Honoring global leaders in the Peace Corps community from Senegal, the Philippines, and the U.S. see more
Every five years, Peace Corps presents the John F. Kennedy Service Awards to honor members of the Peace Corps network whose contributions go above and beyond for the agency and America every day. Here are the 2022 Awardees.
By NPCA Staff
Photo: Dr. Mamadou Diaw, Peace Corps staff recipient of the 2022 JFK Service Award. Photos Courtesy of the Peace Corps
On May 19, at a ceremony at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., the Peace Corps presented The John F. Kennedy Service Awards for 2022. Every five years, the Peace Corps presents the JFK Service Award to recognize members from the Peace Corps community whose contributions go above and beyond their duties to the agency and the nation. The ceremony as also live-streamed around the world — since this is a truly global award, with honorees from Senegal, the Philippines, and the United States.
Join us in congratulating this year’s awardees for tirelessly embodying the spirit of service to help advance world peace and friendship: Liz Fanning (Morocco 1993–95), Genevieve de los Santos Evenhouse (PCV: Guinea 2006–07, Zambia 2007–08; Response: Guyana 2008–09, and Uganda 2015–16), Karla Sierra (PCV: Panama 2010–12; Response: Panama 2012–13), Dr. Mamadou Diaw (Peace Corps Senegal 1993–2019), Roberto M. Yangco (Peace Corps Philippines 2002–Present).
RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
Liz Fanning | Morocco 1993–95
Liz Fanning is the Founder and Executive Director of CorpsAfrica, which she launched in 2011 to give emerging leaders in Africa the same opportunities she had to learn, grow, and make an impact. Fanning has worked for a wide range of nonprofit organizations during her career, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Schoolhouse Supplies, and the Near East Foundation. She received a bachelor’s in economics and history from Boston University and a master’s in public administration from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She received the Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service from National Peace Corps Association in 2019 and a 2021 AARP Purpose Prize Award.
RETURNED PEACE CORPS RESPONSE VOLUNTEERS
Genevieve de los Santos Evenhouse, DNP, RN | Guinea 2006–07, Zambia 2007–08, Response: Guyana 2008–09, Response: Uganda 2015–16
Genevieve de los Santos Evenhouse grew up in the Philippines, then emigrated to the United States in 1997. She pursued a career at the intersection of nursing, public service, and volunteerism, earning her doctor of nursing practice in 2020 — while continuing to serve as a full-time school nurse for the San Francisco Unified School District. As a compassionate, socially conscious nurse dedicated to providing care and developing nurse education, Evenhouse has a keen affinity for teaching, community service, and cultural exchange that led her to serve in four countries — Guinea, Zambia, Guyana, and Uganda — as a Volunteer and Peace Corps Response Volunteer. She also volunteered at two health offices in the Philippines as a public health nurse as well as the Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco as a clinician.
Karla Y. Sierra, MBA | Panama 2010–12, Response: Panama 2012–13
Karla Yvette Sierra was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican American parents. Sierra graduated from Colorado Christian University with a bachelor’s in business administration and a minor in computer information systems. Elected by her peers and professors, Sierra was appointed to serve as the Chi Beta Sigma president as well as the secretary for the student government association. Sierra volunteered with Westside Ministries as a youth counselor in inner city Denver. Shortly after completing her Master of Business Administration at the University of Texas at El Paso, she started working for Media News Group’s El Paso Times before being promoted to The Gazette in Colorado. Sierra served as a Volunteer in Panama for three years as a community economic development consultant focused on efforts to reduce poverty, increase awareness of HIV and AIDS, and assist in the implementation of sustainable projects that would benefit her Panamanian counterparts. Her Peace Corps experience serving the Hispanic community fuels her on-going work and civic engagement with Hispanic communities in the United States.
PEACE CORPS STAFF
Dr. Mamadou Diaw | Peace Corps Senegal 1993–2019
Dr. Mamadou Diaw — born in Dakar — is a Senegalese citizen. He studied abroad and graduated in forestry sciences and natural resource management from the University of Florence and the Overseas Agronomic Institute of Florence. He joined the Peace Corps in 1983 as Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD) for Natural Resource Management. In that capacity, he managed agroforestry, environmental education, park and wildlife, and ecotourism projects. From 1996 to 2001, he served as the coordinator of the USAID funded Community Training Center Program. In 2008, he switched sectors, becoming Senior APCD Health and Environmental Education. He received a master’s degree in environmental health in 2014 from the University of Versailles, and a doctorate in community health from the University of Paris Saclay, at the age of 62. Dr. Diaw coached more than 1,000 Volunteers and several APCDs from the Africa region, notably supporting Peace Corps initiatives in the field of malaria and maternal and child health. He retired from Peace Corps toward the end of 2019 and is currently working as an independent consultant.
Roberto M. Yangco (“Ambet”) | Peace Corps Philippines 2002–present
Ambet Yangco, a social worker by training, started his career as an HIV/AIDS outreach worker for Children’s Laboratory Foundation. He then served as a street educator in a shelter for street children and worked for World Vision as a community development officer. Twenty years ago, Yangco joined Peace Corps Philippines as a youth sector technical trainer. It wasn’t long before he moved up to regional program manager; then sector manager for Peace Corps’ Community, Youth, and Family Program; and now associate director for programming and training during the pandemic.
Tiffany James posted an articleUpdates from the Peace Corps community — across the country and around the world see more
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)
Maggie Eckerson (pictured, Belize 2019–20), was awarded two United States Presidential Volunteer Service Awards and the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her service in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Sabra Ayres (Ukraine 1995–97) was named Chief Correspondent for Ukraine at The Associated Press (AP), leveraging nearly two decades of reporting that covered U.S. state and national politics, international relations, and developing democracies. Bridget Mulkerin (Senegal 2018–20) became the California Cone Corps Manager at American Forests, a nationwide nonprofit committed to protecting and restoring healthy forest ecosystems. We share news about more awards, a newly published memoir, and new roles in USAID El Salvador, universities, and advocacy nonprofits.
Have news to share with the Peace Corps community? Let us know.
In August, Maggie Eckerson (2019–20) was awarded two United States Presidential Volunteer Service Awards and the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award because of her service in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. Eckerson was serving with the Peace Corps in Belize but had to leave when all Volunteers were brought home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She began serving with AmeriCorps in summer 2020, working in the National Civilian Community Corps program and then Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). For the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, one must contribute more than 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime. Eckerson was able to achieve this goal through her work in the AmeriCorps in her Independent Service Projects and the year she spent working with The Catholic University of America during her second year with the AmeriCorps. During her time with the Catholic University of America, Eckerson led a program mentoring middle school students to prepare them for college.
Chris Cushing (1981–84) was appointed the Mission Director to USAID El Salvador in August, overseeing bilateral and regional programs in Central America and Mexico. For nearly a decade, Cushing has served in several leadership roles within USAID, such as Mission Director in Ecuador as well as the Barbados-based USAID Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission before assuming the same role at USAID Haiti from February 2020 to May 2022. Weeks after being sworn into his role in Haiti, Cushing rolled up his sleeves to work with the people of Haiti through the COVID pandemic shutdown, a president assassination, and a devastating earthquake that killed over 2,000 people. During the earthquake in 2021, Cushing coordinated the dispatch of search and rescue teams to communities in southern Haiti at the epicenter of the earthquake. “El Salvador, as we know, has its own significant challenges: a lack of economic opportunity coupled with significant violent crime, including some of the highest rates of femicide in the world,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power during Cushing’s swearing-in ceremony in August. “[Cushing] has quite the task ahead of him, but I know he is up for it. His caring spirit and caretaker mindset bring reassurance and solace to those around him.”
Maryam Saifee (2000–02) became a Council on Foreign Relations life member in June. The Council on Foreign Relations is a prestigious membership, including over 5,000 prominent leaders in the foreign policy arena. For more than a decade, Saifee has worked with the U.S. Department of State. She is currently serving as a senior advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to embarking on her career within the U.S. Foreign Service, Saifee was a consultant for the Ford Foundation, designing outreach and recruitment strategy for senior staff in Ford’s human rights, asset-building, and reproductive rights portfolios. After completing her Peace Corps service in Jordan, she served with AmeriCorps and supported South Asian survivors of domestic violence. In 2016, Saifee published an opinion piece in The Guardian sharing her personal story as a survivor of female genital cutting.
Josh Josa (2010–12) was honored with the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, an honor reserved for the most innovative and exceptional federal workers. As a member of the Deaf community and a first-generation Hungarian-American, Josa’s commitment to equity and inclusion in education is fueled by his first-hand experience with the stigma, barriers, and lack of resources students with disabilities face in school. While working as an inclusive education specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, Josa has sought to design and implement programs delivering quality, equitable, and inclusive education to all children and youth. He has worked tirelessly to advance educational inclusivity for students with disabilities, whether it be in Morocco, Kenya, or the United States.
Quintella Cobb (2019–20) took on a new role as Wellness Educator at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, beginning in September. She had been serving as a health promotion specialist at Tulane University. With the Peace Corps, Cobb served as an HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Volunteer. In March 2020, she and all other Volunteers were brought home because of COVID-19.
Katie Baird (1984–87) published a new memoir, Growing Mangos in the Desert, chronicling her Peace Corps service in a Mauritanian village during a catastrophic drought and the relationships and change she nurtured over the four decades that followed. Baird is a professor of economics at the University of Washington in Tacoma. With expertise in public economics and public policy, Baird worked for policy organizations in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Massachusetts, before embarking on her career in academia. For three years, she was a public affairs columnist for The News Tribune in Tacoma.
Bridget Mulkerin (2018–20) became the California Cone Corps Manager at American Forests, a nationwide nonprofit committed to protecting and restoring healthy forest ecosystems. Mulkerin’s responsibilities will involve building capacity of cone collection and creating resilient forests across California. Mulkerin served in Peace Corps Senegal, focusing on agroforestry. Her Peace Corps service fueled her interest in pursuing a master’s in international environmental policy from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “From a young age, I enjoyed exploring the woods behind my childhood home,” says Mulkerin when discussing why she is grateful for her job at American Forests. “As I got older, I appreciated the opportunities I had to travel and explore forests all over the world. Further understanding forest ecosystems and the services they provide for all life; I have been driven to protect them.”
Amy Runyon Harms (1997–2000) has been appointed Senior Vice President of Operations and Strategy at Inseparable — an advocacy nonprofit championing for mental health policies that help the U.S. heal and thrive. Harms brings to the role over 20 years of direct service, foundation, and advocacy experience, including directorial positions at The Gill Foundation, ProgressNow Colorado, and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM). During her time with PPRM, Harms served as director of political outreach and focused on electing political supporters of pro-family planning policies, comprehensive sex education, and full access to women’s reproductive health care.
Mario Lopez-Rodriguez (2019–20) is completing a master’s in public health at Emory University. With the Peace Corps, he served as a community health extension officer in the village of Kidogozero. “My service as a Peace Corps volunteer helped define my passion for global health,” he said in a recent interview. “It allowed me the opportunity to learn, live and work with a community that I wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise. It also taught me the importance of cultural humility and putting effort into learning about the communities I seek to serve.” Born in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in 1993, Lopez-Rodriguez emigrated to Tennessee with his family in 2000. He completed a bachelor’s in nursing at the University of Memphis.
Sabra Ayres (1995–97) was named Chief Correspondent for Ukraine at The Associated Press (AP) last month. In this new role, Ayres will manage and coordinate AP’s all-format coverage of Ukraine, including text, photography, and video storytelling. Ayres has nearly two decades of reporting that covered U.S. state and national politics, international relations, and developing democracies — with bylines from Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, Europe and India. Ayres was the 2016 recipient of the Front Page Marie Colvin Award for Best Foreign Correspondence for her coverage of Ukraine and Europe’s migrant crisis. She also taught journalism at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul and worked as a visiting professor at the India Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore.
Tiffany James posted an articleLarry André is the new U.S. Ambassador to Somalia. see more
Larry André is the new U.S. ambassador to Somalia.
Photo courtesy the U.S. Secretary of Defense
Larry André, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal 1983–85, is the new U.S. ambassador to Somalia. A career foreign service officer, he arrived in Mogadishu in January. It wasn’t his first visit.
Back in 2007, André developed the U.S. mission in Somalia. In his current post, he will seek to foster peace and democracy in the country — at a time when Somalia is facing its worst drought in a decade.
André previously served as U.S. ambassador to Djibouti and Mauritania and worked with USAID, assisting in the reconstruction of post-war Chad. After service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, he worked at agency HQ as regional environment officer for East Africa, overseeing work in 14 countries, including Somalia.
This story appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 6, 2022.
An Affectionate Portrait of a Town in Senegal from Half a Century Ago — and an Invitation from the President to ReturnThe story of Peace Corps Senegal 1968–70 by Carolee Buck see more
Peace Corps Senegal 1968–70
By Carolee Buck. Photography by Carolee and Art Buck
Photo: M'Bayang, one of the women who was part of the social center in Fatick
Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum
Carolee Buck professes to be a reluctant author and makes no claim to be a storyteller. It took the coaxing of fellow returned Volunteers in Oregon for her to chronicle her Peace Corps service in Senegal 1968–70, together with husband Art. In a project rich with Art’s photography, she offers an affectionate portrait of the people and community of Fatick, then a town of about 4,000 people.
Sharing stories on the front porch in Fatick
After the book was published — a handful of copies were printed for family and friends — Carolee mailed one copy to the president of Senegal, Macky Sall, whose hometown is Fatick. The president might recognize some people and places, she figured. Indeed.
“Let me tell you how much I am particularly touched by your kind gesture,” President Sall wrote back. “Through the pages of your book and its amazing pictures, I fondly remember my youthful years in my hometown of Fatick.” He recognized his elder sister — the next-door neighbor of the Bucks when they lived there. And he had an invitation: for the Bucks to return to visit Senegal at his expense.
Sifting millet in Fatick
As for the years captured in these pages: There’s the absurdity of training in the segregated South, when Black Peace Corps trainers could not legally ride in the same car as white trainees. More, there’s an attentive chronicle of Fatick and the Bucks’ neighbors, colleagues, and friends, as well as their own work at a community social center, their teaching, and more. The result is a heartfelt homespun gesture that has reached across decades and oceans.
Social center event in Fatick, Senegal: Using a bolt of damask cloth from the U.S. — very different from colorful local fabric — these women made matching outfits and established a dance troupe.
This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.
Here Are Three Outstanding Leaders in the Peace Corps Community Honored with 2021 Awards by the Women of Peace Corps LegacyNancy Kelly, Amy Maglio, and Estee Katcoff honored for global service and leadership see more
Nancy Kelly of Health Volunteers Overseas and Amy Maglio of the Women’s Global Education Project are recognized with the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award. Estee Katcoff, founder of the Superkids Foundation, is recognized with the Kate Raftery Emerging Leaders Award.
By NPCA Staff
As part of the global virtual conference Peace Corps Connect 2021, Women of Peace Corps Legacy presented awards to three outstanding leaders in the Peace Corps community. Nancy Kelly and Amy Maglio were each honored with the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award. And Estee Katcoff was presented with the Kate Raftery Emerging Leader Award.
The awards were presented by Kathleen Corey, president of Women of Peace Corps Legacy, on September 23 at the Peace Corps Connect conference. WPCL is an affiliate group of National Peace Corps Association and is part of a vibrant community that includes more than 180 affiliate groups focused on regions in the U.S., on countries where Volunteers have served, and around causes that matter to the Peace Corps community.
Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award
The Deborah Harding Award honors Peace Corps women whose contributions have made a significant difference in the lives of women and girls in the world.
Nancy Kelly has worked tirelessly for over four decades to help women and girls all over the world. She began her journey in 1979 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, working in maternal and child health, and went on to develop a career in global health. As the executive director of Health Volunteers Overseas since its creation in 1986, she has been the driver behind a program which has enabled thousands of women, children and humans to receive improved, dignified, and compassionate health care — and has allowed thousands of health professionals to receive training and mentorship which otherwise would have been near impossible.
Under her leadership, Health Volunteers Overseas has facilitated over 11,900 volunteer assignments globally. The last five have resulted in, on average, 3,200 health professionals receiving training and mentorship each year — benefiting innumerate women and children both directly and indirectly. In so doing, she is helping to build a global cadre of talented, confident, and inspired women who are committed to advancing global health.
Amy Maglio is the founder and executive director of the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) which works with grassroots community partners to educate, empower, and promote equality for women and girls in rural Senegal and Kenya. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Amy saw firsthand the multiplier effect of girls' education in rural Senegal and how access to education — which was extremely limited for girls, not only increased their own opportunities — but also enabled them to provide for their families and catalyzed wider community change.
Inspired by Khady, her host sister who she assisted in getting an education as well as other girls in her village, Amy started WGEP in 2004, at her dining room table, determined to help girls and women succeed in school and reach their full potential. As director of this Chicago-area NGO, she helped ensure the increase of education opportunities for marginalized girls in rural Kenya and Senegal through innovative programs with grassroots community partners.
This NGO has proved to be tremendously successful and has held a 99% retention rate, reaching over 20,000 girls and young women to date. In 2010, she was invited to present WGEP’s model as a best practice approach to girls’ education at the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative Conference in Dakar, Senegal, and was a drafter of the UN Declaration on Gender Equality.
Kate Raftery Emerging Leader Award
The Kate Raftery Emerging Leader Award is presented annually to a woman with an affiliation to Peace Corps under the age of 35 who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and ongoing commitment to serve women and girls.
Estee Katcoff became aware of gender-based violence as a Peace Corps Volunteer and used this knowledge to lead initiatives preventing it in Paraguay during and after her service. She founded a girls' empowerment club and extended for a third year to continue her work, which included working with the Children's Rights Council of Gender-Based Violence Prevention.
Since then, Estee has piloted a successful youth program, originally called Zero Violencia, which continues now as the Superkids Foundation, working in Paraguay to mobilize children as agents of change in their communities. Seventy percent of the Kid Teachers who have risen to action through Superkids identify as girls and learn the knowledge and skills needed to not only end GBV but work towards equity in their communities, particularly in education.
Estee’s focus has always been on building the capacity of her Peace Corps community to use best practices to effect change, while championing women and girls and always including men and boys in the effort.
Story updated December 28, 2021 to correct spelling
Gonzalez has been appointed assistant director for climate and biodiversity. see more
Patrick Gonzalez takes on responsibilities tackling climate and biodiversity with the White House.
Photography by Al Golub
By Steven Boyd Saum
“Contributing science for solutions to global problems is one of the most important contributions that we can make as scientists,” Patrick Gonzalez (Senegal 1988–90) declared earlier this year at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference. Now he has the opportunity to walk the talk in a new way: He has been appointed assistant director for climate and biodiversity by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
A forest ecologist and climate change scientist, he has brought his expertise for years to the U.S. National Park Service as principal climate change scientist, and to research at U.C. Berkeley. But as High Country News noted several years ago, “The first unmistakable sign of climate change Patrick Gonzalez ever saw in the field was in Senegal.”
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, Gonzalez heard village elders lament that the yir trees were dying. He set out to find out why — and do something about it. He returned as a researcher and, walking 1,200 miles as he collected data, he documented that “since 1945, one out of three tree species in Senegal had disappeared, and one out of every five big trees had died.”
Measure, learn, act: Patrick Gonzalez at work in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Al Golub
The research and insight on climate change, ecosystems, wildfire, and carbon solutions he has done over the decades has informed new actions and policies. Credit him as lead author on four reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the science panel awarded a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has also served on three U.S. delegations to the United Nations and on the roster of experts of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Steven Saum posted an articleThe Women’s Global Education Project receives some important recognition from Twitter CEO see more
Inspired by Peace Corps experience, the Women’s Global Education Project gets a boost from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
By NPCA Staff
Photo: Women’s Global Education Project scholars. Photo courtesy WGEP
Following her Peace Corps service (Senegal 1996–99), Amy Maglio founded the Women’s Global Education Project, a nonprofit organization with a goal of helping young girls across the world. The project launched in 2004. In March 2021, it received a $750,000 grant from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey through his #StartSmall initiative.
“This all really came from my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal,” Maglio told the Chicago Tribune. “I helped my host sister go to school for the first time. I saw firsthand the impact school can have on a girl’s confidence and her future.”
Founder and scholars: Women’s Global Education Project participants with Amy Maglio, third from right. Photo courtesy WGEP
Learn more about the Women’s Global Education Project here.
Communications Intern posted an articleIntroducing the Virtual Service Pilot program — reconnecting communities and Volunteers see more
The evacuation of Volunteers from around the globe interrupted service everywhere. And while Volunteers have yet to return to the field, last year Peace Corps launched a program for communities and Volunteers to work together — virtually.
Six months after Peace Corps evacuated all Volunteers from around the world, 45 returned to service under the aegis of the agency: the inaugural cohort of an 10- to 12-week endeavor christened the Virtual Service Pilot program. They were Volunteers and Response Volunteers and trainees. They partnered with communities in nine countries and areas: Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Eastern Caribbean, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Ukraine. And they embarked on projects that included education and health, conservation and youth development.
An idea whose time has come? In March 2020 — even before COVID-19 brought the Zoomification of so many workplaces—the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued a report that explicitly called for exploring virtual volunteering to open up service opportunities to more people in the States.
Round one of the Virtual Service Pilot wrapped up in December. The editorial team at WorldView magazine spoke to two Volunteers about their service — first on the ground, and now virtually. And as we go to press, round two of the virtual program, which expanded to 20 countries, just finished.
Home: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
Beginning in 2019, in a town called Karang, on the border with The Gambia, I was a Community Economic Development Volunteer, working with local entrepreneurs and women’s groups, helping them turn local resources like peanuts and mangoes into income-generating products. In an entrepreneurial class I was teaching, five students came forward and were interested in leading a waste management project: writing the business plan, meeting with chiefs and community members, holding cleanup days. In a town of 20,000, there’s no garbage pickup; people burn their trash. A decade ago, a Volunteer set up a waste management project with the mayor’s office — but unfortunately it was disassembled after six months.
We talked to local leaders, conducted community surveys, asked if people would be willing to pay — and how much. We realized that a project would have to be private — and ideally would lead to employment in the community. The mayor’s office was allocating a landfill, and I was in the process of of writing a grant.
Along with that, in a nearby town, Keur Sièt, my counterpart and I were working with a women’s group to add value to peanuts and, through a contact in Dakar, sell to clients in Germany. Then: evacuation.
One morning at 4 a.m. I got a call from a friend asking if I had checked my phone. “Of course I haven’t,” I said. “Luca,” she said, “we’re going home.”
Leaving my host family two days later was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.
Host family and entrepreneurs in Keur Sièt, Senegal. From left, the women are Nday, Nday, Fatou, Luca Mariotti, and Soxna Si. Photo courtesy of Luca Mariotti
What sustains us
I’m from Dublin, Ireland, originally. My dad, Mark Mariotti, served with the Peace Corps in The Gambia — 30 minutes from where I was posted. Ten years ago we went back to his host community; he hadn’t been there in 25 years. He found the door to his host brother’s house. They cried, they embraced. That connection was really powerful.
Last fall I began a master’s program at Cornell in global development. And I took part in the Virtual Service Pilot program with Peace Corps, working with the chamber of commerce in Sédhiou, Senegal, promoting the value chain for cassava and a superfood called fonio. It has more amino acids than quinoa. It is gluten-free, high in protein and iron, easy to cook, and drought resistant — which is important as climate change increasingly causes food insecurity in sub-Saharan countries.
Fonio is a superfood with more amino acids than quinoa. It is drought resistant and is drawing increasing global interest. But that wasn’t being reflected in Senegal. Now it is.
I contacted most international players in the fonio world. There is growing interest — but that wasn’t being reflected within Senegal. I was led to Malick, a contact with Terra Ingredients, which has been working on the Fonio Project, trying to find producers and, by paying fair prices and reinvesting profits in the community, build a sustainable system. They are constructing a processing plant in Dakar — the first in Senegal. My counterpart, Ndeye Maguette, and I had a number of meetings with Malick, who is sending people to meet with the chamber of commerce and producers. They hope that by the next harvest they will export fonio from these farmers.
I’m excited to see what happens. I’m also interested in finding ways for us to continue to support projects I started when I was in Senegal. My experience in the Peace Corps really furthered my cultural humility and cultural intelligence. I saw firsthand how similar we all are, and the immense potential that lies in developing countries. I think further investments and confidence in the education systems are going to show incredible results.
Home: Chickasha, Oklahoma
I actually wanted to serve with Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa, where I was originally given an invitation — but I was moved to Ukraine right before the departure date for medical reasons. I did not know anything about Ukraine. But I loved my work with the kids and parents of my organization. I had a wonderful counterpart, and the Peace Corps Ukraine staff were so supportive. I went from doubting if I would stay in Ukraine to deciding to extend one more year.
I was a Youth Development Volunteer with the All-Ukraine Association of People with Disabilities in Vinnytsia, in central Ukraine. I led clubs and classes for children with disabilities, assisted with games for Special Olympics Ukraine, attended conferences about inclusion, and learned and taught Ukrainian Sign Language.
When we were evacuated, my counterpart and I were talking about a grant for a project that would benefit parents in our organization. It was close to the beginning of Special Olympic events in Vinnytsia. And the day I was supposed to work with my counterpart on the paperwork for my extension was the day that evacuation was called.
The last time I saw my kids and parents from the organization was at a painting class right before evacuation. There is still a lot of work to do in Ukraine regarding inclusion. Given the opportunity to assist online, I wanted to do it. With the Virtual Service Pilot program, I was assigned to my original NGO and worked with the same counterpart. I know my kids well and what they are capable of.
Ukrainian parents were able to learn strategies and ask questions. I had a young adult female share her story, so the parents could hear about growing up with autism from a child’s perspective.
I led online sessions for children with disabilities to help them develop life skills, communication skills, and socialization skills. I started a monthly discussion between parents in the United States and Ukraine. This provided an opportunity for the American parent of a child with autism to share their story — and what worked and did not work in the USA. Ukrainian parents were able to learn strategies and ask questions. I had a young adult female share her story, so the parents could hear about growing up with autism from a child’s perspective. A Peace Corps Ukraine staff member translates for the parent discussions.
In the virtual program, Ukraine had a Volunteer in every sector, including PEPFAR. It was a good experience; I chose to participate in the second phase. I still talk to my host mom, kids and parents from the organization, my counterpart, Peace Corps Ukraine staff, and others from Special Olympics. My counterpart started a project for adults with autism. Through one of the parent talks, she found out about a program in Oklahoma that supports adults with disabilities, and she wants to come visit and see how it is run.
What’s ahead? I’m working at the university in my hometown of Chickasha until September 2021. I am also a graduate student at Arizona State University online, where I am studying special education: applied behavior analysis.
Communications Intern posted an articleLeader of Peace Corps programs, top diplomat, and fighter for civil rights see more
He led Peace Corps programs, served as a top diplomat, and achieved important milestones in civil rights.
By Jonathan Pearson
One of the first country directors appointed by Sargent Shriver in 1961, Walter C. Carrington led Peace Corps programs in Tunisia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone in the 1960s before serving as Regional Director for Africa. But that was just one facet of a remarkable life.
Prior to that, at Harvard he founded the chapter of the NAACP. He was the youngest-ever member of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and in the late 1950s his commission work included leading an investigation into the racist practices of the Boston Red Sox — the last team in the majors to break the color barrier on its roster.
He was a diplomat: Under President Jimmy Carter, Carrington served as U.S. ambassador to Senegal, and under President Bill Clinton as ambassador to Nigeria. That service came at a critical time; Carrington spoke for human rights and democracy and against the dictatorial rule of Sani Abacha.
He stood down a confrontation when armed police interrupted a reception near the end of his appointment. Nigerian leaders praised Carrington for his contributions leading to that country’s return to democratic rule.
He taught at many institutions of higher learning, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Simmons University, Marquette University and Howard University, where he directed the international affairs department. He died August 11, just a few weeks after celebrating his 90th birthday.
Each month we share news of members of the Peace Corps community whom we have lost: peacecorpsconnect.org
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