Speakers Match: Constance Speake Speaks
By Abad Allawi on Thursday, May 19th, 2011
At the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), we like to say that the Third Goal of the Peace Corps (to strengthen Americans’ understanding about the world and its peoples) is our first goal. That means throwing a spotlight on returned Peace Corps Volunteers like Constance Speake, a former teacher and Armenia RPCV who now shares her experience through Speakers Match, a Peace Corps program that helps to connect returned Peace Corps Volunteers with those who want to hear about Peace Corps experiences. Recently I asked her a few questions about her Speaker Match experience.
How did you get the idea of speaking in public about Peace Corps? What was/is your motivation?
I loved my 3 years in Armenia and wanted to share it with people; I also wanted people to realize that “older” Americans can join the Peace Corps. Talking to groups seems natural to me, as I taught for 45 years.
What did you do immediately after finishing your Peace Corps service?
I left for Armenia in June 2006, and in the the first year back, everyone I talked to heard about my Peace Corps experience. I had taken some 3000 photos, so I edited them, and learned to burn DVDs with some 50 photos.
How many presentations have you done so far?
I believe I have done about 18 presentations.
During your presentation, who is your audience, what tools (i.e pamphlets handouts) do you use to ensure a successful presentation, and are there question / answer sessions during or after the presentation?
I learned during my first presentation that people could NOT ask questions during the presentation; after 2 hours I was only half done with my presentation because of all the questions. So now I tell the group to please save their questions until I’ve finished, write the questions down to remember them. Then the problem becomes mine, to make sure I’m finished in time for questions.
I begin my presentation by speaking a few sentences in Armenian. Then I talk for 2 minutes about the advantages and disadvantages of being an “older” volunteer. (I was 67 when I went). Then I begin.
The groups have mostly been adults: church groups, neighborhood groups, and conference groups. I will be doing one in September at the school where I graduated from high school 55 years ago. So I assume the age range will be 14-18.
During my presentation I show 5 photos of the results of the grants my host country counterpart and I wrote, showing what can be done when the two people are willing to work hard. I talk briefly about grant writing. My counterpart was wonderful. We got along beautifully — and still do by email. I use neither pamphlets nor handouts. But the first 2 slides are a map of Asia and a map of Armenia so the audience can put themselves in “my” world.
I have only slightly changed my presentation depending on the group. For example I emphasize church subjects when speaking to a church group; I emphasize the contribution Delta Kappa Gamma made when speaking to those groups.
Tell me more about those grants….
The grants were those three which my counterpart and I did while I was in Armenia. The first year we completed one for the CALL (Computer and Language Laboratory; the second year we completed another one for the CALL, to improve it; the third year we completed one for the Vardenis State College Library which was not quite finished when I had to leave, so it was turned over to another Peace Corps Volunteer. It finally got finished 2 months later.
Thank you, Ms. Speake for sharing this information with me!
There are many ways RPCVs continue to accomplish the third goal, and signing on to Speakers Match is just one of them. By raising awareness of Ms. Speake’s activities, NPCA hopes that more volunteers will be inspired to step up and share their experiences.