Peace Corps 101
By Erica Burman on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Travis Hellstrom recently completed three years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Mongolia, where he worked as a Health Specialist. But even before his Peace Corps service began, he was working to improve Peace Corps.
A year and a half before he left for Mongolia, he began writing what would become the Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook as part of a senior college class. He kept track of questions and answers during the long application process, figuring that they might be helpful to other applicants and PCVs later. Writing an hour or two a week for four years, after his 27th month of service in Mongolia, he published the first edition of the Handbook in late 2010 and gave all the money back to Peace Corps through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. In the last year, the Unofficial Handbook has been downloaded and purchased more than 1,000 times.
During his third year of service as Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Mongolia, Travis heard about Brian Johnson who was writing PhilosophersNotes (like CliffsNotes for philosophy books) and was hooked. He asked Brian for a scholarship and received a free binder of 100 PhilosophersNotes sent all the way to Mongolia along with an MP3 player, PDFs and audio files for all the PhilosophersNotes. All for free. They are currently sitting in Peace Corps Mongolia headquarters and available for download for any PCV.
Amazed by Brian’s generosity, Travis read all the Notes, Brian’s book, A Philosopher’s Notes and signed up for the first classes in Brian’s en*theos Academy which is an online learning program led by professors, CEOs, writers and philosophers from around the world. After finishing his third year of service but still living in Mongolia, Travis took two online classes, one by Chip Conley called PEAK and one by Brian Johnson called Optimal Living 101.
“At that point I was stunned,” says Travis, “I was literally talking with a famous CEO and TED speaker while sitting halfway around the world. Technology has gotten to the point where I could attend a lecture with hundreds of other students in the middle of the Mongolian steppe – one of the most isolated places in the world.”
He approached Brian about teaching a class on the Unofficial Handbook and Brian accepted immediately. Peace Corps 101 was born. It will be the first en*theos Academy course focused entirely on service and all of the proceeds from the class will go toward Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association (through the Peace Corps Partnership Program and the Global Community Fund). And there will be unlimited free scholarships for anyone who wants to attend.
It will be a worldwide online course, led by Travis while he is still in Mongolia, and include hundreds of students from all around the globe. The course will be 6-weeks long, one night per week and focus on the entire Peace Corps experience from applying to coming home and being part of the worldwide Peace Corps family. The first two weeks are focused on the basics of applying and training for service, the third and fourth weeks will target currently serving volunteers and focus on making the most of service, and the final two weeks center on educational opportunities, job searching, understanding the RPCV world and understanding what a lifetime of service can mean. After each one hour class, there will also be an opportunity to break out into smaller groups and do video-conferencing in groups of 10, based on certain topics and areas of interest.
Although Travis is the professor listed on the course outline page, there will in fact be dozens of professors calling in from around the world and helping lead the break-out groups including current applicants, recruiters, serving Volunteers, former Peace Corps staff, National Peace Corps Association staff and RPCVs from every background imaginable.
“The idea is to bring the Peace Corps community into a group call and help each other through our service, whether we’re just starting or we’ve been at it for 50+ years*,” says Travis, “I joined the Peace Corps because the Volunteers and RPCVs that I met were literally some of the best people I have ever met in my entire life. I think bringing all those people onto a conference call together is going to be amazingly cool.”
To get involved, check out PeaceCorps101.com.
We’ll see you there!