200 programs at these universities, offering returned Peace Corps Volunteers the opportunity to pursue over 300 graduate and post-graduate degrees.

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program is a graduate fellowship program that offers financial assistance to returned Peace Corps Volunteers. All Fellows complete internships in underserved communities in the United States, allowing them to bring home and expand upon the skills they learned as Volunteers abroad. These skills in adapting to new cultures, developing and managing projects, dealing with language barriers, and leveraging limited resources attract the attention of prospective schools.

?Thirty-five years and more than 5,000 participants later, Coverdell Fellows programs at schools across the United States continue to provide returned Volunteers affordable access to graduate education, while also creating amazing opportunities to apply the knowledge and skills they?ve garnered during service toward improving local communities,? said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?These are incredibly meaningful avenues for returned Volunteers to continue serving in the spirit of the Peace Corps.?

Since August 2019, the Peace Corps has established new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program partnerships at the following institutions:

1) Boston University ? Wheelock College of Education and Human Development

2) Columbia University ? School of Nursing

3) Columbia University ? School of Social Work

4) Shippensburg University ? Department of Social Work and Gerontology, College of Education and Human Services

5) George Washington University --School of Nursing

6) Texas State University ? School of Social Work

?I am delighted to see Coverdell Fellows reach its 35th anniversary,? said La?Teashia Sykes, Peace Corps Director of University Programs. ?This program encourages an invaluable exchange between returned Peace Corps Volunteers, educational institutions and local communities. We look forward to the next 35 years facilitating affordable graduate education for returned Volunteers, adding a global perspective to classroom discussions, and supporting underserved U.S. communities.?

To see a current list of all Paul D. Coverdell Fellows programs around the country, including degrees and financial assistance offered, as well as university contacts, visit:

Publ.Date : Tue, 29 Sep 2020 18:58:14 +0000

Peace Corps Announces Top 10 Peace Corps Prep Certificate-Issuing Institutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Peace Corps announced today the top 10 Peace Corps Prep certificate-issuing institutions for the 2019?2020 academic year. Additionally, the Peace Corps is excited to announce seven newly established Peace Corps Prep university program partnerships.

Peace Corps Prep is a certificate program, which teaches students sector-specific skills, foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence and professional experience and leadership. While having a Peace Corps Prep certificate does not guarantee acceptance into the Peace Corps, enrolling in the program will help students be more competitive.

There are more than 140 Peace Corps Prep partner institutions across the country. Established in 2007, the program aims to meet the demand for Peace Corps Volunteers with a broad and relevant areas of expertise and to support the schools? efforts to provide substantive, globally focused experiences for their students.

?Partner institutions that provide Peace Corps Prep programs are an invaluable asset, because they help potential Volunteers attain education and training that makes them more competitive candidates,? said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. ?Prep-certified Volunteers often arrive in their communities possessing valuable leadership skills add intercultural savvy?necessary building blocks to achieving lasting impact. We applaud our educational partners for their dynamic role in our Volunteers? success.?

The top 10 2019?2020 Peace Corps Prep certificate-issuing institutions are:

1) Virginia Commonwealth University ? 81

2) University of South Florida ? 49

3) University of Florida ? 35

4) Pacific Lutheran University ? 34

5) Mercer University ? 28 (tied)

5) Monmouth University ? 28 (tied)

7) SUNY ? University of Albany ? 22

8) University of South Carolina ? 19

9) University of Georgia ? 18

10) University of Vermont ? 17

The program centers around empowering students to prepare themselves to be the best Peace Corps Volunteer they can be. It is an opportunity for colleges and universities to globalize their campuses through a partnership with the Peace Corps and enhance the undergraduate experience of their students by preparing them for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service. While having a Peace Corps Prep certificate does not guarantee acceptance into the Peace Corps, enrolling in the program will help students be more competitive.

New Peace Corps Prep partnerships have been established at the following seven universities within the last year:

  • Louisiana State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • San Diego State University
  • SUNY - Stony Brook University
  • Universidad del Sagrado Corazn, Puerto Rico
  • University of West Florida
  • University of Wyoming

?Peace Corps Prep is a wonderful opportunity for all undergraduate students to develop competencies that will fortify their aspirations to serve abroad,? said La?Teashia Sykes, Peace Corps Director of University Programs. ?Congratulations to the top 10 Peace Corps Prep certificate-issuing schools, and a special thanks to all of our partnering institutions for cultivating the interest of students in Peace Corps service.?

Interested students can find additional information and a full listing of Peace Corps Prep programs around the county by visiting Peace Corps Prep.

Publ.Date : Wed, 30 Sep 2020 14:15:04 +0000

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.

Publ.Date : Fri, 18 Sep 2020 13:15:05 +0000

Peace Corps welcomes new Senior Advisor to the Director Dr. Darlene Grant

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.

Dr. Darlene Grant joins the Peace Corps as the new senior advisor to Director Olsen.

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.

Publ.Date : Mon, 10 Aug 2020 19:50:52 +0000

Peace Corps, Arizona State University partner to provide digital libraries across the globe

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.

Publ.Date : Fri, 10 Jul 2020 13:30:05 +0000

Peace Corps, Viet Nam celebrate historic agreement
Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen attends the event celebrating the signing of the implementing agreement between the Peace Corps and Viet Nam's Ministry of Education and Training.

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.?

Publ.Date : Fri, 10 Jul 2020 19:15:05 +0000