Starting on September 2nd, viewers are able to request that their local PBS stations air the film. see more
Starting on September 2, the Peace Corps documentary, A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps will be available on PBS stations across the country. But there are still some regions that will need to request that their local stations air the documentary.
A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps is coming to PBS stations nationwide, starting September 2. You can help make sure this documentary airs in your region. With local PBS stations scheduling programming 2-3 months from air date, the time is now to reach out to your local station.
The PBS World channel will host a nationwide broadcast premiere on Friday, September 29 at 8 p.m. Eastern with repeats on Saturday, September 30 at 3 a.m., 9 a.m., and 3 p.m. Eastern. Your local station program managers will be deciding whether to schedule the film and how often over the next three years. View a list of confirmed stations and air times so far.
That’s where you come in. Call your station today, and ask that A Towering Task, which is distributed by NETA, be included in the line-up. Then, help get the word out about the documentary. This is a great opportunity to educate a broad audience about the history of Peace Corps, its many successes, and the challenges the agency has faced since its founding in 1961. Find your local station here. Request a time slot. Plan to organize a viewing party. Enjoy the show!
Read more about A Towering Task
Guidelines for RPCV Communities to Partner With Your Local Public Television Station
By Will Glasscock
There are more than 150 public television license holders that operate more than 350 stations, reaching 97 percent of the American people. You have a role in ensuring that your local station carries A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps and that the Peace Corps story resonates in your community.
The first — and most important — thing you can do is contact your local station and ask that they air A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps.
Their website will have a “contact” link where you can submit your request that they air A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps.
In addition to requesting that they broadcast A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps, make sure that you include a compelling reason for why it is important that this story is broadcasted. Consider including an anecdote about your service or talk about how Peace Corps service impacted your life.
Ask your friends, family members, and other RPCVs in your community to reach out to the station, too. The more requests that your station receives, the more likely that they will respond.
If you aren’t sure which station you should contact, visit pbs.org. In the top right corner of your screen, you’ll find what station’s coverage area PBS believes you reside in.
If you still don’t know where to start, email Will Glasscock for additional assistance.
Local public television stations are always looking for opportunities to engage with community partners to bring the stories and discussion from the screen to in-person events. If you are part of a formal or informal group of RPCVs in your community, reach out to your station to suggest ways that you could partner to deepen the engagement around the film. Examples of events you could partner with your station on include (but aren’t limited to):
A film screening followed by a panel discussion by RPCVs who have served in different eras of Peace Corps.
A “TED Talk” style event where local RPCVs share brief stories about their service and experience.
In conjunction with the station’s public affairs or civic engagement programming, you could suggest interviews with local RPCVs. You could also assist the station in connecting with local diaspora communities to give that perspective as well, especially for communities that are currently in the headlines (Ukrainians, Ethiopians, Sudanese, and more).
Include small business owners from diaspora communities (for example, ethnic restaurants and food trucks, or visual and performance artists) to join RPCVs for a screening of the film.
A Peace Corps recruitment event staffed by local RPCVs and, possibly, your region’s Peace Corps Recruiter.
Lastly, we will be collecting best practices for stations partnering with local RPCV communities. If you and your local station are working on an event or other unique partnership, please let us know by emailing Will Glasscock.
Communications Intern 2 posted an articleMark K. Shriver teamed up with illustrator Laura Watson to publish 10 Hidden Heroes. see more
A conversation with author Mark K. Shriver
By Steven Boyd Saum
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark K. Shriver teamed up with illustrator Laura Watson on 10 Hidden Heroes, published by Loyola Press, which aims to help children develop counting skills while learning ways to make the world a better place. It shows how acts of kindness and generosity can be found all around us.
Shriver has served as president of Save the Children Action Network and now leads Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Maryland as its first lay president. He is the author of Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis and the memoir A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver. Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mark Shriver and WorldView editor Steven Boyd Saum.
Why this project?
I’ve written a couple books centered on the idea of goodness — how to find and celebrate goodness and spiritual gifts of joy. As a culture, we celebrate power, money, and prestige. What we should be celebrating are folks doing important and good work in our communities every day. This book is a fun way of teaching kids how to count, but also having kids have conversations with their parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles — and readers of all ages — to see: Why is a Peace Corps Volunteer a hero? Why is a Special Olympics athlete a hero?
We should be celebrating people who are dedicating two and a half years of their lives — and in many cases the rest of their lives — to pushing for peace and understanding between human beings. Maybe we’ll think about what our real definition of who a hero is.
We should be celebrating people who are dedicating two and a half years of their lives — and in many cases the rest of their lives — to pushing for peace and understanding between human beings.
On the opening pages, you have hidden heroes nursing people back to health.
We started on this project during the beginning of COVID-19, in 2020. There are nurses and doctors, and we celebrate them. But also the custodian in the hospital, who keeps the place clean and functioning, needs to be celebrated. Firefighters setting up car seats so children are safe need to be celebrated.
What I’m afraid will happen in this country is, while we celebrate first responders and health care workers, as COVID dies down, people will go back to not paying enough attention to those who are keeping our communities together.
A book like this seems deeply connected to the work you’ve done over many years with Save the Children, which has focused on helping the youngest and most vulnerable.
Save the Children is in the book as well. A lot of Peace Corps Volunteers come back from serving overseas, and they work with USAID, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and other organizations doing wonderful, important work.
Now at Don Bosco Cristo Rey, we’re working with minority kids, making sure they graduate from high school and can be the first in their families to graduate from college. Students work one day a week at a job; it helps them get access to networks many people take for granted, and exposes them to a different world. They’re excited about their futures. That gives me hope. Ultimately, I believe in God, so I believe that goodness will win out.
What I’m afraid will happen in this country is, while we celebrate first responders and health care workers, as COVID dies down, people will go back to not paying enough attention to people who are keeping our communities together.
What would you say to Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers during this time?
There was no one that my father liked talking to more than Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers. He was so proud of the work Volunteers do all around the world — and not just teaching English or building a water system. Really, world peace is about human connection. That got my dad so fired up it was crazy.
He didn’t believe in might is right. He had fought in a war. He believed in the power of peace, and he believed in the power of human interaction, in trying to work together.
Some people want to have a building named after themselves. My father never talked about that. Peace Corps Volunteers, Head Start teachers — that’s a living legacy, which is so much more powerful. This book, which we began working on at such a difficult time, is a small gesture to say thank you to the heroes who include Peace Corps Volunteers. Who they are — and the work they do together with community members around the world — that should be celebrated!
This interview appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.
Communications Intern 2 posted an articleTwo dozen countries have welcomed them back. And more than fifty countries have issued invitations. see more
Two dozen countries have welcomed them back. And some fifty countries have issued invitations for Volunteers to return.
By Steven Boyd Saum
Two years after all Peace Corps Volunteers were brought home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they began returning to service overseas in March 2022. We shared the exciting news in the previous edition of WorldView that the first Volunteers had returned to Zambia and the Dominican Republic.
In the months since, posts around the world have been busy welcoming back Peace Corps Volunteers and Response Volunteers to work alongside communities. As of August 2022, Volunteers have returned to some two dozen countries — more than a third of the posts where Volunteers were serving in 2020. That includes nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. There will be more Volunteers beginning service overseas in the months ahead, in those countries and dozens more. By our counting, invitations are out for Volunteers to return to 51 countries — more than three quarters of the posts where Peace Corps Volunteers had been serving in 2020.
In order for the agency to issue invitations for Volunteers to return, each post must meet robust reentry criteria which involve health, safety, and other logistical factors. Living with COVID-19, a horrific war in Europe and consequent economic mayhem, as well as other regional turmoil, it’s crucial to ensure safety of Volunteers and communities alike. Indeed, despite global tumult, this is a hopeful time for the agency, with this return also representing a rededication to the mission of the Peace Corps.
Despite global tumult, this is a hopeful time for the agency, with this return also representing a rededication to the mission of the Peace Corps.
Earlier this year, a group of departing Volunteers met with First Lady of the United States Jill Biden. On July 19, the first cohort of Volunteers to return to Panamá met with Second Gentleman of the United States Doug Emhoff at the White House. Emhoff also hosted the soon-to-be Volunteers and Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn for a roundtable. “It’s always incredible to meet with young people dedicated to changing the world,” Emhoff posted on Twitter afterward. And, to the Volunteers, he wrote: “I know you’ll bring great passion and energy to your projects.”
Based on conversations and leadership that has shaped the return of Volunteers to service overseas, humility and a spirit of cooperation in a changed world are a crucial part of the mix, too.
Sendoff from the Second Gentleman: Doug Emhoff, center, with the first Volunteers returning to Panamá, as well as agency leaders. Photo by Lawrence Jackson / The White House
Where Volunteers Have Returned
These include 23 posts and 26 countries — since the Peace Corps post in the Eastern Caribbean includes four countries.
Zambia | March 2022
Dominican Republic | March 2022
Colombia | April 2022
Namibia | May 2022
Uganda | May 2022
Mexico | May 2022
Ecuador | May 2022
Eastern Caribbean | May 2022 (Includes four countries: Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Grenada)
Belize | May 2022
Peru | May 2022
Paraguay | May 2022
Togo | June 2022
Senegal | June 2022
The Gambia | June 2022
Benin | June 2022
Rwanda | June 2022
Kyrgyz Republic | June 2022
Ghana | June 2022
Sierra Leone | June 2022
Costa Rica | July 2022
Kosovo | July 2022
Madagascar | July 2022
Photos courtesy Peace Corps posts
Invitations Are Out
Here are the additional posts that have met safety criteria and for which there are invitations for Volunteers to begin serving in 2022 and beyond. Including the countries to which Volunteers have already returned, invitations are out to 47 posts and 51 countries. Take note of the last post on this list: Viet Nam. In summer 2020, the Peace Corps formally signed an agreement to launch that new program. It is one that, needless to say, is loaded with tremendous historical significance and a long-term sense of what it means to build peace and friendship.
These posts are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order to which Volunteers will be returning in 2022. As the past two years have taught — with lessons sometimes repeated again and again, to the frustration of would-be Volunteers and host communities alike — there may be contingencies that push back planned dates for Volunteers to return.
Albania and Montenegro (Includes two countries: Albania and Montenegro)
By October 2023, Volunteers are expected to be back in most of the 60 countries where they were serving in 2020. In addition, programs will be reopened in Sri Lanka and Kenya.
This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView Magazine
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.
Orrin Luc posted an articleWhere are we going? Where have we gone? Some answers lie within the pages of this magazine. see more
Sixty years of Peace Corps. Volunteers returning to service. And a first for this magazine.
Illustration by Tim O’Brien
By Steven Boyd Saum
A year ago the cover of WorldView bore the image of a dove encaged by a COVID-like molecule and asked: “What’s the role of Peace Corps now?” It’s a question we’re still seeking to answer. There were then, as now, no Volunteers in the field — though staff in posts across the globe were sustaining connections with communities. And tens of thousands of returned Volunteers, whether they had been abruptly evacuated because of the pandemic or had served decades before in countries where Peace Corps programs no longer existed, were working as best they knew how to nurture the flame of peace and friendship in a dark time.
A snapshot — from an ad that ran four decades ago: Statue of Liberty, arm pointed toward an exit stage right, and a suggestion for how to make America a better place: Leave the country. Only part of the journey, that. “Maybe it’s not just what you do in the Peace Corps that counts. But what you do when you get back.”
If you return stateside, that is. Get back. Because, of course, central to the imperative for launching this audacious Peace Corps mission 60 years ago was the fact that this nation needed to do better when it came to understanding people and communities around the world: speaking languages, listening, and grasping on a truly human level how the best of intentions — not to mention policies conceived in cynicism or indifference to suffering — might exact a terrible cost. And that understanding should inform the work of diplomats and those who serve as hands-on workers and leaders alike in diplomacy and education, alleviating poverty and bolstering public health, and so much more.
GET BACK. A phrase zipping around the zeitgeist these days, and not only thanks to an epic Beatles documentary. Get back to a sense of common purpose, a sense that service might unite us and enable us to better address the most daunting problems facing our planet. That’s one of the conversations taking place in this edition.
Get back to a sense of common purpose, a sense that service might unite us and enable us to better address the most daunting problems facing our planet.
So is this: Peace Corps Volunteers are about to get back into service in countries around the world. Whatever title they carry, related to education or the environment or public health, all will have a role to play when it comes to fighting COVID-19. After the unprecedented evacuation, everything will be different. But the work of Volunteers and Peace Corps staff in battling smallpox and Ebola and HIV/AIDS over the decades means this is not entirely uncharted territory. And the person-to-person connections that define the Peace Corps experience couldn’t be more important.
Which is one more reason we’re heartened that this fall, WorldView brought home top honors in the FOLIO Awards, honoring magazine editorial and design excellence. The aforementioned cover of the Fall 2020 edition, illustrated by David Plunkert, earned an OZZIE design award for best cover. And, in an award that recognizes the work of dozens of contributors, WorldView earned an EDDIE award for editorial excellence for a series of articles in the Summer 2020 edition. Telling the stories of Peace Corps Volunteers who were evacuated from around the world in 2020, the series captures the experiences of Volunteers and the communities in which they were serving, and the unfinished business left behind.
These awards mark the first time that this magazine — published for the Peace Corps community for more than three decades — has earned such recognition. The awards, presented on October 14 at the FOLIO gala in New York City, have honored top work in publishing for more than a quarter century and draw competition from across the United States and internationally. It’s rewarding to see outstanding work recognized. Even more important is amplifying the voices of the Peace Corps community in this unprecedented time.
SO HERE WE ARE, with this special 60th anniversary edition. Even before the pandemic hit, it hardly seemed appropriate to serve up a self-congratulatory feast of nostalgia. Too much is happening, and too much on the line.
Let’s end, then, with beginnings: the cover of this magazine. An iconic portrait of John F. Kennedy from illustrator Tim O’Brien. Six decades after this Peace Corps endeavor took flight, we ask: Where are we going? Where have we gone?
Some answers lie within the print and digital pages of this magazine. So many more have yet to be written.
This note appears in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine.
Steven Boyd Saum is editor of WorldView and director of strategic communications for National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Ukraine 1994–96. Write him.
An invitation to listen, learn — and roll up our sleeves see more
An invitation to listen, learn — and roll up our sleeves.
By Steven Boyd Saum
Let’s start with a story about an invitation. There’s that historic letter from JFK below, sent to the first would-be Volunteers. And let me tell you about Laurel Hunt, a recent engineering grad from University of Minnesota, and the years of Peace Corps service she has yet to undertake in Peru, working with a community on health and sanitation. Return to March 2020: “Friday the 13th was my last day at work,” Hunt writes. “As I packed up my desk that afternoon, I got a phone call from Washington, D.C. A frazzled-sounding Peace Corps employee told me that my Peru 35 group would be delayed at least 30 days.”
COVID-19 was burning its way across the globe, countries shuttering airports and closing borders. Two days later, Peace Corps announced a global evacuation of all Volunteers.
Peace Corps was something Laurel Hunt had her heart set on since junior high. While earning her engineering degree, she co-founded and served as president of Out in STEM. “As a queer woman in engineering, I’m used to feeling out of place,” she says. Peace Corps would no doubt bring more of that sense of displacement, in ways humbling and unexpected — and, so the story goes, lessons in patience, flexibility, resilience.
“I don’t know what my future holds, and the uncertainty is tough,” Hunt wrote a year ago. “For right now, all I can do now is wait, support my community, and wash my hands. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a safe place to stay and enough savings to make it through a few months in limbo.”
On her blog she wrote with admiration about returned Volunteers who, as the global evacuation was taking place, rallied to help the evacuees. There was a Facebook group focused on providing that support; within days, its membership swelled to 6,000 members, and then 14,000. Hunt pitched in as an administrator for the group.
She hoped, as so many did, that the pandemic might be tamed — and that Volunteers would return to their sites later in the year. By summer it was clear that wouldn’t happen. Hunt took a job at a seafood processor in Alaska for a few months. She returned to Minnesota. The firm where she had been working offered her a job again, while she waited to hear when she might begin Peace Corps service.
“The uncertainty is tough,” wrote would-be Volunteer Laurel Hunt. So she established a group to support others in the same boat: Peace Corps Invitees in Limbo.
Many hundreds of others were in the same boat, waiting. So Hunt formed a Facebook group to give them a place to share updates (what’s the latest on departure for your country?) and to offer advice and support and a shared sense of what it was to be living with this uncertainty while other forces in life exerted their gravitational pull. Hunt christened the group Peace Corps Invitees in Limbo.
When the first Peace Corps Volunteers received their letters of invitation from President Kennedy 60 years ago, they were embarking on something uncertain and new. When Volunteers arrive once more in countries around the world, the communities and individuals who serve there will begin a journey very different from what has come before. I have heard from one of my former students — Olena Halapchuk-Tarnavska, who is now on the faculty at Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University in western Ukraine and who has been training incoming groups of Volunteers for years — that they are eager for Volunteers to return. Those sentiments have been heard from every country where Volunteers were serving. But how things will be different remains to be seen.
When the first Peace Corps Volunteers received their letters of invitation from President Kennedy 60 years ago, they were embarking on something uncertain and new. When Volunteers arrive once more in countries around the world, the communities and individuals who serve there will begin a journey very different from what has come before.
As we mark the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps beginnings, in the spring 2021 edition of WorldView we also lean hard on what Peace Corps might be — and what place it has in a changed world. And not only Peace Corps, because this audacious endeavor — independent from the exponentially larger USAID and State Department, thanks to the vision and efforts of the early architects of the agency — does not exist in a vacuum. Which brings us to the words on our cover: The Time Is Now! For what? To commit as never before to a sense of service with a sense of solidarity, building up communities across the United States and around the world, fostering the personal connections that deepen our awareness and understanding — of shared humanity, of what equity and justice mean, and, for better or for worse, a common fate on this planet.
The thing about service and solidarity is that these are not a one-and-done commitment, boxes to be checked. For this work, there’s a standing invitation.
Letter image courtesy Maureen Carroll Collection, Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections
Steven Boyd Saum is editor of WorldView and director of strategic communications for National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Ukraine 1994–96.Write him.
This essay appears in the spring 2021 edition of WorldView magazine. Sign up for a print subscription by joining National Peace Corps Association. You can also download the WorldView App for free here: worldviewmagazine.org
Steven Saum posted an articleIn an election year marked by crisis, here’s how you can help expand and protect voter participationThese organizations welcome help in their vital mission to ensure we all have the right to vote. see more
Tools for constructive conversations about the election. Plus organizations seeking volunteers — and offering a few paid positions. Their vital mission: expand and protect voter participation.
By James Rupert and NPCA Staff
Why does democracy matter? It’s about a system and a culture — and a shared commitment to one another. At a time of national division, Democracy for President is a new nonpartisan initiative to help individuals and communities across the country bolster confidence in the integrity of the 2020 election.
Created by research group More in Common, the Democracy for President website poses some big questions: Can we trust the outcome of the election? How do I talk with someone I don’t agree with? How do I talk about violence and the election?
There are discussion guides, shareable infographics, and op-ed templates about how all Americans — regardless of who they will support in voting up through November 3 — can strengthen democracy.
As evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) search for next steps amid the shocks of evacuation and the COVID crisis, many organizations are seeking folks with PCV-like skills for the vital mission of expanding and protecting voter participation in an election year upended by COVID. The groups below are recruiting (many) volunteers and (a few) staffers. Some have begun a transition to new, COVID-enforced online operations, while others appear likely to need help in that transition. Some groups may welcome PCV language skills in reaching out to minority communities. (Quotes in the descriptions below are from the organizations’ websites; see note at bottom on organizations' IRS classification.)
CC promotes pro-democracy reforms to expand voter participation, reduce the influence of money in politics, and oppose gerrymandering and corruption. It has a program aimed at organizing students. Its website reflects updates on how CC is adapting its operations to COVID. It seeks volunteers for roles including local organizing, phone-bank operations and voter-rights advocacy at local and national levels. It offers training and seeks trainers. CC also lists eight jobs nationwide, plus internships (which are not described) as of May 30. [501(c)(4)]
This coalition (led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) is “recruiting volunteers in a number of states” to promote and protect voter participation. They add: “We recruit volunteers in the states where they live and cannot support deployment to other states.” The group disseminates voting info, monitors polling places on election days, and gathers data for future election reforms. They seek volunteers both with or without legal studies or experience, and they offer some training. Also scroll down here to see 25 their state and local partner organizations that may be working in your area. [501(c)(3)]
This nonprofit runs a campaign called “Respect My Vote!” aimed at young folks of color, notably in cities, non-college-educated, people with felony records, and students and historically black colleges. You can sign up to volunteer here. Their website reflects few recent updates. Their national office (in DC) may have info on what they need as they adapt operations to COVID. [501(c)(3)]
The LWV is the great-grandmother of all U.S. voting rights groups, formed exactly a century ago by the suffragists championing women’s right to vote. The LWV is looking for help in registering voters and in promoting policies to prevent COVID and voter suppression efforts from restricting Americans’ ability to vote in 2020. The LWV works through state and/or local chapters, and you can reach out to your nearby LWV chapter here. [501(c)(3)]
Power the Polls is an initiative powered by Work Elections to recruit poll workers to ensure a safe, fair election for all voters. Power the Polls addresses the need for low-risk and diverse poll workers who can staff in-person voting locations during early voting and on Election Day, and is focusing on healthy, low-risk candidates to ensure that those workers most susceptible to the coronavirus are given the space to take care of their health, while still keeping polling sites open and available for efficient in-person voting. Sign up here.
With support from the music entertainment biz, RTV does voter education work, organizing and voter registration both in the field and online. Their website says they are looking for volunteers and organizers (including “ambassadors” who are asked to commit five hours per week). [501(c)(3)]
The project works for reforms in U.S. criminal justice, notably voting rights for citizens convicted of felonies. It works to restore voting rights for 6 million people whom it found were denied the vote in 2016 (including 1.5 million in Florida, a notable focus for the project’s work) because of state laws disenfranchising them even long after their sentences had been served. Their website suggests volunteering through the project’s state and local partners in all 50 states. [501(c)(3)]
U.S. Vote Foundation has a broad series of online tools to facilitate the voting process, beit in person or by mail. Find information about registering, requesting an absentee ballot, or how to contact their local election administrators at usvotefoundation.org. [501(c)(3)]
This nonprofit is “dedicated to increasing voter registration in the United States among young people, people of color and unmarried women.” It lists no call for volunteers but has four DC-based jobs listed as of May 30. [501(c)(3)]
VL is “focused on educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters.” They are registering voters and promoting Latinx participation in the 2020 U.S. Census. Amid COVID, Voto Latino is looking for people to host local online events—and of course, they need Spanish speakers! You can volunteer here to help with organizing, training, online events and more. [501(c)(4)]
NPCA is sharing this information as a service to our members. NPCA is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse any of these organizations or their activities. Each group above is a nonprofit organization. Those classified by the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(3) are barred from conducting any political campaign activities. Groups classified as 501(c)(4) are permitted to conduct limited political campaign activities.
James Rupert is foreign affairs editor for U.S. Institute of Peace. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco (1980–82) and has been a correspondent and editor for the Washington Post, Newsday, and Bloomberg News.
These listings were updated on October 19, 2020. They were first posted on the NPCA site on April 24, 2020.
PC counterparts: one person in the community tasked with helping make this endeavor possible see more
Every Volunteer has a counterpart. That’s Peace Corps lingo for one person in the community tasked with helping make this endeavor possible.
Interviews Edited by Steven Boyd Saum and Cynthia Arata
Photo: Sharmae Stringfield (left) Chippie Ngwali. Courtesy Sharmae Stringfield.
Malawi | Sharmae Stringfield, Volunteer
Home: Virginia, United States
The day I had to leave my village in the district of Blantyre was the day the painter I hired finished our mural at the health center: a dedication to sanitation and critical times to wash hands. Seeing as the evacuation was due to a virus that spreads rapidly through a lack of both those things, it was a fitting project to have left behind.
I left my neighbor and best friend, Vincent Zitha. I had less than 24 hours to say goodbyes. My co-workers were health care workers, teachers, community leaders. One of my favorite responsibilities was supervising the local youth club that I helped re-establish. We were able to have two community service projects, and we invited health workers to give talks. The youth absorbed these health messages and turned them into song and plays. After I left, they created a play about coronavirus and performed it at the health center.
We were going to tackle tough issues troubling girls in the community — including dropping out of school due to early pregnancies and young marriages.
I co-facilitated an after-school girls’ club with the chair of their mothers’ group, using the Go Girls curriculum. The day I got the email to evacuate would have been my last day to facilitate. Schools then closed to take precautions against COVID-19. The work I was doing came to a halt; the program was only half complete. The head teacher and I have remained in contact to ensure its completion. Shortly before evacuation, I began a partnership with a local NGO, FACT Malawi. We were going to tackle tough issues troubling girls in the community — including dropping out of school due to early pregnancies and young marriages. Youth of Malawi need programs that cater to teaching young boys how to be gentlemen and teaching young girls how to assert and protect themselves. Communities can benefit from the Peace Corps approach to both community health and environment issues. Our fellow Malawians valued our presence in their country, and they welcomed us with both hands.
Sharmae Stringfield and Mdeka Youth Club. Photo courtesy Sharmae Stringfield.
Malawi | Chipiliro Ngwali, Counterpart
Home: Phalula village in Balaka district
I am married and I have a son, and I am now working under the Ministry of Health as a health surveillance assistant at Mdeka Health Center. We do field work in hard to reach areas: monitoring health of community members, engaging in health talks, and providing immunizations and other preventative medication. Malawi has few health workers in rural centers, so people have limited access. We work in collaboration with Peace Corps; they help fill the gap — and bring volunteers like Sharmae. This made me excited.
In the last few months, there have been so many changes due to coronavirus. Health workers’ efforts have diminished; they are afraid of contracting the virus, since there’s little personal protective equipment. Society discriminates against health workers because of that risk. Many health centers close early to avoid overcrowding. Projects initiated by Sharmae have been affected. Groups she brought together have stopped receiving education she used to provide. Safety measures have prevented the other programs from continuing.
Americans need to understand that the work we did was important … The work that was started doesn’t have to end.
People are still eager to know more and acquire skills Sharmae was teaching. As for the mural Sharmae was working on at the health center: With people being afraid of getting coronavirus, we have been avoiding large gatherings. Instead, we let people view the mural to self-educate. People see the times when it’s critical to wash hands. They see how waterborne illnesses happen. Americans need to understand that the work we did was important. There are skills that were taught and prevention techniques that can be practiced.
The work that was started doesn’t have to end. Peace Corps Volunteers should continue to pass along information on COVID-19 to counterparts who can reach remote areas. They can teach ways of ensuring food security in this time of pandemic. And PCVs can stay in communication with counterparts to try to preserve any work that can continue after the coronavirus is less of a threat.
Malawi: Health mural, Mdeka Health Center. Photo by Sharmae Stringfield.
Panama | Bill Lariviere, Volunteer and José María Barrios, Counterpart
Panama: Volunteer Bill Lariviere (left) and counterpart José María Barrios, admiring the work they organized for a reforestation event in Nuario, Los Santos. Photo by Eli Wittum.
Morocco | Omar Lhamyani, Counterpart
Home: Zagora Province
I was born and raised in a village called Tazarine in southeast Morocco. It was once a green oasis with an economy centered on agriculture; years of drought and desertification have changed the region into more of a commercial area.
I was introduced to Peace Corps in 2010. I have worked with three cohorts of Volunteers as a language and cross-cultural facilitator, counterpart, and language tutor, and as member of the multimedia committee creating and translating content that showcases the amazing work Volunteers and community youth are doing.
This work is life-changing for the youth in my community, just as it was for me.
We focus on youth in development. This work is life-changing for the youth in my community, just as it was for me. As a young high school student I participated in a linguistics camp in my town where I felt the influence of PCVs. They were role models for me.
Most recently I worked with Gio Giraldo. She worked with community members and focused on girls’ empowerment with the Dar Chabab Youth Club. She is an accomplished soccer player and trained withcollegiate and professional athletes in the U.S. That was new and fascinating, especially for the girls in Tazarine. It is rare to see boys and girls playing sports together in rural villages. Gio wanted to create a space for girls to feel welcome to play soccer. Now I see boys and girls playing competitive soccer games together.
We are lucky in Tazarine to have had PCVs for more than 10 years. They help students improve their English skills and connect us to resources, such as scholarships. Ideas and perspectives that Volunteers have brought have influenced and inspired us.
When I first heard of the evacuation, I couldn’t believe it. But I knew the situation could become more difficult. The community understands why Gio had to leave; her family must want her near in this time. We hope the sadness we feel seeing Gio go will be temporary — but her impact on our community will continue to thrive.
Community members ask about Gio all the time—and if she will come back. Mostly the girls from the community ask me if they will continue their soccer project with Gio. Her kindness, and the way she carried out her service, made the community trust and respect her.
Omar Lhamyani. Photo by Giovana Giraldo.
Morocco | Giovana Giraldo, Volunteer
Home: Miami metropolitan area, United States
They called the region the gateway—the entrance to big cities from Sahara country. Doors open up to the desert. There are beautiful canyons and a blend of cultures. I arrived last year. We were excited about a grant proposal from the U.S. Embassy to organize a summer leadership program for youth. I was coaching a girls soccer team that started off as pick-up soccer; the dream was to develop it into an organized association. Soccer can be great for integration. I’ve played all my life. Opportunities I’ve had are due to people coming together to make things happen. That was my goal in Morocco. There was amazing talent. Traveling has shown me that talent is equally distributed but not necessarily opportunity.
Omar is a selfless and motivated person. He is incredible. Peace Corps influenced him when he was younger; he has repaid that tenfold.
Omar is a selfless and motivated person. He is incredible. Peace Corps influenced him when he was younger; he has repaid that tenfold. Anyone who reached out — he would connect and help.
Other counterparts I worked with were also focused on providing opportunities. I like to think the work will go on without me being there. Though evacuation has thrown all my emotions into a washing machine. I’m disappointed because of the timing. Sad because of what it all meant to me. For Moroccan staff, Peace Corps means livelihoods, careers. They were nothing but supportive and positive. I feel like I’ve lost a little family.
Girls hiking expedition. Photo by Giovana Giraldo.
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Rachel Mannino posted an articleThank you to our #GivingTuesday Champions! see more
After the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday (November 28th) is a time to give back. The Peace Corps community needs your help this #GivingTuesday, so we can continue to support our members all year long!
In this challenging political environment, the Peace Corps community has to push incredibly hard to galvanize support for the Peace Corps in Congress. It was tough this year, when the White House and the House budget both cut Peace Corps funding by $12 million. However, thanks to the hard work of our community advocates, the Senate voted to level fund the agency. We’re still fighting for that level $410 million budget. Donations made during #GivingTuesday will help fund our advocacy efforts in 2018. We will continue building our network of volunteer advocacy coordinators across the country, and provide better technology to help our members reach out to Congressional leadership. We will also implement another day of action on the Hill.
NPCA #GivingTuesday Champions have committed to enlisting 10 people to donate $10 or more on #GivingTuesday and to sharing their Peace Corps stories to increase awareness and raise support. You can help, too. Here’s how:
- Sign up to be a #GivingTuesday Champion by emailing Rachel@peacecorpsconnect.org.
- Donate to the advocacy fund, and tell others about why you gave your contribution.
- Share our #GivingTuesday social media posts on your profiles, along with your own Peace Corps story, and ask your friends and family for donations.
Thank you for all you do to support NPCA. We need your passion for our advocacy work now more than ever!
Thank you #GivingTuesday Champions!
David A. Miron
Kristina J. Owens
Tyler Lloyd from My PC Story
Maine Peace Corps Association - #GivingTuesday outreach coordinated by Nicole Lewis and Valerie Young