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Scam, kidnap by South African police

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State Department forum explores ‘Lasting Value of Peace Corps Service’

WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen joined returned Peace Corps volunteers and members of the diplomatic community March 12 for a forum at the State Department entitled “The Lasting Value of Peace Corps Service.”

Hosted by the State Department employee affinity group Returned Peace Corps Volunteers @ State, the event was held in the Dean Acheson Auditorium and livestreamed for staff at U.S. embassies around the world.

The roundtable conversation and Q&A focused on how Peace Corps service shapes the personal and professional lives of returned volunteers.

“Serving in a rural area, being the only American that hundreds of people will ever meet—that is a really powerful thing,” said Emily Armitage, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria before joining the State Department.

Armitage recalled visiting with the people of her village in the months before Bulgaria entered the European Union and how valuable it was to be able to listen to their concerns and hear about their hopes for the future of their country.

“Take every opportunity that’s offered to you as a volunteer,” said Armitage, sharing guidance she offers to undergraduate students who are considering the Peace Corps. “We will never have that same opportunity to integrate.”

Asked about skills he developed during his time as a volunteer in Cameroon, State Department employee John Underriner cited the resiliency and resourcefulness he discovered while facing challenges far away from home and family.

Those experiences have stayed with him throughout his career, he said. “You needed to develop different ways to do things, different ways to communicate: cross-cultural, language, and non-verbal communication,” said Underriner.

Katherine Harris, also a member of the State Department staff, talked about how she stays in touch with the people she lived and worked with as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic via the apps on her cell phone.

She said hearing from her friends and neighbors in the Caribbean, and their children, enriches her life here in Washington: “They reach out to me just to update me on their daily lives—it’s a connection that can never break.”

Director Olsen expressed her gratitude to the State Department for its continued support for Peace Corps programming and its recognition of the many contributions made by the more than 235,000 returned volunteers across the U.S.

“All of you believed in the power of volunteers to reach out to people at the local level,” said Olsen. “Thank you for the commitment to a lifetime of service that all of you have made.”

This week’s event was the first in what the agency hopes will be a series of conversations with returned volunteers from across the country to gain insights on the impact of Peace Corps service on their lives.



Fri, 15 Mar 2019 19:42:58 +0000


Peace Corps Director discusses importance of women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day

WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen spoke yesterday, March 7, about the Peace Corps’ role in the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative (W-GDP) and the importance of expanding economic opportunities for women worldwide at an event held in recognition of International Women’s Day at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“With this initiative, we are able to celebrate the enormous number of projects volunteers have that are empowering women to do more to strengthen their communities,” said Director Olsen of W-GDP. “It’s about helping them have a voice and helping them develop their own skills. One of the most important things I think we can give women is a voice to have the power to engage in their communities economically.”

Last night’s event is part of the Smart Women, Smart Power speaker series initiative that brings together women leaders in foreign policy, national security, international business and international development. The discussion was moderated by Nina Easton, a journalist and senior associate at CSIS.

Launched in February by President Donald J. Trump and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, W-GDP is an effort to promote global women’s economic empowerment through the work of the U.S. government and in concert with local and national partners around the world.

The Peace Corps has helped to advance women’s empowerment as a pillar of development for over 58 years – recognizing that expanding opportunities for women transforms their futures and their communities. In 2017, more than 230,000 women participated in economic empowerment initiatives led by Peace Corps volunteers.

As part of the Peace Corps’ commitment to supporting W-GDP, the agency will increase small-grant funding to specific Peace Corps volunteer projects eligible to receive funding from the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). The new W-GDP fund will go directly to supporting community-initiated, volunteer-led projects in countries around the world.

Click here to read more about how Peace Corps volunteer projects are helping to empower women worldwide. Watch Director Olsen's full remarks at CSIS here.



Fri, 08 Mar 2019 15:03:51 +0000


Peace Corps celebrates 58 years during Peace Corps Week

WASHINGTON – Every year, Peace Corps Week memorializes President John F. Kennedy’s establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, and celebrates the many ways the agency makes a positive impact in communities around the world. Throughout the week, the Peace Corps community will participate in events that celebrate and recognize its 58th birthday. This year, Peace Corps Week will run from Feb. 24 to March 2.

“Peace Corps Week is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the great work that volunteers, both currently serving and returned, do in their communities at home and abroad,” says Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. “I would like to personally thank each and every member of the Peace Corps community for their dedication to service, their passion for peace, and their willingness to engage in cross-cultural exchange. Your work does not go unnoticed, and this week is to celebrate you.”

In the lead up to Peace Corps Week, the Peace Corps launched its annual video challenge that asks current and returned volunteers to submit films focused on a particular theme. The 2019 theme is "A day in the life" and aims to show what a day in the life of a volunteer, host family member, counterpart or community member looks like around the world. The video contest challenges volunteers and returned volunteers to support the Third Goal of Peace Corps, which is to promote a better understanding among Americans of foreign cultures and peoples.  

Over 20 Peace Corps Week events are taking place across the country from Feb. 24 to March 1. Activities include discussion panels with returned volunteers, structured diversity dialogs, recruitment events, stories from the field and film screenings. Returned volunteers participating in these events will share photos, music, culture and stories from their countries of service with those who are interested.

In addition to Peace Corps Week events, there are several activities returned volunteers can participate in to commemorate the establishment of Peace Corps, such as hosting festivals, speaking about their service at local schools or writing blog posts. For a full list of suggested activities, visit the Peace Corps Week page



Mon, 25 Feb 2019 13:42:45 +0000


Agency recognizes the contributions of black Americans in the Peace Corps

WASHINGTON– In honor of Black History Month, the Peace Corps recognizes the important contributions black volunteers and staff have made to the agency’s mission and promoting cross-cultural understanding around the globe. 

In 2018, 650 volunteers who identify as black served in communities around the world. Below are the stories of five individuals who help make up the rich tapestry of the Peace Corps community.  

Jamaica

Cymone Wilson is a first-generation American whose parents grew up in Jamaica. When her father told her about the Peace Corps volunteers he knew while growing up on the island, Cymone was inspired to apply and was accepted as an education volunteer in southeastern Jamaica. 

Returning to the country where her parents were born and raised brought Cymone a special insight into her own culture and background. “I did not know certain things that my parents did or said—such as putting condensed milk in [their] coffee, or the immaculate way Jamaicans clean—were uniquely Jamaican until I lived with another Jamaican family,” she says. 

Cymone has also been able to reflect on what it meant for her parents to leave their home and move to the United States. “I used to be upset that my parents chose to move to the United States because of the cold winters in Chicago, where we lived," she says. "Now, after having lived and worked in Jamaica for over two years, I have so much respect for the courage my family had to move to the U.S. and start over. Dad went on to graduate engineering school and Mom became a nurse. They worked so hard to give me and my siblings a better life. I now understand some of the difficulties they faced, and am so proud they were able to thrive [in the United States].”

Cymone Wilson 3
Cymone and her host mother, Pauline

Armenia

Maya Killingsworth, a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia, wanted to open a dialogue in her largely homogeneous community about African American experiences and perspectives. In order to do this, Maya created A.C.T. (African-Americans Challenging Traditions).

“We started working on trainings, educational tools and curriculum that teaches Armenians about the diversity that exists in America, about our struggle in America and how that translates into our experiences as volunteers in Armenia,” she says. 

Along with fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Alicia Easley, Maya led a discussion series in the capital city, entitled “Black in Armenia: Bridging the Gap,” which discussed topics such as identity, race, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and black history. A.C.T. plans to spread these discussions to other regions throughout Armenia in order to contribute to the creation of a positive cultural exchange and a more open and inclusive environment.

Black in Armenia
Maya created A.C.T. (African-Americans Challenging Traditions) to create discussions around diversity and identity in her Armenian community

South Africa

Health volunteer Joseph Gomes, of Central Falls, Rhode Island, is just one of the many black Americans who are using their skills and educational background to support under-resourced communities around the world. After witnessing how much HIV impacted his host village in rural South Africa, Joseph has devoted much of his service to helping his counterpart, Mxolisi, sensitize their community about the harmfulness of stigmatizing the virus. With an academic background in health studies and political science, Joseph brings a skill set that effectively supports the work that community leaders in his area are already doing.

“Beyond raising awareness, Mxolisi and I are proud that we worked to encourage these difficult and uncomfortable conversations,” Joseph says. “Together, we helped our community members become more inclusive and understanding.”

A Peace Corps volunteer stands with South African community members outside in front of a bus. There are flip chart papers taped to the side of the bus.
Joseph works with young people to try and end stigmatization of HIV in their community

Peace Corps staff

During the month of February, Peace Corps would also like to recognize and remember black leaders that have impacted the agency in positive and lasting ways. One of these leaders is Carolyn R. Payton, who, in 1977, became both the first African American Director of the agency and the first female to hold the role. As Director, Payton believed in reflecting America's diversity in the corps of volunteers, and worked tirelessly to convince young people that Peace Corps service would enrich their lives.

Carolyn_R_Payton.jpg
Corolyn R. Payton is the first female Director of Peace Corps, as well as the first African American Director.

Another notable leader is Dr. James E. Blackwell, an Anniston, Alabama native who served as the Acting Country Director of the Peace Corps Tanzania post, and later as the Country Director at the Peace Corps Malawi post in the early 1960s. Of his and his wife’s time in Africa, Dr. Blackwell says, “We were young. We thought we could really make the world a better place.”

Outside of his achievements with the international volunteer agency, Dr. Blackwell is a celebrated author, was the first President of the Association of Black Sociologists, and served as a major consultant to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and to the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Maryland defending affirmative action programs. 

A older African American man in a suit sits in a home library.
Dr. James E. Blackwell has a long list of achievements, including his time as Acting Country Director and Country Director for the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps is proud to reflect the rich diversity of America in countries around the world. The agency promotes a culture of inclusion, acceptance and celebration of individuals from all backgrounds. 



Mon, 11 Feb 2019 17:43:47 +0000


Peace Corps sends over 300 Americans to service abroad in January

WASHINGTON – Over 300 Americans departed in January for Peace Corps service. They will spend the next two years working with communities in Albania, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Myanmar, South Africa and Thailand. Peace Corps Response volunteers will undertake shorter-term, high-impact service assignments in China, Eswatini, Liberia, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda, Ukraine and Zambia.

The new trainees gathered at staging events across the United States, including the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. These pre-departure orientations are the first stage of Peace Corps service for trainees where they receive a stateside introduction to volunteer safety and service aboard.

“Welcoming new Peace Corps trainees to Ecuador is an exciting part of my job,” said Peace Corps Ecuador Country Director Michael Donald. “The trainees bring with them different skills and life experiences that will enrich their communities in Ecuador and the Peace Corps community as a whole.”

Following their pre-departure orientations, the trainees were welcomed to their host countries by Peace Corps staff and will spend the next several weeks in pre-service training to learn the language, intercultural, safety and technical skills needed for successful volunteer service. Pictured below are several of the new cohorts.

Ecuador

Ecuador Staging (January 2019)
Since 1962, when Peace Corps Ecuador was established, nearly 7,000 volunteers have served in all four regions of the country. The newest group of 39 trainees will serve as education volunteers.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia Staging (January 2019)
In Ethiopia, over 3,500 Peace Corps volunteers have served since 1962. The new trainees, pictured here upon arrival, will work as health and agriculture volunteers and learn to speak local languages, including Afan-Oromo, Amharic and Tigrinya.

Albania

Albania Staging (January 2019)
Over 700 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Albania since 1992. The newest group of trainees will be working in the health, education and community organizational development sectors.

Myanmar

Myanmar Staging (January 2019)
The Peace Corps’ most recent program in Myanmar was established in 2016. The 34 new English education trainees will learn to speak Burmese.

Thailand

Thailand Staging (January 2019)
In January, 59 new Peace Corps trainees join the over 5,000 Americans who have served in Thailand since 1962. Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand serve in the education and youth in development sectors.

Ghana

Ghana Staging (January 2019)
Ghana’s new group of 37 trainees will work in the health and agriculture sectors. They join the ranks of over 4,500 Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Ghana since 1961.

Malawi 

Malawi Staging (January 2019)
Malawi welcomed three Peace Corps Response volunteers who will work on health and education projects in the small, land-locked country.

Liberia

Liberia Staging (January 2019)
In Liberia, seven new Peace Corps Response volunteers will be working in health, education and gender. They are the 26th group of Peace Corps Response volunteers to serve in Liberia.

Peru

Peru Staging (January 2019)
Four new Peace Corps Response volunteers joined the over 3,500 Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Peru since 1962. They are pictured here with their new counterparts.


Wed, 06 Feb 2019 18:47:23 +0000

Peace Corps

Out of a Zambian village. Erica Peth click here
The Peace Corps: what do they do? SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2013 v7n2 p1120

Peace Corps volunteers work in close to 30 countries across Africa, and also in Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean. In agriculture, in education, in health.

Why do African countries need the Peace Corps: educated Americans to come to their villages to work and teach?

What happened to the small village that they needed outside help to be self-sufficient, when likely they have been self-sufficient for generations? Is it because of colonization, World Bank policies, ongoing international theft, despair? Most likely all of these.

Does the Peace Corps help the populations feed and education their young, and help lift them out of poverty? Or are all gains snatched by leaders? I am looking for stories of sustained success. Come back for more later.


Above, former members of the Peace Corps march through Philadelphia, July 04, 2011.
Peace Corps in these African Countries in 2013
Benin click here
Botswana
click here

Burkina Faso click here,
Cameroon click here
Cape Verde
click here
Ethiopia click here
Gambia click here
Ghana
click here
Guinea click here
Kenya click here
Lesotho click here
Liberia
click here

Madagascar click here
Malawi
click here
Mali click here

Morocco click here
Mozambique click here

Namibia click here
Niger click here
Rwanda click here
Senegal click here
South Africa click here
Swaziland click here
Tanzania click here 
Togo

Tunisia
Uganda
click here,

Zambia click here