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Moldova

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way. see more

    Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way.

     

    By Glenn Blumhorst

     

    This is a hopeful time for the Peace Corps: On March 14, a group of Volunteers arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. Just over a week later, on March 23, Volunteers arrived in the Dominican Republic. They are the first to return to service overseas since March 2020, when Volunteers were evacuated from around the globe because of COVID-19. The contributions of Volunteers serving in Zambia will include partnering with communities to focus on food security and education, along with partnering on efforts to disseminate COVID-19 mitigation information and promote access to vaccinations.

    We’re thankful for the Volunteers who are helping lead the way, with the support of the Peace Corps community. And we’re deeply grateful for the work that Peace Corps Zambia staff have continued to do during the pandemic — work emblematic of the commitment Peace Corps staff around the world have shown during this unprecedented time.

     

    Returning to Zambia: Two years after all Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world because of COVID-19, in March the first cohort returned to begin service overseas. Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Lusaka 

     

    Invitations are out for Volunteers to return to some 30 countries in 2022. Among those who will be serving are Volunteers who were evacuated in 2020, trainees who never had the chance to serve, and new Volunteers. Crucially, they are all returning as part of an agency that has listened to — and acted on — ideas and recommendations from the Peace Corps community for how to ensure that we’re shaping a Peace Corps that better meets the needs of a changed world. Those recommendations came out of conversations that National Peace Corps Association convened and drew together in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.” We’re seeing big steps in the Peace Corps being more intentional in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion; working with a deeper awareness of what makes for ethical storytelling; and better ensuring Volunteer safety and security.

     

    Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.

     

    At the same time, while we are buoyed by the fact that Volunteers are returning to work around the world building the person-to-person relationships in communities where they serve, we must not diminish the scale of the tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine. More than 10 million people have fled their homes in the face of an invasion and war  they did not provoke and did not want. Across this country and in Europe, thousands of returned Volunteers are working to help Ukrainians in harm’s way.

    Thank you to all of you who are doing what you can in this moment of crisis: from the Friends of Moldova working to provide food, shelter, and transportation to refugees — to the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine putting together first-aid kits, leading advocacy efforts to support Ukraine, and so much more. Since the beginning of the war, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.

     

    Donate to the Friends of Moldova Ukraine Refugee Effort.

     

    At a time like this it’s important to underscore a truth we know: The mission of building peace and friendship is the work of a lifetime.

    That’s a message we need to drive home to Congress right now. With your support, let’s get Congress to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act this year. It’s the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in 20 years. Along with instituting further necessary reforms, it will ensure that as Volunteers return to the field it is with the support of a better and stronger Peace Corps.

     

     

    President Biden will formally nominate Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps at a critical time. 

    It is becoming increasingly clear that we are entering a new era — one that desperately needs those committed to Peace Corps ideals. With that in mind, I am heartened by the news we received in early April that President Biden intends to nominate Carol Spahn to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. A returned Volunteer herself (Romania 1994–96), she began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency for the past 14 months, one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history.

    We have been honored to work with Carol and her strong leadership team over the past year on collaborative efforts to navigate this difficult period of planning for the Peace Corps’ new future. We have full confidence in her commitment to return Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner and offer the next generation of Volunteers a better, stronger Peace Corps ready to meet the global challenges we confront. The continuity of this work is key. We are calling on the Senate to swiftly bring forth this nomination for consideration and bipartisan confirmation.


    Glenn Blumhorst is president and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91. Write him: president@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    A platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to help see more

    A platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to deepen understanding of the war and efforts to help refugees.

     

    By Clary Estes

    Photo by Clary Estes

     

     

    The Ukraine Stories newsletter started modestly. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who had served throughout Central and Eastern Europe asked the same question: “What can I do?” For the Ukraine Stories crew, the answer was simple: Tell true stories. Yet this simple answer opened up a complex world of reporting, testimonials, and on the ground volunteering. Since the project’s inception, Ukraine Stories has sought to explain the conflict on a deeper level for those who might not have a background in Eastern Europe policy, history, or current events. We are doing this through deep dives on the region’s history and key figures. We are telling the stories of volunteers who have been working to assist with the refugee crisis. We have given a platform for citizen journalists inside Ukraine to tell their stories. And we have worked on the ground ourselves to help with refugee crisis. 

    The Ukraine Stories platform also works to realize the Peace Corps’ mission: to promote peace and international solidarity, and pursue solutions to what is one of the world’s most overwhelming problems. We have teamed up with a number of other international partners and RPCV groups to tell stories and show the world what solutions are available in the face of war. Our partnership with the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine and the Friends of Moldova, among others, has been paramount and will continue to be the main focus of our storytelling and reporting.

     

    Food and shelter: Vitalie, right, opened the summer camp he owns in northern Moldova to refugees from Ukraine. Then he slaughtered his one dairy cow to feed them. 
    Photo by Clary Estes

     

    Holy Cow: A Case Study in Caring

    When the Friends of Moldova told us the story of the man who killed his dairy cow to feed scores of refugees in his care, we couldn’t believe it. So we went to meet him ourselves and learn exactly what had happened.

    Vitalie bought the summer camp on a hill above the northern city of Bălți in 2019. Dumbrava Albă, as the camp was called, opened at a tough time. Not a year into its operation it had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the worst of the pandemic seemed behind us in early 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Yet Vitalie found solutions amid hardship; he saw an opportunity to do some good in the face of war. He took in about 100 Ukrainian refugees. 

    “The first days were tough,” Vitalie says. “There had been no water connection or heating for two years because I had it shut down due to the pandemic. It took me two to three days to get everything turned on.” He also had nothing to feed the refugees. “So I killed my dairy cow, just to make sure everyone was taken care of,” he says. “In normal times, I have enough to feed myself: chickens, milk from the cow, things like that. But we had about 100 people here in the first days and I needed to take care of them.” 

    For many Moldovan families, cows are not only a source of dairy products for day-to-day consumption, but they can also be a source of income. Families sell milk, cheese, and butter at the local piaţă, or open-air markets. For these families, a cow is worth far more alive than dead.

    It wasn’t long before the Friends of Moldova, who were also working in Bălți to set up a distribution center, heard Vitalie’s story. They were able to secure funds to buy a new cow. Within 48 hours, they delivered it to Dumbrava Albă. Vitalie was surprised and deeply grateful. 

     

     

    Sertse in Ukrainian, heart in English. Anya and her daughter fled Mariupol. Seen here: an Easter celebration at the Balti Distribution Center in Moldova, where Anya volunteers. 
    Photo by Clary Estes

     

    Citizen Journalism: One of Thousands

    As a cornerstone of the project, Ukraine Stories is providing Ukrainians who are experiencing the war a platform to tell their stories in their own words. One story, from the southeastern corner of Ukraine, was told by Anya, a mother of two daughters: of their harrowing escape from the besieged city of Mariupol.

    War ... We used to hear about war on the news. It was something that happened far away in some foreign country. It was something we were sorry to hear about, but it only seemed like a sad movie. I now understand all of that pain that used to be so far away. War is not just terrible photos of destroyed houses. It’s a profound loss of human life.

    On the morning of February 24th, we heard explosions. Our city has been under attack since 2014, but on the morning of the 24th, I decided not to risk the life of my children and leave. I thought then that it would only be for a couple of weeks, but as it has turned out, we are leaving forever.

    Before they fled Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces, Anya recounted how she tried to bring some semblance of joy to her children on a special day.

    It was my eldest daughter’s ninth birthday, so I ran to the store for sour cream to make a cake. I heard machine-gun fire on my neighbors’ street and more powerful explosions somewhere in the distance. I don’t know why it didn’t scare me at that moment. I was somehow more worried about making a cake for my daughter. I’m a mother, after all. 

    At five in the morning on her birthday, my children woke up to an explosion nearby. All the glass in the house shattered. A piece of plaster from the ceiling fell right onto the bed where my children were sleeping. They were frightened to tears, but miraculously unharmed. We went down to the basement. I even managed to take some of the cake with me. So we celebrated my eldest daughter’s birthday there. 

    A few days later it became too unbearable to remain. The explosions were constant. My children learned to distinguish what was an explosion and what wasn’t by the vibration of the earth.

     

    A few days later it became too unbearable to remain. The explosions were constant. My children learned to distinguish what was an explosion and what wasn’t by the vibration of the earth.

     

    Anya and her daughters spent weeks making their way to Moldova — dodging air raids, tanks, and gunfire. But reaching Moldova did not bring an end to her worries.

    During our first week in Moldova, I couldn’t eat. I was ashamed to eat while not knowing whether or not my mother had anything to eat in Mariupol … I dreamt of her every night. I dreamed of her because I couldn’t write to her. I dreamt of her because I couldn’t speak to her. 

    All day, every day, I was on my phone looking for my mother, my grandmother, my friends, my godparents, acquaintances, like a robot ... 

    Over time, I found news on the internet about who was alive and who was not. It was on a group chat that I found a photo of an old woman whose eyes I recognized. It was my mother!!! Aged and exhausted, but alive!!! 

    Anya is now volunteering at the Bălți Distribution Center and, like so many others, rebuilding the life she lost in the wake of the invasion.  

     

     

    Deep Dive: Understanding the Invasion

    Ukraine Stories would not be possible without Val Stutz, who served as a Volunteer in Moldova 2015–17 and is a 2022–23 Fulbright Fellow in Moldova. He has also worked extensively throughout Ukraine. His “Deep Dive” series has helped readers understand the conflict in Ukraine on a geopolitical and historical level. He has discussed the significance of the southeastern region of Ukraine and Putin’s aspirations to recreate the imperial Novorossiya of Catherine the Great, with territory stretching across Ukraine. He has given background on people like Russian general Aleksandr Dvornikov — who became known as “the Butcher of Syria” — and Dzhokhar Musayevich Dudayev — a key figure in Chechnya’s independence movement — and he has traced how their military and political careers are connected to the current brutal invasion. He has also sought to explain the challenges that refugee students in Moldova face as they navigate another year of online learning or adapt to the educational norms of another country. 

     

     

    More Work to Do

    The Ukraine Stories team includes contributors from around the globe: people from Asia, the Americas, and across Europe. Some have served in the Peace Corps, some have not. And our team has continued to expand. While the Russian war against Ukraine shows no sign of ending soon, we are committed to working in whatever ways we can help those in harm’s way — and continue getting stories out of Ukraine and the surrounding region. Whether it is a deep dive or a profile of a person that helps readers understand this horror on a fundamentally human level — or it is shining a spotlight on an organization helping solve the conflict, or a testimonial from someone living through the conflict, we at Ukraine Stories will keep writing, building connections, and seeking to sustain the Peace Corps ideal of international peace.

    Read more: ukrainestories.substack.com 

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine


    Clary Estes is a writer, editor, and photographer. She served as a Volunteer in Moldova 2015–17 and as a Response Volunteer in Georgia in 2019.

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    • Steven Saum Raisa Alstodt and Natalia Joseph help lead the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine. In "Everything Will Be Ukraine!" they note that more than 3,400 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ukraine. And they... see more Raisa Alstodt and Natalia Joseph help lead the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine. In "Everything Will Be Ukraine!" they note that more than 3,400 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ukraine. And they offer a few ways they have sought to help the communities they served as Russian rockets fly and bombs fall across the country. www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
    • Steven Saum Also in this edition, in the essay "What We Mean by Friendship" David Jarmul looks at how, with the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Friends of Moldova has stepped in to provide crucial... see more Also in this edition, in the essay "What We Mean by Friendship" David Jarmul looks at how, with the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Friends of Moldova has stepped in to provide crucial support to thousands of refugees. www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
    • Steven Saum As I write in my essay for this edition of WorldView, this is a time of unfinished business for the Peace Corps community: hopeful work, as Volunteers return to serve alongside communities... see more As I write in my essay for this edition of WorldView, this is a time of unfinished business for the Peace Corps community: hopeful work, as Volunteers return to serve alongside communities overseas. And crucial work to ensure Ukraine survives. www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    The Friends of Moldova is currently spending $20,000 weekly to provide for Ukrainian families. see more

    With the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Friends of Moldova has stepped in to provide crucial support to thousands of refugees.

     

    by David Jarmul

    Logo by Friends of Moldova 

     

    Until this past February, Friends of Moldova was like many “Friends of” groups within the Peace Corps community: a loose organization of returned Volunteers sharing news and supporting small grant programs in the country where they served. Then Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and everything changed.

    As millions of Ukrainians fled the fighting, nearly half a million refugees came to Moldova — a small, crescent-shaped country with a population of about 3 million, bordered by Ukraine on the east and Romania on the west. Formerly occupied by the Soviet regime, Moldova itself has dealt with the reality of a breakaway enclave backed by Russian forces since the 1990s.

    Within a matter of weeks of Russia’s invasion, most of the refugees who had crossed into Moldova had moved on—but more than 90,000 remained. They needed food, shelter, clothing, and more. And they needed support immediately. The Friends of Moldova raced to help. They supported the work of RPCV David Smith, who still lives in Moldova’s capital, Chişinău, and his local partner to convert their American-style barbecue restaurant, Smokehouse, into a refugee assistance center. Within days, Ukrainians lined up daily to receive free supplies.

     

    Food distribution center in Balti

    Food and shelter: In the city of Bălți, Friends of Moldova responded quickly to help Ukrainian refugees in need. Photo courtesy Friends of Moldova

     

    Local Peace Corps staff and others volunteered at the center. Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn, who has since been nominated to serve as agency director, flew there from Washington, D.C., to help prepare meals. President of Moldova Maia Sandu and others also came to show their support. The PBS NewsHour and others covered this critical work. During its six weeks of operation, the center served 38,198 Ukrainians, including 7,847 individual or family walk-ins. During its last day alone it served 1,863 people. 

    Friends of Moldova also provided flexible funding to help Moldova for Peace, a national organization based in Chişinău, get its own operations off the ground. It assisted 175 community centers, nonprofit organizations, and shelters across the country. Funds enabled a team of volunteers to transport hundreds of Ukrainians daily from freezing conditions at the southern border to shelters around the country.

    As other organizations ramped up their work in Chişinău, Friends of Moldova pivoted to open a new assistance center and programs in northern Moldova. The group’s president, RPCV Bartosz Gawarecki, left his business in Michigan to oversee the effort there. Other RPCVs joined him. Friends of Moldova members across the United States assisted as well, drawing attention to Moldova’s situation and raising more than $700,000 — an extraordinary outpouring of support. All team members with Friends of Moldova worked for free, serving the country they came to love as Peace Corps Volunteers. 

    The Friends of Moldova is currently spending $20,000 weekly to provide food and hygiene products to Ukrainian families and individuals across northern Moldova. Since the war began, it has assisted nearly 60,000 refugees. It cannot sustain this life-saving work without more support from fellow RPCVs and others—so it welcomes your support in this crucial work. 

    Learn more and donate to the Friends of Moldova on social media and at thefriendsofmoldova.com

     

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.


     David Jarmul served in Moldova 2016–18 with his wife, Champa, whom he met during his initial Peace Corps service in Nepal, where he served 1977–79. 

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    • Steven Saum Raisa Alstodt and Natalia Joseph help lead the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine. In "Everything Will Be Ukraine!" they note that more than 3,400 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ukraine. And they... see more Raisa Alstodt and Natalia Joseph help lead the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine. In "Everything Will Be Ukraine!" they note that more than 3,400 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ukraine. And they offer a few ways they have sought to help the communities they served as Russian rockets fly and bombs fall across the country. www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
    • Steven Saum "Ukraine Stories" is a platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to deepen understanding of the war and efforts to help refugees. Read more about it in this story by Clary... see more "Ukraine Stories" is a platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to deepen understanding of the war and efforts to help refugees. Read more about it in this story by Clary Estes.
      www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
    • Steven Saum As I write in my essay for this edition of WorldView, this is a time of unfinished business for the Peace Corps community: hopeful work, as Volunteers return to serve alongside communities... see more As I write in my essay for this edition of WorldView, this is a time of unfinished business for the Peace Corps community: hopeful work, as Volunteers return to serve alongside communities overseas. And crucial work to ensure Ukraine survives. www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articl...
      1 month ago
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. see more

    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. But that’s not the end of the story.

    By NPCA Staff

     

    Photo: Katherine Patterson and students of Bumbuta Secondary School in Tanzania. Patterson started the Save the Rain project to provide clean water for the school community.

     

    When Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world, we heard from thousands asking for advice and help. They were not only worried about their own well-being, but time and again they wanted to know: What about the communities they left? the work they were doing? the projects developed together — already approved for Peace Corps grants that would now be frozen?

    Our answer: the Community Fund. We set up an application process for Volunteers and reached out to the Peace Corps community for crowdfunding support. Regulations for the Peace Corps grant programs require a Volunteer to be in a community to oversee a project. As a nonprofit organization, National Peace Corps Association ramped up a more flexible solution. That especially makes sense when many Volunteers are in regular contact with their host communities. Thanks to your support, some projects are already fully funded. Some are seeking contributors. We get new applications from evacuated Volunteers each week — and we welcome more. peacecorpsconnect.org/give

     

    Vanuatu | Chelsea Bajek

    Home: Rochester, New York / Arlington, Virginia

    For close to two years I served as a Community Health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education (WASH) Volunteer. I lived and worked in a small rural community on Paama Island, where I was given the name Lumi. I helped facilitate water and sanitation projects and programs to improve awareness on health, nutrition, and hygiene. I had been accepted to extend my service for a third year to work with the Ministry of Health in the capital on public health initiatives. When we were evacuated, I left behind not only my belongings, my house, my work, but also my community and my family and friends. I left behind people I called Mama and Papa, auntie and uncle, brother and sister, and countless abus (grandparents).

    One of the projects I was working on was with the local women’s group, helping them to raise funds to purchase sewing machines and related materials to be used in skill-building workshops. We had an open Peace Corps Partnership Program grant, but we lost funding when Volunteers were evacuated. There are limited resources on this small remote island, and supporting the Paama Women’s Handicraft Center will help increase opportunities for women’s economic development and empowerment; the clothing and baskets they make will be sold to pay school fees and support families. Though I am back in the United States, I continue to work with the women’s group on this project, believing it can provide real change for these women. 

     

     

     

    Benin | Cristal Ouedraogo | FUNDED!

    Home: Montgomery County, Maryland

    In Benin, women and girls face more barriers to education than men and boys. As an education volunteer, I heard people in my community express a desire to bridge that gap. So we put together a plan for a literacy and research center to create a safe space for girls to pursue academic excellence and increase gender equity in school — and give them the tools needed to be independent, lifelong learners outside the classroom. The project will benefit some 500 secondary school students — boys as well as girls — and provide technology training for teachers and community members as well.

    The project was approved for a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant that was suspended when I was evacuated. But with support the Peace Corps community has given through NPCA, we’ll still help these students — and inspire boys and girls to thrive academically, socially, and creatively.

     

      Speak and Spell: Cristal Ouedraogo was working with these students in Benin when she had to evacuate. A grant from the Community Fund will ensure the project she started becomes reality. 
     

    Moldova | Alyssa Gurkas

    Home: Westfield, New Jersey

    To combat violence against women and empower the female population in Hînceşti, Moldova, I worked with colleagues at the Mihai Viteazul Middle School to develop a plan for a tech-equipped community room. It would also host seminars on domestic violence, financial literacy, and online safety. It will benefit teachers and parents and scores of students. The funds will be used to purchase a smartboard, a computer, speakers, printer, paper, markers, flip-chart, notebooks, and lunches for seminars.

    Originally this project was going to be funded through Peace Corps’ Small Project Assistance Program, but due to the COVID-19 evacuation the project was canceled before it even began. The school actually had installed internet and already purchased chairs and desks fulfilling their community contribution — 25 percent of the grant that was required — only to find out that the project was then canceled. That hit my colleagues hard.

    But when I let them know that the Community Fund might still make it possible, English teacher Aliona Goroholschi wrote me: “I felt happiness without edges … Anything is possible when you have people who care and support you.”

     

    Colombia | Elyse Magen | FUNDED!

    Home: San Francisco, California

    As a Peace Corps Volunteer I was working with a women’s group in Santa Marta who harvest cacao and make artisanal chocolate desserts. These women are all cacao farmers themselves and have had little economic opportunity. They have not had a formal education; at a young age, they were displaced due to violence in their region. But with the business they have started, Transformación, they will be building disposable income in a culture where women have little opportunity to work.

    The grant provided by the NPCA Community Fund will allow them to carve out a workspace that complies with health sanitation codes. It will allow them to purchase machinery to make an edible chocolate bar, which will expand their market and increase profits. This, in turn, will allow them to provide for their families and invest not only in themselves but also in their children. Transformación hopes that other women can get involved in their business and that it can symbolize a wave of social change.

     

     

    Tanzania | Katherine Patterson | FUNDED!

    Home: Washington, D.C.

    With the secondary school in my community of Bumbuta, I was working on a rainwater catchment system and handwashing stations to increase access to clean water. Right now, students must carry large buckets containing drinking and cleaning water to school every morning; the water that many bring comes from unsanitary sources. With a rainwater catchment system, the school community will gain access to clean water — and improve education on water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.

    The project was approved but funding was halted as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation. I was over the moon when I found out there’s another option for funding. My ward executive officer messaged: “We wanna thank you so much tusaidie ... we love you so much!”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To leave the world a bit better ... to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — that is to have succeeded.” I’ll be able to keep a promise to myself to leave my village in a better place than when I arrived. More important, this will enable students to live healthier lives! 

     


     

    Colombia | Joshua Concannon

    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

    I was working on an effort to train dozens of women in clothing design and production by providing them with technical workshops and entrepreneurship classes from professionals. Their community is heavily reliant on agriculture for its source of jobs, so this project will diversify the economy — and provide jobs and sources of income for women. We worked together on a grant application and were approved through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. The women were overjoyed — and justifiably proud.

    One week later, all Volunteers were evacuated and Peace Corps rescinded the funds. But the opportunity with NPCA has revived my hope. Edilsa Mascote, the leader behind the project, was very emotional when I told her that there is still a chance we can get the funding. She started tearing up because she thought all hope was lost. She told me it was the perfect light they needed in their lives during this very dark time.

     

    Learn more about these and other projects supported by the Community Fund — and make a gift to help Volunteers complete them.


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

    Thanks for reading. And here’s how you can support the work we’re doing to help evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Finding Refuge by Victorya Rouse brings together real-life immigration stories by young people. see more

    Finding Refuge

    REAL-LIFE IMMIGRATION STORIES FROM YOUNG PEOPLE

    By Victorya Rouse

    Zest Books

     

    Reviewed by Nathalie Vadnais

     

    In the Newcomers Center at Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, Victorya Rouse teaches immigrants from all over the world how to speak English. It’s work she has done for three decades, after she served as an education Volunteer with the Peace Corps in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) 1981–84. For Finding Refuge, she has put together firsthand accounts of kids’ and teenagers’ experiences — some recounted many years later — to help young readers understand war, conflict, and what it means to be a refugee.

    Many young refugees contributed memories of their lives before, during, and after evacuation of their home often due to political tension or aggressive conflict. Among the contributors: Fedja Zahirovic, who fled war in Bosnia in the 1990s; and Abdulrazik Mohamed, who fled the civil war in Sudan and, after years in refugee camps, arrived in Spokane in 2012. Other contributors were refugees from Libya and Syria, Iraq and Mexico, Moldova and Ukraine.

    “The experiences that brought them here,” Rouse writes, “to my classroom—reflect the ongoing realities faced by refugees around the world.”

     

    EXCERPT:

    Fedja from Bosnia and Herzegovina, entered the U.S. in 1995

    We were only able to bring clothes, some family photos, and documents — and I brought a few cassettes with my favorite music. My mom kept telling me to leave things. “We are only taking our clothes and toiletries.” It was like going on vacation, only this time I was bringing a lot more clothes. I couldn’t bring my guitar, piano, or record collection. My bike had already been stolen. I was leaving my few remaining friends and all of my family. My grandmother was staying behind to keep the apartment from being taken away by the refugees and to keep our cabin from being seized by the military. I felt like I would never get to see any of it again. I was right.

     

    My grandmother was staying behind to keep the apartment from being taken away by the refugees and to keep our cabin from being seized by the military. I felt like I would never get to see any of it again. I was right.

     

    Epilogue: Life was difficult for a long time, but my life is good now, and I try to give back and to help people whenever I can. My mother and grandmother live in Portland, near enough that I can see them often. I am married now. My wife has her degree in early childhood education. I do in-home care for people with developmental disabilities as I near completion of my B.A. in musicology and ethnomusicology. My dream is to get an M.A. in music education and to start my own music program for children who are immigrants, who are high risk, or who have learning disabilities—in other words, those who often don’t have the access or privilege to enroll in regular music programs. 

     

     

    EXCERPT:

    Trang from Viet Nam, entered the U.S. in 1975

    On the ship, women and children were being sent to the upper deck, and the men to the lower deck. Somehow, on that huge ship, we all found each other. It was a miracle: The whole family — all ten of us children and both parents — made it onto that ship. So few families made it out together.

    People were crowded together like sardines. We couldn’t even lie down. We didn’t have room to move. The ship took us to the Philippines, but on the way, we ran out of food and water. I was so hungry and thirsty. Someone told us to tap sea water on our lips. We couldn’t drink the sea water, but we could make our lips damp.

     

    “On the ship, women and children were being sent to the upper deck, and the men to the lower deck. Somehow, on that huge ship, we all found each other. It was a miracle: The whole family — all ten of us children and both parents — made it onto that ship.”

     

    In the Philippines, we were given military C-rations. I had peanut butter for the first time. Peanut butter and crackers were so good. There was cheese too. It was so good to eat again. There we were transferred to an even bigger ship and taken to Guam. There were not enough toilets on the ship, so they built an outhouse over the rail. It was so scary to look down and see the ocean!

     

    Epilogue: What I would like people to know about refugees is how grateful we are to have the chance to have a life. The English language is hard. It is not easy to come to a new country and learn a whole new language and way of life, but we are grateful for what we have been given, for the help we have received.

    My husband and I have a comfortable life. We have the basics, everything we really need. We are grateful for our lives here in the United States, for having a roof over our heads, food to eat, and children we are proud of. That is what a successful life is to me. Our children have grown up healthy and happy, with good careers. Now my dream is to retire healthy so I can spend time with our grandchildren.

     

    This review appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.


    Nathalie Vadnais is an intern with WorldView. She is completing a degree in international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    From being taught by Peace Corps Volunteers to becoming a Volunteer see more

    In Moldova, my work partners and our host family weren’t expecting someone like me. Instead of being young and white, I was older and Asian. And born near Mount Everest.

    By Champa Jarmul

     

    When I was a girl growing up in Nepal, two of my teachers were Peace Corps Volunteers. After I became a teacher myself, I attended a training workshop with another Volunteer. Most important to me was the PCV who taught at our school a few years later. David and I fell in love and got married.

    More than 35 years later, after our two sons had grown, we signed up to serve as Volunteers together in Moldova. David worked in the local library and I taught English at a school. I wasn’t sure I would be a good Volunteer, but I was ready to be open-hearted and nonjudgmental, and to accept all of the challenges.

     

    Moldovan students with their Peace Corps teacher, Champa Jarmul, at far end of table. Photo courtesy of Champa and David Jarmul

     

    My work partners and our host family weren’t expecting someone like me. Instead of being young and white, I was older and Asian. Few Moldovans had ever heard of Nepal. When I told them I was born near Mount Everest, they were amazed. But they weren’t sure I was a “real American.” As we lived and worked together, though, they came to know me. 

     

    When I told them I was born near Mount Everest, they were amazed. But they weren’t sure I was a “real American.”

     

    We cooked each other our traditional foods — curried chicken and rice from Nepal, stuffed cabbage and pork from Moldova, and an American apple pie. We shared photos of our grandchildren. We celebrated each others’ birthdays and holidays, including a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

     

    Peace Corps family: Champa and David Jarmul with their grandchildren. Photo courtesy of Champa and David Jarmul

     

    Our Peace Corps group included Americans born in other countries as well, from Panamá, Colombia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Vietnam. We had American-born Volunteers of different ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations. Many of us were not what Moldovans expected a Volunteer would look like. Together, we showed them that “American” includes many kinds of people.

    As Peace Corps looks to its future, its Volunteers need to fully reflect our country’s diversity. We are the faces of America. Our stories are America’s stories. 


    READ MORE: “Returning to Serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer a Second Time — 35 years Later” by David Jarmul 

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Meet the winner of the 2021 Lillian Carter Award see more

    Meet Carole Anne “Aziza” Reid, the winner of the 2021 Lillian Carter Award.

     

    By NPCA Staff

    Photo: Dance lessons in Eswatini. Photo courtesy Carole Anne Reid

     

    Carole Anne “Aziza” Reid was serving as a youth education Volunteer in Eswatini when COVID-19 forced the evacuation of all Volunteers. It was her second tour with Peace Corps; she served in Moldova 2016–18, working in community organizational development. There, she created community programs to empower women and youth through African dance classes and social justice activities. 

    Home is originally Harlem. When Reid joined the Peace Corps at age 53, she brought years of experience in the arts—including as founder of Def Dance Jam Workshop, an intergenerational performing arts troupe and academic program serving Deaf, hearing- impaired, and physically and developmentally disabled youths and their families. In her career as a dancer, she toured with Stevie Wonder and rap artists KRS One and Boogie Down Productions. On Broadway, Reid worked as assistant choreographer on “Rent” and “Mulebone.”

     

    Aziza Reid dances at music festival

    Move to the music in Moldova: Aziza Reid, in purple here, has also taught with the Peace Corps in Eswatini. Photo by Vadim Moroschuk

     

    Brought home by the pandemic, Reid, who is an ordained interfaith minister, formed a nationwide collective called Ministers of Color Sacred Circle, which aims to address racial disparities facing people of color.

    On June 25 she was presented with the 2021 Lillian Carter Award by the Peace Corps, honoring contributions by outstanding Volunteers who were over age 50 when they served. The award was established in 1986 in honor of President Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian Carter, who, at age 68, served as a Peace Corps health Volunteer in India. Lillian Carter’s commitment to Peace Corps service was an extension of her dedication to humanitarian efforts at home and abroad.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Jeremy Male was in a small town near the Ukrainian border. see more

    Nobody wanted it to happen this way. 
Evacuation stories and the unfinished business of Peace Corps Volunteers around the world.
     

    Moldova | Jeremy Male

    Home: Roswell, Georgia

    In a small village in the Soroca region near the Ukrainian border, Jeremy Male taught English at a secondary school alongside two Moldovan colleagues starting in 2019. “I was the first volunteer in my village,” he says. That made him an ambassador of American culture and values. And it put this self-professed introvert very much in the public eye. He quickly learned to roll with it when strangers stopped him on the street: “‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’”

     

    Service put this self-professed introvert very much in the public eye. He quickly learned to roll with it when strangers stopped him on the street: “‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’”

     

    Moldova is a sliver of the former Soviet Union wedged between Ukraine and Romania. It’s a country in search of its place in the world. Economically, it’s the poorest nation in Europe, with 40 percent of the working-age adults living abroad. 

     

    The Soroca region near the Ukrainian border
     

    Male made fast friendships; his counterpart and another friend came to refer to him as bratan — equivalent of “brother.” He was working with the local library and had a grant approved by Peace Corps to fund books and educational materials.

    At the beginning of March, coronavirus put the country on edge; school was closed. Before Peace Corps made the decision to evacuate globally, in Moldova the die was cast: By March 14 the airport was shutting down, borders closing. To friends and the family he’d lived with he said only a quick farewell. “What are we going to do without you?” his host mother asked. He never got to say goodbye to his students at all. 

     


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

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    Thanks for reading. And here’s how you can support the work we’re doing to help evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers.