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Peace Corps Achievements – January 2024

News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff.

Compiled by Peter V. Deekle (Iran 1968–70)

 

Joseph Acaba (pictured, Dominican Republic 1994–96) was appointed Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston — making history as the first person of Hispanic heritage to be named chief astronaut. Winifred Evans (Togo 1962–64) received the Military Women’s Memorial Award: Living Legend Proclamation, which recognizes female veterans who have reached the age of 100. Brian Silverman (Haiti 1991; Guatemala 1991–94) wrote and directed “Two Lives in Pittsburgh”, an indie feature film that won awards at last year’s Indie Spirit Film Festival and Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.

 

BRAZIL

Kenneth Flies (1962–64), president of the Peace Corps Legacy Association, and Alyce Tidball (Paraguay 1975–77) have joined forces to make a site in Plainview, Minnesota, designated for the country’s first National Service Park — celebrating those who have served their country in the military and other service capacities, including the Peace Corps. Read more.

 

 

 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Joseph Acaba (1994–96) was appointed Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston — making history as the first person of Hispanic heritage to be named chief astronaut. ​​Acaba will play an integral role in ensuring the next generation of NASA astronauts are inspired and prepared for the challenges ahead as NASA builds on the International Space Station’s unparalleled success in low-Earth orbit — with aims on the Moon and Mars. Read more.

 

 

 

HAITI

Nancy Fitzimons Alvarado (1979–81), president and co-founder of Bricks to Bread International — a nonprofit that develops brick ovens for Costa Rican families seeking a sustainable source of income and empowers entrepreneurial leadership amongst women — was the 2023 winner for the Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers affiliate group’s community service grant. Read more.

 

 

 

Brian Silverman (1991; Guatemala 1991–94) — a Pittsburgh native, actor, writer, and film director — wrote and directed the indie feature film “Two Lives in Pittsburgh” which won Best Narrative Feature at the 2023 Indie Spirit Film Festival and Outstanding Drama at the 2023 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. Read more.

 

 

 

HONDURAS

Rachel Surls (1985–87) has retired following her 35-year career using gardens and urban agriculture to cultivate healthier communities in Los Angeles County. Surls’ experience includes serving as the University of California Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor, and her work in the Master Gardener Program reflected her dedication to sustainable food systems and community change. Read more.

 

 

 

LESOTHO

Siiri Morley (2001–04) became the new Country Director of Peace Corps The Gambia in the summer of 2023. Morley brings to the role experience in gender, social entrepreneurship, and international development. Last November, she reported on a three-day youth convergence on employment opportunities in the Gambia. Read more.

 

 

 

TOGO

Winifred Evans (1962–64) received the Military Women’s Memorial Award: Living Legend Proclamation last year. The Living Legend program recognizes female veterans who have reached the age of 100. Evans joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955, becoming a Chief Nurse and eventually retiring as a Major. She turned 105 years old in 2023. Read more.

 

 

 

UKRAINE

Becky Bosshart (2012–14) won a 2023 Citizens Diplomacy Action Fund grant, as a leading member of the Youth Hub Ukraine team, which aims to serve displaced Ukrainian children with special educational needs — providing safe, accessible schooling and connecting them with skilled international specialists for creative and collaborative lessons in math, science, art, language, computers, and physical education. Read more.

 

 

 

ZAMBIA

Lizzie Heilmann received the 2023 “Domer Dozen” award for her work promoting better health care and prevention in Africa. The Domer Dozen program is the signature initiative of YoungND, the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association’s young alumni group. Heilmann studied drug resistance in malaria parasites as an undergraduate at Notre Dame as well as analyzed malaria data from a mass bed net campaign in Nigeria and tutored refugees in English as a grad student at Emory University. Afterwards, she used these formative experiences during her Peace Corps service as a health volunteer. Read more.