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Peace Corps

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Confirmation has come that volunteers will be returning to Vanuatu. see more

    Title: “US Peace Corps Volunteers returning to Vanuatu” 

    Author: Kizzy Kalsakau and Anita Roberts

    Source: Vanuatu Daily Post

    Published: April 8th, 2021

    Brief:  Confirmation has come that volunteers will be returning to Vanuatu. 

     

    From the article:

    "The United States (US) Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Erin Elizabeth Mckee, based in Port Moresby has confirmed that US Peace Corps volunteers will be returning to Vanuatu.

    “We are working hard to return all Peace Corps volunteers around the world and to Vanuatu specially,” she conveyed in an interview.

    “I’m thrilled to let you know that Vanuatu’s Peace Corps Country Director, Penny Alexander, is getting out from quarantine in Port Vila as we speak.

    “She went to quarantine and was tested as required."

    “Her recent arrival is the first key step for us to start processing the return of peace corps volunteers to Vanuatu.”

    This step demonstrates USA as one of the first nation in the world to be this far along in restoring the Peace Corps program and also our commitment to Vanuatu, she said.

    Click Here for Full Article

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Dr. Mere Tari Sovick sits down and interviews her husband who she met when he was a PCV. see more

    Summary: Dr. Mere Tari Sovick sits down and interviews her husband who she met when he was a PCV. 

    Author: Dr. Mere Tari Sovick

    To commemorate the 60th year of the Peace Corps, I have decided to sit down and storian with someone who served as a Peace Corps volunteer (95-98) in the 90’s in Vanuatu.  This person also happens to be my husband, Mr. Jason Sovick. As one of the board members of Friends of Vanuatu, I am honored to share with you our story through audio. 

    In this one hour long storian, you will hear about Mr. Sovick’s thoughts on why he wanted to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, and what his experience was like, especially as a white male in the intersectional challenge of conventional race, gender, and identity. I shared a little about my experience of reverse culture shock as a Ni-Vanuatu woman entering the U.S for the first time, and how we chose to raise our children within a cross cultural focus because of our experiences and background.

     

    Listen to the interview here. 

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Teresa reflects on her Peace Corps Service. see more

    Summary: Teresa reflects on her Peace Corps Service. 

    Author: Teresa Oberti

     

    When Aaron, our communications director, reached out to the board about creating blog posts for Peace Corps’ 60 th anniversary I wasn’t sure what I would write about. It’s been over a decade since I served in the Peace Corps and when I was a volunteer in 2006/2007 there were no smart phones and Wi-Fi wasn’t readily available so there’s not much of a digital or social media trail I can run down to help jog my memory. I wanted to write something profound, or maybe enlightening, or at the very least good in order to meet the expectations of a 60 th anniversary.

    Before joining the Peace Corps I only had far off fantasies of what the Peace Corps really was. Ideas that were probably concocted from TV and movies (ok most definitely were). I wasn’t one of those people who did extensive research before making the decision to join. I didn’t have close family or friends who had served and told tales of their PC life. I just wanted to do it, so I applied and that was it, I took a leap of faith.

    I was lucky because there was a recruiter who would come to my college campus a few times a month. I was able to meet with him before applying and the truth is, the only reason why I met with him was because I thought he was cute… don’t judge me, I’m just being honest. I can’t believe I decided I would move anywhere in the world because some guy was cute! Wow, to be 22 again… Don’t get me wrong, I do have an agriculture degree, so I had the qualifications to be a volunteer, but maybe my priorities were a little off.

    Fast forward to March or maybe April 2006 and I was on a plane to Vanuatu. I had my struggles during service like so many others. Being isolated is hard but I learned to love reading and to be alone with my own thoughts. I missed American food the most and dreamt of caramel lattes and grocery stores with too many food options. I missed a few big life events with my family and friends, but I was there is spirit and got to read all about it in letters stuffed into care packages. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a successful project or work assignment and I still have trouble feeling like my service was complete because of that but I remind myself that change doesn’t happen in a few short years.

    I recently read through a few old emails I sent early on in my service. There aren’t too many since I didn’t have access to the internet or a computer so the few I was able to find was a nice stroll down memory lane. Reading them felt like it all just happened a day ago but at the same time like an eternity. I honestly don’t recognize that person from my emails. Not in a bad way but in a “it’s been a decade” way. It’s this, “wow, look at how much I’ve grown and changed and learned since that time”.

    I think my biggest takeaway from my Peace Corps service is that it’s this job that is only a blip on the life radar, a few years out of hopefully 100, but it had a profound impact on my life. Not only do I feel like I have been added to a special family, the RPCV Vanuatu family, one that keeps growing as the years move on, but I have also made life decisions because of that experience. I continue to work in international development because Peace Corps introduced me to that world. I met my life partner there and through that partnership he continues to connect me to Vanuatu. We speak Bislama daily, though it has evolved into more of a Bis-English than true Bislama. We cook aelan kakae weekly. And we raise our family with the hopes of returning permanently to our home-away-from-home, our island paradise, Vanuatu.

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Join Gaea as she reflects on her time serving in Vanuatu. see more

    Summary: Join Gaea as she reflects on her time serving in Vanuatu. 

    Author: Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli

     

    Peace Corps Volunteers are often treated as experts. For the most part, we aren’t. I arrived in Vanuatu as a 25 year-old with a penchant for talking about sex, a love of languages, and a wild sense of adventure. None of that made me an expert. I wasn’t then, and I’m still not now, an expert in anything.

    Because of the perception of expertise, it is easy to view Peace Corps as a one-sided exchange. “Here is the educated American, coming to provide information to the uneducated host country nationals!” This is not at all how it is.

    I knew the format of grant writing, but I didn’t speak French so I couldn’t apply for grants from the French Embassy. I co-wrote those grants with members of my community, all of whom spoke French, Bislama, Apma, and a smattering of English, Sa, and whatever else they’d picked up. (I never learned French, despite 2 years teaching at a French school.) I could talk about how toilets worked all day, but I had no idea how the water supply worked and if it would support more toilets. My community knew that it couldn’t and chose to create improved pit toilets instead of the fancier flushing toilets. They were proved very right when the water stopped working 6 months into my service and I spent the next 18 months showering when it rained and hauling drinking water from the next village.

    It was even more basic than that. For all my college education, I had no idea how to feed myself on the island. I was so bad at walking in the slippery silt-mud of Pentecost that at one point an 8 year-old escorted me home. By the time we reached my house, he had taken my basket and the pumpkin I was carrying and was still holding my hand so I didn’t fall. It was a very dignified moment.

    The more you put in, the more you get back. I got back a set of values that holds community and people in the highest regard. I got back hours of laughter and slices of fresh pineapple. I got back 2 new languages (but not French). In exchange, I left part of myself on a little chain of islands. Part of my heart is tucked among the coconut trees and buried in the silt-mud of Pentecost. A piece of me belongs forever in the photo room at the WanSmol Bag Youth Center and watching the dancers in the common area. I still dream in Bislama and try to buy sutsut instead of chayote.

    When it is done well, Peace Corps is an exchange. It is a partnership among many people for the good of the individuals, community, countries, and world. I still think I got the most out of my exchange.

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Sharon Hsu reflects on 60 years of Service and the impact it has had on her. see more

    Summary: Sharon Hsu reflects on 60 years of Service and the impact it has had on her. 

    Author: Sharon Hsu

     

    When I joined the Peace Corps, no amount of foresight could have prepared me for the world. I had no clue that for two years I would be walking across three families' yards just to use the outhouse and be asked by seven different people where I was going on the way. I had no clue that the only chair I would own was an upside down bucket or that I would sometimes (ok, make that often) pee in an empty peanut butter jar. Or how much "soft mud" I would drink. Or how many flashlights I would lose to that pit toilet. Or that I would eventually pull a worm out of my butt.


    But life has its magic. And I also had no clue how much I would learn - about patience; about love; about the magic of laughter; about culture; and mostly, about unconditional kindness. Not of a person, but of a people and an entire country. And I am forever indebted, because I took away so much more than I could give.

    Happy 60th birthday to the #peacecorps


    To all those who served or will serve, and to the most vibrant and beautiful people I know: a photo of Ruben and Lol (local language for uncle) Jacob working the evening's kava. Fitting, because only a few know how much of those two years was really dedicated to this dirty water. A moment: a memory distilled into a photo, forever etched into my thoughts.

    #PeaceCorpsWeek

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Help celebrate 60 years of service with the Peace Corps. see more

    Title: Peace Corps Week

    Source: Peace Corps

    Brief: Help celebrate 60 years of service with the Peace Corps. 

     

    Happy Peace Corps week 2021! The theme for this year is 60 Years of Service. It is a time for the agency, volunteers, and returned volunteers to take a look at what Peace Corps is and how it’s evolved.

    On March 1st, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the agency and this year we are celebrating 60 years of service. Unfortunately, there will not be too many grand celebrations, but Peace Corps Volunteers are resilient and ever adaptive to a changing environment.

    At its core, the Peace Corps mission is to promote world peace and friendship. It promotes mutual understanding and mutual growth. Even though I was going to “help” a developing nation, I too received an inexplicable amount of help, understanding, and growth. A water project is easy to quantify and show on paper, but these soft skills that possibly can change the trajectory of someone’s life is the real bread a butter of what Peace Corps hopes to give to the people we serve and the people doing the serving.

    To celebrate, Peace Corps has a few hashtags they are promoting to help bring people together. The first is to post your photos of faces and places from your service and tag #RepYourDecade. The second is to share the knowledge, skills, and abilities you gained during your Peace Corps service that have impacted your career and community here at home with the hashtag #PRCVImpact. For both do not forget to use the #PeaceCorpsWeeks!

    Another way to celebrate is to head over to the Peace Corps website and get involved in one of the many virtual events the agency has planned. They range from virtual screenings, panel discussions, and info sessions for people interested in serving in the future. 

    Unfortunately, Peace Corps has not opened back up yet and still does not have a date set for when volunteers will be able to go abroad. As part of my position with the Friends of Vanuatu Board of Directors, I will be interviewing the new Country Director for Peace Corps Vanuatu. While she is still stuck in America, the post in Vanuatu has been operating. Awaiting the arrival of volunteers. I am excited for this interview and please be on the lookout to watch the interview when it comes out.

    Happy Peace Corps Week!

  • Brett Serwalt posted an article
    Biden administration names RPCV new Acting Director of Peace Corps see more

    Title: "Carol Spahn Named Acting Director of Peace Corps’"

    Author: NPCA Staff

    Source: NPCA 

    Published: January 20th, 2021

    Brief: The Biden administration has made appointments to PC leadership roles, including naming RPCV (Romania) as Acting Director of the agency. 

     

     

    From the article:

    "WASHINGTON – On January 20, Carol Spahn was named Acting Director of the Peace Corps by President Biden. Spahn had been serving as the Peace Corps chief of operations for Africa. She succeeds Jody Olsen, who stepped down as director on January 20.

    Spahn has over 25 years of experience in international development, business, health, and women’s empowerment. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania (1994–96) and country director in Malawi (2014–19). Her work with the nonprofit sector includes experience with Women for Women International — which supports female survivors of war — and Accordia Global Health Foundation — which helps fight infectious disease in Africa.

    “It is an honor to serve the Peace Corps and our country,” Spahn said in a release from the agency. “From my time as a volunteer in Romania to my years as a country director in Malawi, I have loved my work for the Peace Corps, the American people, and the people of the countries where I have served. I am grateful the Biden-Harris transition team has accorded me the privilege of serving in this new role.”

    Click Here for Full Article

  • Brett Serwalt posted an article
    PCVs Returning to Caribbean in January! see more

    Title: "Director Olsen Announces Return of Volunteers, Commemorates ‘founding moment’"

    Author: PC HQ Staff

    Source: Peace Corps News

    Published: Oct 14th, 2020

    Brief: On the anniversary of JFK's famous campaign-trail speech, Director Olsen announces PCVs to return to Caribbean in January 2021. 

     

     

    From the article:

    "WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen announced volunteers will begin returning to service in January.

    Speaking to staff today during a town hall meeting launching the agency’s yearlong 60th anniversary celebration, Director Olsen said public health conditions permit the return of volunteers to the Eastern Caribbean.

    The agency suspended global operations in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “I am thrilled to share this good news as we commemorate our founding moment, when then candidate John F. Kennedy planted the seed for what would become the Peace Corps during an early morning speech October 14, 1960 at the University of Michigan,” said Director Olsen. “Our decision to return to the field follows months of extensive preparations and review, and I am extremely grateful to the many staff and host country partners who contributed to this effort. I also salute the evacuated volunteers who are joining us as we take these first steps to resume operations and begin the celebration of our 60th anniversary.”

    President Kennedy formally created the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961.

    At the time of the evacuations in March, nearly 7,000 volunteers were serving in 60 countries. Since that time, the Peace Corps has worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive process to safely return volunteers, including evaluating each post based on medical, security, programmatic, administrative and logistical criteria.

    Staff from each post worked closely with the Peace Corps medical and safety and security experts to develop COVID-19 emergency response plans. Returning volunteers will be tested for COVID-19, quarantine for 14 days after arrival in their host country and receive training to safeguard against exposure to the virus during their service."

    Click Here For Full Article

     

  • Aaron Hilliker posted an article
    Here is Mr. Toa's story about being connected to the Peace Corps. see more

    Source: The Daily Post

    Published: February 29th, 2020

    Brief: Mr. Toa talks about his connection with Peace Corps Vanuatu and his experience of hosting a volunteer.

     

    From the article:

    "Mr. Hambert Toa, was a former teacher and principal at Saint Patrick School on Ambae. Due to the volcanic unrest on the island, he was transferred to the Ministry of Education and Training in Port Vila and is currently the Basic School Coordinator at the Ministry. Here is his story of his encounter with Peace Corps.

    Mr. Toa’s first encounter with Peace Corps was in 2014 when they received a Peace Corps volunteer by the name of Tim Ward to their school. Tim taught Computer Studies to the senior students at Saint Patrick.

    At the time, the school board had agreed that Tim would be hosted by one of the school teachers inside the school premises instead of him being hosted by a member of the community. In this way, Tim would be under the care and supervision of the school. After much discussion, Mr. Toa offered to be Tim’s host parent.

    It was then that the goals of the Peace Corps mission became clearer to Mr. Toa. He recalled accompanying Tim to a week-long training on Santo, as his host Papa and counterpart, and his understanding grew brighter about the different services the Peace Corps program offers to a school and/or community."

    Click Here for Full Article