Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania
By Jessica Agostinelli on Monday, December 16th, 2013
Mark Rampolla (1991-94) was featured in the New York Times for the founding of Zico, his company which produces the leading brand of coconut water. Rampolla got the inspiration for this company while on his Peace Corps stint, where he found coconut water to be a source of hydration and nutrition.
Nicole Todd Bailey (1995-97) has been hired by the Family Resource Center of Truckee, CA, as the new executive director. Her other accomplishments include her Peace Corps service, serving as a Board member of Child Family Health International, and working for Apple, Inc. She will assume her role as executive director starting in January 2014.
Robert Bielen donated a vast collection of his Peace Corps memorabilia to the University of Georgia’s library. This collection has been praised as giving important insight into the rule of Trujillo and the fears of communism in the Dominican Republic. A valuable source of research and history, this collection will be added to UGA’s archives.
James Fowler (1992-94) of San Diego was featured in the LA Times for his extensive research on social media and its social and political reach. Fowler stated that he got the idea for his research during his Peace Corps service, when the same project was received and implemented differently in different villages. This prompted him to consider the effects of personal connections on influence, and how this is complicated by online social networks.
Nathan Castillo of Dallas, a student in the University Of Pennsylvania Graduate School Of Education, was awarded the grand prize for the Penn GSE Summer Photo Contest. Inspired by his Peace Corps service, Castillo was on a two-week tour of South Africa conducting research and promoting increased access to education when he took his award-winning photo, “Ready to Learn,” at a local school.
Phil Hughes of Philadelphia was featured in the Huffington Post for the founding of his socially conscious food company Mavuno Harvest. Hughes got the idea for this company while serving in Kenya when he realized that farmers were unable to capitalize on their produce all year round. He introduced the concept of drying fruit so that these farmers could sell their fruit even when it is out of season, and thus gain a greater profit from their land. This has been praised as a socially conscious food company whose products are popular.
Ryan Weber recently created with his band Eric & Magill a new track called “Baggage and Clothes,” telling the story of his experience in a remote area of Kenya during his service. This single was created through a series of email exchanges between the band members and deals with issues of aid, humanitarianism, and striving for goals while trying to survive in harsh conditions.
Kellee Anderson of Butte, Montana (2004-06) was recently hired as the new Butte-Silver Bow county extension service agent. In Malawi, Anderson worked with the government to oversee the installation of pine trees in order to better the environment there. Her background is in bio-intensive kitchen gardening, and she cites as her long-term goals working to encourage community gardening and other food and environmental initiatives.
Ken Hawkinson (1986-88) Academic provost and Vice President of Western Illinois University, recently founded with his wife a scholarship for African Students to attend his university to study art, music, theater, or literature, or for Western students to attend African universities to study these subjects. Hawkinson’s past accomplishments include Army service and studying as a Fulbright scholar in Burkina Faso.
Heather O’Neill (2003-05) of Colonia, New Jersey opened with her sister Katie a clothing company called Mushmina, designed by artisans in Morocco. This project includes fair trade initiatives, as Heather and her sister have experience interacting with African locals during her service and travels. They get their material through a system of co-ops in Morocco.
Michael Merchant has been appointed as the new housing director for the city of Chicago. His other career accomplishments include many years in public service, including Assistant Public Defender for Cook County, an investigator with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a Chicago Public Schools mathematics teacher. He also worked for several years with the US Peace Corps in minority recruitment.
Becca Schwartz became the Director of Business Development at Solar Sister, a nonprofit organization in Nigeria which provides resources for women to start their own businesses. Becca is recruiting, training and supporting women entrepreneurs and establishing the distribution network to supply them. She brings a strong background in sales and business development, having worked as Sales Manager for a clean energy distribution company, opening their West African market.
Russ Petricka (1965-67) was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship by the Northfield Rotary Club in honor of his ongoing, distinguished career of service. Russ is the supervisor of Carleton College’s Math Skills Center, in which he hires a team of Math savants every year as staff.
Dr. Jack Kornfield, RPCV who served in Thailand, India and Burma, was featured on NPR for his advocacy efforts toward mindfulness techniques and their effects on mental health. Kornfield discusses in several books the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on well-being. Kornfield has taught meditation since 1974 and is considered an expert on Buddhist practices due to his Peace Corps service, where he trained as a Buddhist monk.
Dorothy Rozga, RPCV who served in Jamaica and Belize (1977-81) accepted the 2013 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian prize in New York City. The Hilton Symposium gathers leaders of humanitarian movements and organizations in an annual gathering to celebrate achievements in this field. Dorothy is the Executive Director of EPCAT, or End Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking.
Mark Wentling, RPCV who served in Honduras (1967-69) and Togo (70-73), recently wrote and published a book called Africa’s Embrace, a work of fiction that is nonetheless a semi-autobiographical account of his Peace Corps experience in Africa. This book deals with local issues as well as the struggles of an American living and working abroad. It also delves into the future of these communities and the effects of poverty and illness.
We love to hear about recent professional and community service activities by returned Peace Corps Volunteers and former Peace Corps staff! Include country and years of service and an e-mail or phone contact for confirmation. Send with ACHIEVE in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.