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Peace Corps Achievements – July and August 2023

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

By Peter V. Deekle (Iran 1968–70) and Gwyn Skiles

Samantha Maltais (pictured, Tonga 2018–20) is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah and a JD candidate at Harvard Law School, advocating for indigenous rights in conjunction with climate change. Taylor Stuckert (Bolivia 2008) is the new executive director of American Connection Corps, a service corps that advances economic prosperity by mobilizing local leaders in rural and emerging communities to tackle critical, bi-partisan challenges. Daniel Mendez (Belize 2009–15) was appointed by the government of Belize as the National Emergency Coordinator for the National Emergency Management Organization in anticipation of the approaching hurricane season.

 

BELIZE

Daniel Mendez (2009–15) was appointed the National Emergency Coordinator for the National Emergency Management Organization in June by the government of Belize in anticipation of the approaching annual hurricane season. He brings to the role 12 years of military service and nearly six and a half years managing the safety and security program for Peace Corps Belize. Mendez is the owner of the Belize Security Research Group where he was a co-researcher in the Belize Joint Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Programme where he works to end sexual violence in the Belize Security Forces. He has a bachelor’s from the University of the West Indies in management studies and holds a master’s in risk, crisis and disaster management from the University of Leicester.

 

BOLIVIA

Taylor Stuckert (2008) became the new executive director of American Connection Corps (ACC) in July. ACC is a service corps program under Lead For America and aims to advance economic prosperity by mobilizing local leaders in rural and emerging communities to tackle critical, bi-partisan challenges. Stuckert served for nearly one year as an Agricultural Extension Volunteer until his Peace Corps service ended due to political turmoil in Bolivia, forcing him to return to his hometown in Wilmington, Ohio, where an economic crisis was in full swing. Afterwards, he became the co-founder of Energize Clinton County which has weatherized thousands of homes,  created many jobs, and saved homeowners millions on energy costs. He credits the Peace Corps for teaching him that it’s essential for development to be sustainable to best aid communities.

 

ECUADOR

Erin Fischer (2014–17) was promoted to executive director at Kellogg PEAK Initiative in May, after being with the organization since 2019. Prior to her new role, she was the Assistant Director of Impact and Engagement at PEAK, whose mission is to offer youth comprehensive programming that builds leadership-focused, social and emotional learning skills, spanning into adulthood. With more than 10 years of nonprofit direct service and leadership, Fischer brings to the role experience with various impact organizations — such as City Year Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, the YMCA in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as well as other community-based service capacities.

 

MONGOLIA

Kenneth Syring (2006–08) started serving as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in May. He has a background in law enforcement and border protection and was a 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee delegate. After working with international nonprofits in Washington, D.C., he worked for the San Francisco Police Department as both a Patrol Officer and Crime Scene Investigator. Syring received his master’s in public policy management with a focus on technology and national security policy at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

 
 

TONGA

Samantha Maltais (2018–20) is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah and a JD candidate at Harvard Law School. At Harvard, she is co-president of the Native American Law Students Association, an article editor for the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and an admissions fellow. After receiving a degree in government and Native American studies from Dartmouth College and serving in the Peace Corps, Maltais worked for the London-based international Indigenous rights advocacy organization, Survival International, where she now sits on their U.S. Board of Directors. Having witnessed the impacts of climate change on her coastal tribal community, Maltais plans to pursue a legal career focused on the intersections of indigenous rights and climate justice.

 

UKRAINE

Paige Barrows (2010–12), as an active RPCV in civil rights and social action since 2022, recently returned to Ukraine for two weeks to help after Russia’s invasion last year. She raised roughly $15,000 in funds for food, medical supplies, and other resources needed in the country. She helped furnish a bomb shelter where she taught English with the Peace Corps, witnessing the war’s destruction firsthand. While in Ukraine, she encountered one of her former secondary school students, who serves as a medic in the army. Barrows continues to amplify the resilience of Ukrainians, document their strength, and raise money to support efforts in Ukraine. “I was on some level prepared,” Barrows said in an interview with Kansas City’s KSHB 41 News. “But seeing it in person is a whole different experience…this isn’t about Ukraine and protecting Ukraine. This is out issue, too.”