Communications Intern posted an articleCOVID-19 and how the Lord Baltimore Hotel served as a place of help in a time of need see more
COVID-19 and the Lord Baltimore Hotel
By Marik Moen
IN SPRING 2020, the State of Maryland, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, transformed the Baltimore Convention Center into to the 250-bed University of Maryland Medical System Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital. I was living in Fairfax, Virginia, at the time but was looking for an opportunity to serve in the COVID response — an infectious disease disproportionately affecting populations who have experienced historic discrimination. You could say it was my gig.
I went to get oriented and do a few shifts. I heard some pejorative language being used to refer to people of Baltimore and knew just who could address this concern: Chuck Callahan, vice president for population health with the University of Maryland, who served in incident command leadership for the Convention Center Field Hospital. I reached out to him to share my concerns and see how I could further help the response. Within days the approach to orientation was amended. Also within days, Dr. Callahan called to ask if I would serve as director of nursing at the Lord Baltimore Hotel.
These were people who couldn’t safely isolate at home and who weren’t so sick they needed to be in the hospital.
Amid the pandemic, the newly-badged Lord Baltimore Triage, Respite and Isolation Center (LBTC) was being set up to serve as a temporary residence for people diagnosed with COVID or suspected of having it. These were people who couldn’t safely isolate at home and who weren’t so sick they needed to be in the hospital.
It was a big decision. Normally I teach and do research or help to manage nurse-community health worker programs for people living with HIV. I’m an assistant professor of family community health at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Nursing. COVID was hitting the communities that I was most familiar with — but I wasn’t connected to those communities in Fairfax, where we had moved two years before. I was connected to those communities in Baltimore. Taking this on meant waylaying research and, for me initially, moving to Baltimore. My husband, Gregg Wilhelm, was within walking distance of work at George Mason University, and our daughters were in second and fourth grade. I would be putting us at risk and adding more turmoil to an already pandemic-changed life. I was worried.
We needed everybody: Marik Moen, third from left, served as director of nursing at the hotel transformed into the Lord Baltimore Triage, Respite and Isolation Center. Photo by Matthew P. D’Agostino / University of Maryland, Baltimore
LAST MAY, when I came to the Lord Baltimore, it was maybe five days before we transferred people in — more than 50 residents from homeless shelters or congregate settings that had COVID outbreaks. Notably, the Lord Baltimore was the only hotel in the city that would accept any residents with COVID at the time. We had to figure out a plan: field a team of nurses, set up protocols. We had to answer questions like: What is the clinical aspect of it? How do you do health checks? What do public health and clinical guidelines say? How do we keep people safe? What is the security aspect? It meant working in multidisciplinary teams: the health department, the hotel, the University of Maryland Medical System. Not exactly streamlined — but we needed everybody.
It meant working in multidisciplinary teams: the health department, the hotel, the University of Maryland Medical System. Not exactly streamlined — but we needed everybody.
Then we launched. Overall, things went smoother than anticipated in chaotic times. Our Baltimore City Health Department colleagues had amazing experience doing this work on their own and led the way. Yet we’d quickly learn, Oh, wait, that doesn’t work, so we would work late into the night to revise the process — really building the ship as it was sailing for that first month — and even now, there’s constant quality improvement. Thankfully, we developed a strong core of personnel who are still with us today and carrying it through. (Oh, and by May 2020, I had uprooted my family, first to live at the Lord Baltimore Hotel with me, and then to resettle in Baltimore permanently. My husband eloquently describes our journey in the essay “Checking Out of Hotel COVID,” in Baltimore magazine.)
At the Lord Baltimore Triage Center, as with the epidemic, there’s disproportionate representation of the African American community, the Latinx community, and people with low incomes, mental health or substance use disorders. Those are identities and conditions. Yet the reasons for this impact are social determinants: multi-generational households or substandard housing, or people serving as essential workers who are not protected and can’t safely isolate. People in congregate living can’t distance. And people in substance use treatment often don’t have a stable home to go to after they leave recovery programs. Some are survivors of domestic violence or human trafficking. Some are students or parents who don’t have an extra room to shelter in, away from other family members.
With our health department colleagues, we were very intentional about setting up the Lord Baltimore to accommodate persons with these lived experiences on the outside so that they would feel welcome, safe, and comfortable. We established harm reduction and safety protocols and trainings and worked with many partners and institutions to assure these were implemented. The LBTC team includes nurses, clinical support technicians, nurse practitioners and doctors, social workers/case managers, logistics, security, cleaning/environmental services, kitchen/nutrition, and of course, the front desk and other hotel staff who make sure the facility is running and guests’ needs are attended to. I believe it is a testament to this approach that we have been able to serve over 2,000 residents since May 2020.
In addition, with the vaccine, LBTC leadership insisted that not just the healthcare staff but all frontline workers — security, cleaning crew, everybody — would get access at the same time. I’m proud to say that University of Maryland Medical System is following through on that.
How many lives saved
Every person who was in leadership position at the Lord Baltimore Triage, Respite and Isolation Center had international experience — a service project or even study abroad — that they referenced as we were building this thing. That says something.
Outside the United States, I’ve worked in Rwanda and Haiti primarily, and briefly in other countries throughout Africa and the Caribbean — but my work in public health began with the Peace Corps in Gabon 1998–2001. That work was focused on community public health initiatives: increasing vaccination — which is eminently relevant — as well as educating people about diarrheal, respiratory, and sexually transmitted infections; HIV prevention; and reproductive health. With Peace Corps, you get out to your site, try to apply what you’ve learned, and you realize some of it just doesn’t fly; you have to adapt. So a little bit of the audacity of being willing to take this on — certainly I got that from the Peace Corps.
The value of these respite and isolation hotels should be recognized and remunerated. The reasons that they need to exist in the first place should be admitted and addressed; the lack of adequate housing and income security is literally deadly for some people, especially under COVID-19.
The City Health Department and the University of Maryland Medical System jumped in to meet the need of Baltimoreans and Marylanders because it was the right thing to do. While altruism is laudable, the value of these respite and isolation should be recognized and remunerated. With colleagues, I plan to describe the benefits of LBTC's interventions, including modeling the numbers of infections and hospitalizations and deaths potentially prevented by safely isolating 2,000 people, as well as estimating savings in medical costs. That said, the reasons that isolation hotels need to exist in the first place should be admitted and addressed; the lack of adequate housing and income security is literally deadly for some people, especially under COVID-19.
More important than healthcare
In September I handed off the director role to Vanessa Augustin, a new grad of the University of Maryland School of Nursing’s healthcare leadership and management master’s program — and a nurse of Haitian descent. Vanessa was present from day one at Lord Baltimore, demonstrating leadership in action. I felt a special connection with her, given my work in Haiti, and was happy to facilitate a local but global transition.
I came back to teaching and research, transitioning from a focus on HIV to how we address the social determinants of health that underlie HIV and other conditions, especially within the healthcare setting. Healthcare has finally come to realize that how people live really influences their health: income, employment, whether they have food and shelter. The evidence is established that those things have more of an impact on health than healthcare. But in terms of healthcare’s response, we are kind of throwing stuff at the wall, hoping it will stick. The way we ask questions and the interventions we take are not really evidence-based or informed from a patient perspective. I’m trying to develop the evidence around how we assess the needs and address them, with the patient perspective at the heart. My experience at LBTC influenced my commitment to this work, and the Peace Corps provided the spark that allowed me to believe I was even a little bit capable of taking it all on.
Marik Moen is an assistant professor of family and community health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Read more: bit.ly/triage-respite
Communications Intern posted an articleA portrait of Judy Irola see more
A portrait of Judy Irola
By Jordana Comiter
“You can be creative, and you can be managerial and spirited,” Judy Irola said of her work as a cinematographer. Photo by Douglas Kirkland
Judy Irola made history as a producer, director, cinematographer, and educator—and only the third female member of the American Society of Cinematographers. Her first feature, “Northern Lights,” won the Camera d’Or prize at Cannes in 1979. At Sundance her film “An Ambush of Ghosts” won the Cinematography Award, Dramatic Competition. The Peace Corps took her to Niger in 1966. “We came home to a different world in 1968,” Irola recalled. “There were anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, Gloria Steinem had launched the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the Black Panthers were actively engaged in civil rights issues.”
She was tenacious. Her career began in the San Francisco Bay Area with KQED-TV’s documentary film unit. She shot more than 50 features and documentaries. She later earned an endowed chair, teaching at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She returned to Niger in 2008 to make the documentary “Niger 66: A Peace Corps Diary,” to introduce audiences to the 65 Volunteers who had served with her and the communities where they worked.
From the tribute in Ms. magazine: “Some directors see cinematography as a technical rather than as an artistic job,” she said. “It’s an artistic job—any director of photography will tell you that. What’s important is my vision—how I look at the image. It’s an artistic rendering. Women can do it just as well [as men] or better.”
Judith Carol Irola was born in 1943. She died in February at age 77 of complications from COVID-19. We mourn her passing and cherish the ways she illuminated the world.
NPCA and Water Charity have prioritized projects affecting the rehabilitation of refugee communities see more
In 2011, the citizens of South Sudan declared their independence after their second civil war had lasted 20 years. As the newest nation in the world, it is sadly also among the poorest. Having suffered internal conflict since its independence, water shortages and access to clean drinking water become a paramount issue in the wake of this nation's survival for its people and transition to peace.
Through our ongoing partnership, National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) and Water Charity have prioritized projects supporting the rehabilitation of refugee communities such as those in South Sudan. Collaborating with the county commissioner of Yei River County, and working through our South Sudanese field partner, Water is Basic, we implemented the drilling and rehabilitating of boreholes in local communities.
Phase One rehabilitated 10 wells and replaced broken hand pumps. Together with Water is Basic, we held five-day workshop trainings for 48 committee members on borehole operation and maintenance that resulted in over 760 households and more than 6,500 people gaining access to clean water.
With Phase One complete, NPCA and Water Charity are excited to move onto Phase Two of the South Sudan Well Rehabilitation Program. There is an opportunity to do as many as 100 well restorations per year if the resources are available.
Water changes everything. As the South Sudanese people are able to access clean water, there has been a transformation of life and health. Death rates fall and education rates rise. Access to food is increased and local economies grow. Ancient conflicts over water rights and access become obsolete as peace sweeps through areas where water shortages once caused civil war and conflict.
Peace Corps Beyond 2016 provides a forum for the greatest voices, expertise and insights to come together. Join the discussion with former Peace Corps staffer Barbara Busch, RPCV Valerie Kurka (Tanzania 2006-08), and RPCV Averill Strasser (Bolivia 1966-68) as they delve into direct assistance overseas, support for refugee resettlement efforts in the Sudan, Eritrea, the United States and elsewhere, and advocacy efforts to support refugee issues.
Becoming a mission partner is more than a financial contribution, it's a continuation of service. see more
By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez (Costa Rica 2006-2008)
As Peace Corps Volunteers, our desire to impact our communities and effect positive change drives us to invest our time, our skills, and our passion. Providing guidance as a community leader, as a mentor, and as a friend, I impacted my community in Costa Rica in many ways. Back at home, the investment continues as the community grows. You can “close the service” of a Volunteer, but you can never take away our passion to serve.
As a Mission Partner of the NPCA, I know that my contributions support our larger Peace Corps community and allow us to increase our impact both at home and abroad. As a Shriver Circle member, I contribute my financial support, providing NPCA with the flexibility to employ it where it’s needed most. As an advocate, I share my Volunteer experience, encouraging Congress to build a bigger, better Peace Corps.
As the Coordinator of the Affiliate Group Network (AGN) on the NPCA Board, I partner with staff to enable our affiliate groups to thrive. Working with AGN leaders at the grassroots level, we identified necessary resources and developed a platform to provide better methods for groups to engage and connect. Our nearly 160 affiliate groups are always looking for tools to engage their membership, expand their reach, and increase their impact. As a result, we launched the Purpose-driven Group webinar series, enabling groups to build their capacity through best-practices on topics such as legal considerations or how to host a Story Slam. The webinar series also provides the opportunity to learn about NPCA benefits like SilkStart, the Community Builder platform that offers comprehensive technology for website and membership database management.
As a proud member of the Peace Corps community, I make an impact by continuing to serve.
Make your impact. Become a Mission Partner of the NPCA.
Mission Partners are the reason why girls like mine continue to be empowered. see more
By Amanda Silva (Indonesia 2013-2015)
Two years ago, I was preparing for the first girls and boys empowerment camp in my district in Indonesia. Today, I'm stateside helping Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) get more funding for their own primary and secondary projects in water and sanitation or girls education and empowerment.
I made the decision in June 2016 to become a Mission Partner at the Shriver Circle level ($1,000) because I remember how much that camp affected 1) the sixty students who participated, 2) the twelve counselors who mentored, and 3) the Indonesian committee who empowered them all through their hard work and facilitation. As the Community Fund and Partnerships Coordinator at National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), I'm faced with the task of sifting through grant proposals from PCVs or emails from RPCVs returning to their host communities to build upon past projects. All the donations given to Water and Sanitation or Girls Education and Empowerment directly benefit host country communities. The more Mission Partners can contribute funds, the more projects can be completed.
I'm proud to be a Mission Partner, so that I can enable other PCVs to empower students just like mine.
Alan Ruiz Terol posted an articleThe Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers are supporting six refugees. see more
By Alan Ruiz Terol
A journey ended when Bana, Adnan and their four children arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had fled war in their home country, Syria, and were granted asylum by the U.S. government. Now they faced a new challenge; how to start a new life in a new country?
The Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers (CARV) have been mentoring the family since mid-September. The foremost priority was to find a job for Adnan, the father. He is a shoemaker and also has sewing skills—and yet, he was willing to do any work that did not require English. Thanks to great networking, CARV was able to find him a position in his chosen field.
“We help them achieve self-sufficiency,” says Susan Robinson, a member of the group. “We know how important it is for people to do things for themselves.”
CARV members have been visiting the family weekly to tutor the children and help the mom with English. They found several Arabic speakers to help with the translation and have taken the family members to multiple doctor appointments. They have also shared outings to the park and enjoyed pumpkin carving for Halloween. Recently, six CARV members and their family and friends invited Bana and Adnan's family for their first Thanksgiving dinner in America.
Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio is the volunteer agency responsible for refugee resettlement in the area. They provide housing, medical screening, English and employment lessons and case management. CARV members have been helping them for the past year. Eventually, the agency gave CARV a greater responsibility and asked them to mentor a Syrian family. “They were aware that we had a strong RPCV group and that we would be able to work as a team,” Robinson says.
The CARV group serves as an example of how RPCVs can help refugees integrate to American society. According to Robinson, there are many ways people can help refugees. “I would encourage people to meet volags (Voluntary Agencies) working in their area,” she says.
A new NPCA affiliate group, the Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees, is working to connect members of our community who are willing to help with local agencies resettling refugees across the nation. Please contact them if you're interested in making a difference.
The names of the Syrian family have been changed in order to protect their privacy.
Every dollar matched to reach greater impact in Eritrean refugee camps. see more
In the Horn of Africa, a worsening refugee crisis is finding relief from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).
By providing refugees with water, health and power, and resettlement services, and raising awareness of their plight through the power of film, the Peace Corps community is helping Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and elsewhere.
In partnership with National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), Water Charity is providing refugees with access to water, basic health services, and solar panels. Water Charity’s Averill Strasser (Bolivia 1966-68) and Beverly Rouse are confident that more desperately needed help is on the way following the recent announcement of a pledged $25,000 match challenge from an anonymous donor. Join NPCA's fundraising campaign for these water and sanitation projects.
Linked forever to Eritreans following his service in the country from 1966 to 1968, John Stauffer is the co-founder and President of the America Team for Displaced Eritreans, providing resettlement services to many of the 400,000 Eritrean refugees who have fled their homeland.
Stauffer will speak about his experiences and how the Peace Corps community can help at Peace Corps Connect following the screening of Refugee: The Eritrean Exodus, director Chris Cotter’s raw, harrowing story of following the Eritrean exodus. The screening will kick off Peace Corps Connect on Wednesday, September 21—the International Day for Peace. Tickets are on sale through September 12.
Long considered the North Korea of Africa, Eritrea has caused one of the largest, yet lesser-known refugee crisis in the world through gross human rights violations. Refugees are largely confined to camps in Ethiopia, and many attempt a treacherous and often deadly trek to resettlement in Western Europe.
Following several successful projects in Ethiopia with currently-serving Peace Corps Volunteers and after viewing Refugee, Water Charity’s Strasser decided it was time to help in the camps. The NPCA-Water Charity partnership is well underway, and the $25,000 match challenge will add to progress already being made.
Ethiopian and Eritrean RPCVs have been actively involved in their host countries for many years, especially since war broke out between the two nations in the late 1990s. For their efforts to broker a peaceful resolution to a border dispute in 1999, the Ethiopian and Eritrean RPCV group was awarded NPCA’s Loret Miller Ruppe Award.
You can donate to NPCA-Water Charity projects in Ethiopia here, and join us at the screening of Refugee to become part of the conversation led by John Stauffer at Peace Corps Connect.
RPCV Camillia Freeland-Taylor helps community build school in Southern province of Zambia. see more
The Community Fund: Perpetuating a Lifelong Commitment to Peace Corps Ideals
At National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), we understand the impact Volunteers make in host communities, as well as those host communities make upon Volunteers. Both resonate for decades. The Community Fund thrives on sustaining that relationship and impact.
An example are Camillia Freeland-Taylor’s (Zambia 2013-15) efforts to support the children of her village, Magalela, who must walk nine miles and cross two rivers to attend school. Many families do not allow their girls to attend because of the two-hour walk. During Camillia’s service, a first grade boy drowned on the journey.
The village children need a local primary school to ensure their basic human right to education. Camillia worked both during and after service to meet this need.
The grant she originally received as a PCV provided the amount necessary to lay the foundation of the school. As an RPCV, Camillia sought out NPCA to purchase cement and other building materials to complete the project by plastering the school's walls, finishing the floors, building latrines, and fitting windows with glass. The Zambian government will then provide teachers.
“It’s good to have a school because our children won’t have to walk so far (usually six-eight kilometers one way), and they don’t have to worry about crossing the river during the rainy season, which is extremely dangerous. Right now we have no choice, but we are trying to change that through the new school” says Jethrow Siatubi, Magalela Village Head.
Education has a compounding effect, and the result of allowing an entire community of children access to a primary education is profound. Studies show that with each additional year of education, an individual will earn more as an adult and prevent extreme poverty. Moreover, women who receive a primary school education are less likely to lose children in the first five years of the child’s life.
“I remember one time I went to the hospital and they gave me the wrong medicine. If I wasn’t educated I wouldn’t have been able to tell the medicine was meant for someone else and for a different problem. I was able to do so because of education. I want my children to have a better education and a chance at a brighter future” remarked Julius Simombeh, a school committee member.
In June 2016, NPCA in partnership with CALL and Cigna, embarked on an adventure to Thailand! see more
The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is a proud partner of Northeastern University's Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL). NPCA continually seeks out opportunities to increase the impact of the Peace Corps community; with CALL, our organization pulls from the invaluable cultural knowledge and expertise of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) to support projects abroad.
In June 2016, NPCA, CALL and our private sector partner, Cigna, created a team to address the needs of three nongovernmental organizations in Bangkok, Thailand. Twelve Cigna corporate volunteers provided pro bono IT support, while experiencing a crash course in cultural agility led by three RPCVs and Northeastern's Dr. Paula Caliguiri.
Cigna representatives partnered with cultural coaches and Thailand RPCVs Jessica Martin, Joel Saldana Jr. and NPCA’s own J.M. Ascienzo.
With the guidance of RPCV cultural coaches, accomplishments of the Bangkok program include:
Baan Nokkamin Foundation
Cigna volunteers laid the groundwork for website design and strategy for the Baan Nokkamin Foundation, an organization that provides housing and opportunities for over 350 orphans. Cigna volunteers learned about Baan Nokkamin’s holistic approach to providing residents the skills they need to excel, and partnered on the project with Baan Nokkamin staff who first came to the foundation as young children in need.
Employees from Cigna supported the NGO, Childline Thailand, which cares for the country's most vulnerable and abused children, often the victims of child prostitution. Childline Thailand’s hub is a safe place near Bangkok’s Hua Lomphong train station for street children to receive a warm meal, extra schooling, or access to health and legal services. Cigna volunteers worked with staff from Thailand and Russia to design a website called Ya Tee Dek, which translates to “Don’t Hit Children.” The Ya Tee Dek campaign is an anti-corporal punishment resource for students, teachers and community members.
Brighter Thailand Foundation
Representatives of the Brighter Thailand Foundation traveled from Thailand’s northeastern Isaan Region to work with Cigna volunteers on improving its database and finance platforms. In partnership with the University of Missouri, the Brighter Thailand Foundation provides Thai youth with the opportunity to learn and strengthen leadership skills at week-long camps, often in coordination with currently-serving Peace Corps Volunteers.
Throughout the week Cigna employees joined their NGOs away from the office to learn about Thai culture and the challenges local NGOs face. Since returning stateside the Cigna volunteers continue to collaborate with their respective NGOs, and the partnerships will last through December. The Bangkok trip followed last year’s inaugural CALL program in Indonesia.
To support NPCA partnerships that leave a sustainable impact on NGOs abroad, visit peacecorpsconnect.org/missionpartner today!
NPCA supports community-driven projects of impact through the Community Fund see more
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is proud to support community-driven projects of impact through the Community Fund. NPCA supports grassroots initiatives led by members of the Peace Corps community that have a lasting and sustainable impact. One of our newest initiatives is supporting the continuation of the micro-loan programs facilitated by The Colombia Project Global (TCP Global).
Where it all began
In 2000, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida (RPCVSF) established The Colombia Project (TCP), a committee that was created in response to the drastic internal displacement rates in Colombia. Social workers, attorneys, leaders of the displaced community and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) gathered at a meeting in Bogota, Colombia and decided the most effective solution was to provide resources to people ready to rebuild their lives through a sustainable micro-loan program.
The mission of TCP is two-fold: assist marginalized entrepreneurs with micro-loans and strengthen the grassroots organizations that effectively serve marginalized communities.
In Colombia, as in much of the developing world, affordable loans for marginalized entrepreneurs are available only from the daily lenders who charged up to 10% per day and often used harsh collection measures. The larger micro-finance institutions tended to focus on population centers where it is easier to scale their operations. The TCP model, however, is created for small and remote communities where the lending gap is greatest.
For TCP loan recipients, a marginal increase in family income means the difference between young adults continuing their studies and dropping out to help feed the family. Those who successfully repay several TCP loans often qualify for bank loans for their business or for constructing their own homes. In addition to loan recipients, TCP partners used earnings to benefit the communities where they work. Projects included the first latrine for the handicapped in Aguadas, a facility for the handicapped in Cartago, repairing homes for the poorest residents of Puerto Tejada, establishing a sewing cooperative and completing a community center in La Victoria.
"I no longer look at myself as a displaced person but as an entrepreneur"
- Gloria Beatriz Barliza Epiayu, Woman Entrepreneur of the year for the Guajira Region of Colombia 2011
Moving onto the next phase
In 2014, The Colombia Project became independent of RPCVSF, and evolved in to TCP Global. In 2015, TCP Global opened new programs in Niger, Guatemala and Peru with one hundred percent loan repayment in the first 16 months. In this next phase, TCP Global has seeded $10,000 from the U.S. and supported $21,000 in loans to 100 recipients and earned its current partners $5,000 to date.
TCP Global partners have found that increasing the income of their clients provides each a hand up to reach a better standard of living. These loans help keep children in school, provide healthier diets, access to clean drinking water and protection of the environment. Women entrepreneurs are often empowered by their success and progress to become community leaders.
TCP is a results-oriented model that keeps the focus on the loan recipient. If they do well, the organizations that administer the loans are compensated for their good results. The first allocation is typically $1500. Once that has been invested twice with at least a 95% repayment rate, additional allocations are sent until the permanent loan pool is sufficient to meet the needs of the community.
NPCA's Community Fund is currently supporting a new program that will open in the Philippines and in a Colombian community where there is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer. These programs are projected to need up to $12,000 each over the next 4 years.
Since funds are released in $1500 increments or less, with a promise to send more if those funds are invested successfully, the risk is small. The repayment rate for loans given since 2007 exceeds 95%. TCP’s oldest site, in Genova has invested each donated dollar eight times in nine years. That is the level of success NPCA and TCP Global hope to continue globally as this program expands with the help of the Community Fund.
PCV Togo shares his touching story of bringing clean water to his community. see more
Peace Corps Volunteer Mokube Ewane serves in Kante in the Kara Region of Togo. The project was originally designed to dig eight public wells, install two hand washing stations in public schools, and repair/rehabilitate three community water pumps. At the conclusion the community had built 12 wells, rehabilitated two wells, and repaired four hand pumps. The handwashing stations were deferred. The work was done in 17 communities, bringing water to 5,300 people.
Here is an excerpt from Mokube's final project report:
The farther north you go in Togo, the more scarce water becomes. This is particularly true in northern villages that are farther away from the national road. Each time I go to visit AIDS patients in remote villages and have the time to chat with community members, all they could talk about is how scarce water is, and how they have to travel long distances to fetch it. Sometimes, the water they fetch may not be ideal for human consumption. However, that is all they have.
I have seen villagers, especially girls, fetch water in the same pond that animals such as goat, and cows drink from. Often, the water contained in these shallow ponds is greenish, or yellowish in color. I was riding my bike from Kante (my post) to a nearby village, just to see and experience how life is over there. I came across a couple of children about 13 and 15 years old. They were standing next to a shallow pond of yellowish standing water. I asked what they were doing and they told me they were fetching drinking water. Just to be sure, I asked if that’s where they get their drinking water and their response was affirmative.
This situation is not unique to this village. Even in villages with access to a hand pump, when broken, it can take sometimes four years or more to get it repaired. I was a witness to three such villages with broken hand pumps since 2012. These pumps just got repaired in April 2016, thanks to our water project. People desperately wanted to get a reliable, potable and clean source of drinking water. Hence, my community and I had no choice but to undertake this water project. To correct myself, we had a choice: do nothing and let people continue to suffer or try to undertake a difficult and ambitious water project that will improve the living condition of thousands of people and save tens if not hundreds of lives each year. We chose the latter. At the end of the project, we were able to provide access to potable water to 17 communities (~5300 direct beneficiaries), thanks to Water Charity and National Peace Corps Association.
At first, people were a little skeptical about the notion of a potable water source next to them. However, when they realized that was a reality, their enthusiasm and excitement for the project couldn’t be exaggerated. After much planning and sensitization, the water project was officially launched in March 2016. With inputs from the mayor’s office, local chiefs, quarter heads, community members and presidents of the various development committees, consensus was made to build or rehabilitate water wells and repair hand pumps in 17 communities (five villages and 12 neighborhoods). At the end of the project, 12 brand new wells were built, two wells rehabilitated, three hand pumps repaired, and one hand pump repaired and rehabilitated (Totaling 14 wells and four hand pumps). These communities were chosen based on two main criteria: number of people in village (village population density), and degree of difficulty they face fetching water.
When the project began in the various sites, people couldn’t disguise their joy and happiness. They were very motivated to be part of this project. Some people came up to me and say “nous ne savons pas comment te remercier” (roughly translated to “we don’t know how to thank you”). Others will say “tu as sauvé nos vies (roughly translated to “you have saved our lives”). Apart from sand and gravel (community contribution), a lot of people were bringing food and local drinks for the workers working in the various sites. A lot of young people were also helping during the digging process. Without community members’ willingness to participate, this project couldn’t have been successful.
Our water project took approximately three months to complete (March 2016 to mid-June 2016). I’m proud to say that, despite the many challenges we faced, such as transporting cement to remote locations, or organizing community members, this project was a success. Now, more than 5,300 people in 17 different communities have access to clean and potable water, and girls can now dedicate more time studying instead of traveling long distances to fetch water for their families. Many people, especially young children, don’t have to get sick because of the scarcity of obtaining clean water. Some women can now engage in income-generating activity because of a reliable water source. All these are made possible because of the generous financial support made by Water Charity and National Peace Corps Association.
To date National Peace Corps Association and Water Charity partnership continue to be a leading source of funding for PCV and RPCV projects both in water and sanitation as well as Let Girls Learn grants. Our role to the Peace Corps community is to help PCVs and RPCVs like Mokube better serve their communities and provide the expertise, guidance and training needed to complete these projects. Thank you Mokube for sharing your story!