Winter 2017 Vol. 30, No. 4 worldviewmagazine.org
How Peace Corps changed and is changing life for women in marginalized societies Celebrating Mandela, Instagram from Kozan, Accelerating advocacy, Connect in the Poconos, Onesies for Senegal, Old seeds in the Philippines, Why conservatives should like Peace Corps, and hedge fund money builds a school for Somalilandâ€™s next leaders.
YOUR NEW ADVENTURE STARTS AT JOHNS HOPKINS Be part of the change you want to see. Discover the possibilities of nursing and explore the Master’s Entry into Nursing program now. Learn more at nursing.jhu.edu/peace17
LEADING THE WAY IN RESEARCH, EDUCATION, AND PRACTICE – LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY ADVANCE YOUR NURSING CAREER TODAY Focus on global health, domestic health, or specific population, and lead the way in health reform by earning a Public Health Nursing degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Learn more at nursing.jhu.edu/peace17
Winter 2017 Volume 30, Number 4
WorldView Publisher: Glenn Blumhorst Director of Communications: Meisha Robinson Editor: David Arnold Contributing Editor: John Coyne
A magazine of news and comment about the Peace Corps world
Contributors: Judith Innskeep Judith Jerald Maria A. Longi Sherry Manning Brooks Marmon Joshua Meservey Mah Muhammad Shezhad Noorani Jody Olsen Jonathan Pearson Sam Ryals Peggy Smith
SEBASTIAN RICH: UNICEF
Bob Arias Anne Baker Carol Bellamy Glenn Blumhorst Maria Bryan Kevin Bubriski Peter V. Deekle Barbara Ferris Stephen Finney Latanya Mapp Frett Richard Grimsrud Carrie HesslerRadelet
Each day Nyayang, 10, totes a broken water bucket to a school in a Bentiu Unity State protection site in South Sudan’s failed state. The bucket is her chair in a school with no chairs. She wants to be a teacher. UNICEF estimates she has a one-in-10-chance of finishing school.
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WorldView (ISSN 1047-5338) is published four times per year (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) by National Peace Corps Association (located at 1900 L Street, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-5002) to provide news and comment about communities and issues of the world of serving and returned Peace Corps Volunteers. WorldView © 1978 National Peace Corps Association.
WOMEN RISING: PEACE CORPS & DEVELOPMENT
Periodicals postage paid at Washington, D.C. & additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER Please send address changes to WorldView magazine National Peace Corps Association 1900 L Street NW, Suite 610 Washington, DC 20036-5002 EDITORIAL POLICY Articles published in the magazine are not intended to reflect the views of Peace Corps, or those of National Peace Corps Association, a nonprofit mission-driven social impact organization mobilizing those whose lives are influenced by Peace Corps. NPCA is independent of the federal agency, Peace Corps. EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS Send all communications regarding WorldView magazine to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will consider article proposals and speculative submissions. We also encourage letters to the editor commenting on specific articles that have appeared in the magazine. All texts must be submitted as attached Word documents. For requirements in each of our departments, visit news and events on the web site of National Peace Corps Association. If you need to contact NPCA regarding your magazine subscription or other matters, call (202) 293-7728, ext. 18.
THE WOMEN’S LEGACY
NO MORE FOR THE KITCHEN
How Peace Corps learned to rely on women who lead By Jody Olsen
A note from a 14-year-old Ghanaian and a PCV in Quito to inform the federal agency’s mission By Carrie Hessler-Radelet
THE GLOBAL IMPERATIVE
‘It’s unfair that that two-thirds of the world’s uneducated are girls…’ By Carol Bellamy
A PARENTING PLAN
WOMEN WHO RUN
LEVERAGING GOOD AT DINNER
In global politics, women want to improve communities, men believe power is owed to them By Barbara Ferris
Each month in the United States, 400 dinners fund gender equality and fight poverty By Peggy Smith
USAID opens the doors of business to Middle Eastern women who dare By Maria A. Longi
Planned Parenthood’s global movement has moved to Nairobi By Latanya Mapp Frett
COVER: The portrait of Honda Lama was taken in 2016 at her village in Jumla, in northwest Nepal. The photographer is Kevin Bubriski, a documentary photographer whose work hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Bibliothéque Nationale de Paris. Bubriski’s work has been published in his 1993 book, Portrait of Nepal, and in Nepal 1975-2011, a monograph published by Radius Books and Harvard University’s Peabody Museum Press. He served in Peace Corps in Nepal from 1975 to 1977 and has published previously in WorldView.
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 1
Winter 2017 Volume 30, Number 4
The publisher of WorldView magazine is National Peace Corps Association, a national network of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former staff and friends. NPCA is a notfor-profit 501(c)(3) educational and service organization which is independent of the federal agency, Peace Corps.
A magazine for the greater Peace Corps community
3 Journey of a Lifetime
28 Celebration of Women
34 Reviews of four books
Glenn Blumhorst sees a path we can all take together
The path an affiliate is taking to empower women By Jody Olsen
29 Born Busy
5 A Kozan Instagram,
First Coast RPCVs won the Ruppe award and other news from the affiliate community By Jonathan Pearson
The Meltdown, Honor in Maphoitsile, A Discouraging Story CONNECT 2018
8 The Kirkwoods invite everyone to the Poconos next August to consider well-being as a sustainable development strategy OUR IMPACT
9 The agility of RPCVs in Latin America, Our new collective voice on critical international issues, Advocacy for strengthened Peace Corps GALLERY
27 The Spy Zambur, by Mah Muhammad, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
31 Bokk Baby and ENCA offer ways to benefit their countries of service through seed conservation in the Philippines and something for onesies in the United States and in Senegal By Danny White and Sherry Manning VIEWPOINT
33 Is Peace Corps Worth It? An RPCV at Heritage Foundation explains why the answer is yes in language that even conservatives could understand By Joshua Meservey
spawned by the Peace Corps experience in Brazil, a border town in Niger, the coup in Liberia, and the death that drove Tom Zink to go to Micronesia. Courtesy of the Peace Corps Writers & Readers
Carol Bellamy, Chair, Education for All—Fast Track Initiative Ron Boring, Former Vice President, Vodafone Japan Nicholas Craw, President, Automobile Competition Committee for the U.S. Sam Farr, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives, California John Garamendi, Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives, California Mark Gearan, President in Residence, Harvard Graduate School of Education Bruce McNamer, President & CEO at The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Tony Hall, Former Member of U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio; Former U.S. Ambassador to Food and Agriculture Organization Sandra Jaffee, Former Executive Vice President, Citigroup William E. “Wilber” James, Managing General Partner, RockPort Capital Partners John Y. Keffer, Chairman, Atlantic Fund Administration Virginia Kirkwood, Owner/Director, Shawnee Holdings, Inc. Richard M. Krieg, President and CEO, The Horizon Foundation Kenneth Lehman, Chairman Emeritus, Winning Workplaces C. Payne Lucas, Senior Advisor, AllAfrica Foundation Dennis Lucey, Vice President, TKC Global Gordon Radley, Former President, Lucasfilms John E. Riggan, Chairman Emeritus, TCC Group Mark Schneider, Senior Advisor, Human Rights Initiative and Americas Program, CSIS Donna Shalala, President, Clinton Global Foundation Paul Slawson, Former CEO, InterPacific Co. F. Chapman Taylor, Senior Vice President and Research Director, Capital International Research Inc. Joan Timoney, Director for Advocacy and External Relations, Women’s Refugee Commission Ronald Tschetter, President, D.A. Davidson & Co. Aaron Williams, Executive Vice President, RTI International Development Group Harris Wofford, Former U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ACHIEVEMENTS
39 Digital Adventure, or how a university librarian delivers open-access publishing to an Ethiopian town built on a pre-Roman empire. Plus other hallmarks in the lives of RPCVs By Peter V. Deekle CULTURE NOTES
42 The Abaarso Exam How a boarding school in Somaliland searches for new national leaders in the violent landscape of the Horn of Africa By Stephen Finney
J. Henry (Hank) Ambrose, Chair Tai Sunnanon, Vice Chair Patrick Fine, Treasurer Jayne Booker, Secretary Maricarmen Smith-Martinez, Affiliate Group Network Coordinator Glenn Blumhorst, ex officio Randolph (Randy) Adams Keith Beck Sandra Bunch
Bridget Davis Corey Griffin Madeleine (Maddie) Kadas Chip Levengood Katie Long Jed Meline Mary Owen Thomas Potter Susan Senecah Linda Stingl
STAFF Glenn Blumhorst, President Anne Baker, Vice President Jonathan Pearson, Advocacy Director J.M. Ascienzo, Government Relations Officer Director of Communications: Meisha Robinson Amanda Silva, Development & Partnerships Coordinator David Fields, Analyst & Special Project Coordinator Kevin Blossfeld, Finance & Administrative Assistant Elizabeth (Ella) Dowell, Community Technology Systems Coordinator
CONSULTANTS David Arnold, Editor Lollie Commodore, Finance Olive Martin, Communications Cooper Roberts, International Programs
NPCA FELLOW Moriah King
INTERNS Yasmine Ben Hamed Mark Himes Giuliana Johnson
William Pappas Elizabeth Putnam Fumnanye Obi-Rapu
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Peter Deekle, Harriet Lipowitz, Susan Neyer, Angene Wilson
LETTER FROM THE NPCA PRESIDENT
JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
We’ll go with you every step of the way
By Glenn Blumhorst
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” - African proverb. National Peace Corps Association connects, informs and engages all of us as we live out a lifetime commitment to Peace Corps ideals. How does this community of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers make a difference in the lives of Peace Corps applicants, volunteers, returnees, and—more importantly—in the lives of those we serve? Together. Together, we ensure the future of the Peace Corps—even under these difficult political circumstances with a White House that appears to have de-prioritized international affairs programs that include the Peace Corps, and a Congress with fewer RPCVs than ever before and Peace Corps champions retiring from Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle. In spite of it all, NPCA has expanded its capacity to advocate by mobilizing to send nearly 20,000 messages to members of Congress in our campaign to #Protect the Peace Corps. Together, we fight to give more Americans the opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps. Each year since fiscal year 2015, about 23,000 annual Peace Corps applicants have vied for the roughly 3,600 positions to serve. That means that several thousand well-qualified applicants are being denied the opportunity to serve their country. Host countries now seek at least 5,000 more volunteers, so the bold vision for 10,000 PCVs remains clear and compelling. Organized engagement builds capacity to make that happen. Together, we create greater awareness of the Peace Corps. What led you to the
Peace Corps? A short-term mission, study abroad? NPCA’s campus-based Next Step: Peace Corps program gives inquisitive students a “taste of the Peace Corps” as they rub shoulders with PCVs and RPCVs in their natural habitat. And coming soon is NPCA’s collaboration on “A Towering Task—The Peace Corps Documentary” that will remind America Peace Corps is still doing global good.
a positive impact on the lives of over a half-million people through hundreds of funded initiatives. Together, we bring the world home when it really matters. Our pursuit of the Third Goal means more now than ever before. NPCA offers core services to a rapidly growing network of more than 175 cause-oriented affiliate groups, enabling our community to deliver on the Third Goal at the grassroots level both here and abroad. Together, we strive for Peace Corps’ equity with other forms of national service. It might be a while before RPCVs receive benefits comparable to our military veterans, but we’ve made progress. Working with our partners, NPCA has helped secure the commitment
Host countries now seek at least 5,000 more volunteers, so the bold vision for 10,000 PCVs remains clear and compelling. Organized engagement builds capacity to make that happen. Together, we enhance the Peace Corps experience. The health and well-being of PCVs and RPCVs is a priority of both the federal agency and NPCA. Working together with RPCVs, parents of PCVs and other advocates, we have championed the Peace Corps Enhancement Act, which provides greater continuity of health care under Peace Corps’ aegis, increases the level of compensation for RPCVs on disability and extends non-competitive eligibility for RPCVs with prolonged health issues. Together, we amplify the impact of PCVs and RPCVs. NPCA’s Community Fund is providing our community with the resources and opportunities they need to do more and do it better. Working in collaboration with Peace Corps Partnership Program, Water Charity, TCP-Global and other partners, NPCA is investing in the projects, programs, and enterprises of serving and returned Peace Corps Volunteers at home and abroad. The Community Fund has already had
of over 500 Employers of National Service to give a hiring preference to alums of Peace Corps, Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and other service agencies. Together with our advocacy network, NPCA continues to champion the Respect for Peace Corps Act, which will allow RPCVs to have the Peace Corps logo placed on their grave markers. None of these accomplishments would be possible working alone. Together we will go far. Your leadership—whether as a group leader, advocacy coordinator, or philanthropist—is essential to our success. Thank you for making NPCA’s mission your mission. With great respect, Glenn Blumhorst The author is NPCA’s president and chief executive officer. He served in Guatemala from 1988 to 1991. Glenn welcomes your comments at: email@example.com.
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 3
Advancing social justice around the world one degree at a time. Combine your Peace Corps experience with the capacity to analyze and design effective solutions and the management skills to put your ideas into practice. Whichever cause you are most committed to – reducing poverty, improving access to health, education and social protection, protecting the environment, spurring community development, or resolving conflict – you will develop the broad knowledge and focused skills to better serve the communities you care deeply about. A Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program offering scholarships to RPCVs. Visit heller.brandeis.edu or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. • MA in Sustainable International Development • MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence • MS in Global Health Policy and Management • Master of Public Policy • MBA in Nonprofit Management • MBA dual degrees across programs
Kozan instagram, The meltdown, Honor in Maphoitsile, & A discouraging story HI. DEAR JUDITH, Are you my teacher? This is Meral from Kozan. If you are my teacher I will be very happy to find you. Because you have effected very much to our life by your kind dedicated work in small town, Kozan, Regards Hi Meral. Yes, I taught in Kozan orta okul in 1965-67. Tell me about yourself please.
Students at a 1965 picnic in Kozan, Turkey.
Hi My Dearest Teacher, I am so happy. Thank you. I was your neighbor very close to your home. My father was your student, too, in your evening class for adults. His was an agriculture officer, Durmus Sasoglu. I attended to that class with my father very short time, too. Maybe you can remember or not, you with your husband visited to our family at home. We have loved all family. Last year, Cemal mentioned about your visiting to Kozan again. Dear Meral, I do remember you and visiting your family. I wish we had seen you when we were in Kozan two years ago. Do you live in Kozan? Are you a doctor? Do you have children? Your English is very good! I miss Turkey and especially our Kozan friends. We hope we can come visit again. It is difficult now because of all the politics in both the US and in Turkey. My Dearest Teacher, I wish we had
seen in Kozan. But I am living in Istanbul. My parents are with me now. Thank you, my language is not perfect but I am trying. Yes, I am dermatologist. Prof. on dermatology. Now I am working on R&D some problem in my lab at Bosphorus University. I have twin boys 36 years. married. I divorced more than 25 years ago. We have never forgotten you. Because you did very good thing in our country. We saw your good treating to us we was so little children. You invited to your home often with your kindness and love. Thank you. My parents say their greeting to you and your husband too. Regards. Dear Meral, you are very kind and bring tears to my eyes. We loved teaching you and all the children in Kozan. The people of Kozan were so good to us, especially our neighbors.
SUPP PROJ ORT
CO N WITH NECT RPCV S
Please do not cry my teacher, because you are very nice people gave us very good things. These are not seen by eyes but effected our mind. Please pride yourself. Thank you for everything. Judith Jerald is a senior advisor in early childhood development for Save the Children.
FOMO IN GHANA I had the worst case of fear of missing out nearly every moment I lived in Ghana. I was bummed that I wasn’t traveling to Timbuktu with other Peace Corps Volunteers. I was anxiety-ridden that I missed a special cultural celebration in my village while watching a movie under my mosquito net. As a volunteer, there is a strong sense of how finite your time is. Chances are you are keeping track of exactly how many days are left until you are home sitting in an air-conditioned Starbucks in clean clothes, and maybe even with cute hair. It was not a vacation. The boredom
A DV PEAC OCATE4 E
THE NEXT STEP IN CHANGING THE WORLD
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at times was excruciating. Some days were busier than others, but generally speaking, my life in Ghana was painfully mundane. I had no idea what a gift that would be. After about six months living abroad, you may want to forget you are a foreigner. But no one else does. I was always on edge while living in Ghana. Every volunteer has a meltdown story. I over-compensated for having little control by being hypersensitive. Once a man overcharged me for rings that I bought in my own market. Being cheated in my own village was heartbreaking. I demanded a refund and he refused. I stood in front of his stall cursing him through sobs “I hope you lose all your cows! I hope you have a terrible yield at farm this year!” A friend took my arm and slowly walked me home. Somehow your emotional energy reserve does increase over time. Peace Corps is really hard, and I was hardly ever my best self. Be sure to thank your local counterparts often for putting up with you at your low points. As it turns out, I’ve never laughed so much and so hard than while living in Ghana. It was lonely and hard and stressful, but I was so happy. I will treasure every moment with my students who gave me so much joy. I will treasure every moment with other Peace Corps Volunteers to dance, make meals, travel, and collaborate to serve our communities. To those who are now serving - with every low-low, a high-high is around the corner - enjoy it. Maria Bryan (Ghana 08-10)
MANDELA AND THE RABBIT The late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, once said that “history will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” So I asked Mr. Maboitshege, the principal of Maphoitsile Primary School, if we could combine the approaching National Youth Day with Nelson Mandela Day, a national effort to build character that that was launched eight years ago
on the late president’s 81st birthday. July 18 has since become an international celebration of Nelson Mandela’s values of volunteering and community service. We had a chance to do something special for our 800 students. Mr. Maboitshege agreed and said we should stage the event to Reaipela Primary School in nearby Magogong, a
In an assembly area and courtyard behind the podium we set up 10 interactive “Youth and Mandela Day Stations” with themes that reinforce Nelson Mandela’s patience, wisdom, tolerance, understanding, forgiveness and leadership skills with lessons focused on such subjects as mathematics, history, foundation phase English, intermediate
Mike Moeti proudly displayed a treasured photograph at the Magogong assembly in which he stood (left) with President Mandela and Cecil Khunov (right), a leader of the People’s Patriotic Front from Rustenburg.
school designed and built by President Mandela. We chose June 15, the day before National Youth Day, which is a national holiday. The youth day theme was ”What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” For the guest speaker, my principal chose Mr. Mika Moeti, a former anti-Apartheid fighter who had walked “the long walk to freedom” side by side with Nelson Mandela. “Meeting and working with the late Nelson Mandela was not only a once-in-alifetime experience...it was a life-changing experience,” Mika Moeti told our 800 students. It was a history lesson these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.
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phase English and social sciences. The most popular station was a Reading Corner where groups of students took turns with unison reading of six story boards called Mr. Mandela meets Mr. Hare, a happy-go-lucky forest rabbit who discovers a photograph of Nelson Mandela. He decides it is the right and honourable thing to return the prized photo to its owner, Mr. Mandela. The bumptious bunny ignored the fact that Mr. Mandela’s portrait is on one side of the popular 200-rand note and in his quest makes many friends—including a Cape Buffalo, an elephant, a rhinoceros, a wildebeest, a leopard, and a lion—along the way “down the rabbit hole” who
wanted to help him on his quest to return the “missing photo” including all the Big 5 animals to Mr. Mandela. A Setswana language news reporter from VAALTAR 93.6 FM in nearby Taung reported that evening on the aspirations of our students, the seventh graders who want to be doctors, lawyers and astronauts, the water conservation skit of Ms. Mongale’s sixth-graders and the fifth-graders in Ms. Makhene’s class who created new awareness of AIDS with their Grassroot soccer training program. Jeff Walsh began teaching seventh-grade English and life skills in Maphoitsile, North West Province, South Africa in September, 2016.
DISCOURAGING REALITY I felt very sad on reading Maikel Nabil Sanad’s story (Spring 2017). Not only has he been obliged to leave his home, family and culture, but he believes that his efforts to make changes for the better have been completely blocked. It is a discouraging reality that military aid, a huge factor in maintaining dictators in power, cannot be ended because the weapons trade is so profitable, and that circumstance far outweighs any humanitarian concerns. Also, the U.S. is comfortable with dictators as long as they provide a sufficiently stable environment for our corporations to make money and don’t fly in our face politically. Maikel feels that he has failed. Indeed, we have all failed to insist that our rulers change their ways. It looks almost hopeless. But we have to keep trying. As George Washington said, “It is not the part of a good citizen to despair of the Republic.”
Learn to work with diverse populaaons around the world - or in your own backyard. Applicaaons accepted on rolling basis
Judith Inskeep (Peru 62-64) ED. NOTE: To comment on an article or opinion you have read in the magazine, email text to email@example.com.
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CONNECT IN THE POCONOS
Join other RPCVs at NPCA’s August, 2018 Peace Corps Connect
ur 2018 Peace Corps Connect conference will be held August 23-25 at the Shawnee Institute and Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, a 103-room hotel and golf resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains on the banks of the Delaware River. The keynote speaker at the conference is Alejandro Adler, the director of international education at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Adler advocates the introduction of concepts of well-being in school curricula to advance the UN’s sustainable development goals. “This is going to be a different kind of conference,” says Glenn Blumhorst, president of NPCA. The three-day gathering will focus on how the greater Peace Corps community can advance the practices of good health and wellness as international development missions while enjoying the fresh air and natural surroundings of the Poconos. “It’s a chance for our community to step back and rethink what the Peace Corps and the international development communities are doing to improve the quality of life in the less-developed communities of the world,” said Blumhorst. He urges everyone to save the dates for the event as NPCA announces further plans for Connect 2018. A major event at the conference will be a panel discussion among former directors of the Peace Corps, hosted by Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who served as the agency’s director until she left in January to become president of Project Concern International. The conference will also recognize winners of the Shriver, Wofford and Ruppe awards and other activities. Another pitch competition for social entrepreneur projects is being planned. The resort is owned by Charlie and
Ginny Kirkwood. Ginny serves on the NPCA Advisory Council and is NPCA Board Director Emeritus (95-01). She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey (64-66) and was Peace Corps Thailand country director from 1990-1993. The resort hosted NPCA annual conferences in 1996 and 2000. The resort offers access to two golf courses, canoeing and kayaking on the river, a local craft brewery, and the small town of Shawnee which is surrounded by national forests and other recreation opportunities. The historic resort was built in the 1920s and was the recording home of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians in the 1940s for many of their weekly radio programs. In recent years, the Kirkwoods have operated the popular family resort. The family recently established their Shawnee Institute on the grounds of the historic resort and have hosted Adler and others from the University of Pennsylvania psychology department to train participants at the institute’s wellbeing science retreats. Adler is one of a group of international
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experts working with the United Nations to implement well-being and happiness as principle goals of international development. Well-being is cited by the UN World Health Organization as one of the sustainable development health factors in reducing by one-third the premature mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases by 2030. Adler’s research focuses on well-being, education, skills, and public policy. He works with the governments of Australia, Bhutan, Colombia, India, Jordan, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, the UAE and the United States to incorporate and measure the effects of positive psychology skills on youth in national school curricula. His studies of perseverance, engagement, and the quality of relationships have emerged as mechanisms underlying increases in well-being and enhanced academic performance. He promotes the teaching of well-being on a large scale in schools in cultures embracing a wide range of social, economic and cultural contexts. Stay tuned to the NPCA website for updates on Connect 2018.
FOUR WAYS WE GO FARTHER One thing I’ve learned about our community is that individual NPCA members and our 175 affiliate groups are truly the heart, soul and muscle of the Peace Corps community. They carry out the Third Goal of Peace Corps and make a difference in communities here at home and around the globe. The newest of these affiliates is Friends and RPCVs of Zambia, or ZamFam, one of three recently welcomed by the NPCA board. ZamFam follows the traditional group model of where you live now or the country where you served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. They are the backbone of our Peace Corps community. However, the fastest growth we’re seeing here in Washington are networks established at the office. Hang onto your hats, because the Workplace Affiliate Groups—WAGs as we call them—are introducing more acronyms. The two other new affiliates are WAGS: The Department of Health and Human Services Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Employee Resource Group, or HHS RPCV ERG, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the RPCVs@CNCS. Our first WAG was RPCVs@State, where RPCVs who work in the U.S. State Department began meeting in 2010. There are now 11 WAGs. All of these WAGS were launched in federal office buildings, but that won’t be the case for long, given the next dozen or so already queueing up. Members of most of these WAGs meet face to face for networking purposes and, yes, they do have happy hours and potluck suppers. But they always get down to business, which for the most part supports the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. They focus on why they joined Peace Corps in the first place: a career of
Anne Baker (Fiji 85-87), NPCA vice president public service. They work hard to help RPCVs re-enter the workforce here at home and help their agencies hire highly qualified RPCVs. Do they have impact? Yes! How are they having an impact? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first annual photo contest at USDA drew attention to the link from Peace Corps to federal service, showcasing the domestic dividend when RPCVs return home. RPCVs at the Environmental Protection Agency developed a guide for their human resources department on how to recruit and hire RPCVs using Non-Competitive Eligibility that will help EPA recruit more RPCVs to public service careers. Each of the WAGs has a pool of RPCVs who offer informational interviews, while some help with resume reviews, participate in career panels hosted by geographic affiliate groups and even mentor new employees in the workplace. Learn more and contact any of our 11 WAGs and the other 164 affiliate groups on the NPCA website under “community.” If you don’t see what you want, email
NPCA’S CULTURAL AGILITY COACHES A strategic NPCA priority is providing RPCVs and former Peace Corps staff with opportunities for redeployment to their countries of service and beyond. Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL) is our innovative partnership with Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business to join the private sector and the Peace Corps community to accelerate collaborative impacts around the world. CALL promotes corporatesponsored international volunteerism to build the cultural agility of pro-bono corporate advisors as they deliver high-caliber technical expertise of companies to strengthen the capacity of indigenous organizations that have a direct connection to the Peace Corps community. Corporate-sponsored volunteers, working in tandem with RPCVs, have proved to be a high-impact force for good. For three years, corporate volunteers in the CALL program have been strengthening organizational capacity in governance, strategic and business ANNE PELLICCIOTTO
NEW ACRONYMS AT THE WATER COOLER
firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to start a group.
CALL Mexico cultural coach Anne Pellicciotto (left) crosses a bridge to the health clinic at Salvador Urbina in the Sierra Madres with Dra. Valaria Macias, Dr. Sabastian Mohar, clinical supervisor Magda Mosquiero and Johnson & Johnson volunteer Samantha Lifson.
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planning, financial administration, communications, and supply chain management. NPCA recently assigned three RPCVs to return to work in their countries of service in Latin America as cultural coaches and technical counterparts to U.S. corporate volunteer teams from Johnson & Johnson. The U.S. maker of medical devices and pharmaceutical products sends employees as technical experts to volunteer doing good around the world in their extensive social impact program. In three of their Latin America initiatives they were embedded with communitybased organizations to improve the lives of people in those countries. They were accompanied by RPCVs as their cultural coaches: Carla Briceno in Guatemala, Anne Pellicciotto in Mexico and Emily McGinnis in Peru. In Guatemala, NPCA’s local NGO partner is the Asociacion Compañeros para la Cirugía, (ACPC), also known as Partners for Surgery. The NGO serves as a bridge between patients in need of surgical care in remote Guatemala communities and the international volunteer triage and surgical teams that go to Guatemala to help these marginalized communities. ACPC is a Peace Corps success story in itself. Founded in 2001 by Guatemala RPCV Todd Peterson (97-99) and his parents, Frank and Linda Peterson, ACPC’s local governing board and senior leadership team includes several former Peace Corps Guatemala staff. “I’m tremendously impressed and inspired by the work that ACPC is doing to change lives in Guatemala,” said Briceno, who served in Guatemala from 1989 to 1991 and spent a week in October coaching the Johnson & Johnson technical expert team member working with ACPC. Briceno and Johnson & Johnson’s corporate volunteer are confident that, “with a strong marketing plan and strategy, ACPC will continue to enhance its capacity to promote a very compelling value proposition and ultimately achieve financial sustainability and scaled-up operations in response to the overwhelming need for their services.” Contact callcoordinator@ peacecorpsconnect.org for information
about future CALL opportunities through NPCA. Glenn Blumhorst (Guatemala 88-91) is NPCA president
WHY ALABAMA GOES WTO CAPITOL HILL As the NPCA advocacy coordinator for Greater Birmingham Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, I’ve met with my Congressman about issues that are important to the Peace Corps. My advocacy work is done alongside dozens of other RPCVs throughout our country who have held meetings with their members of Congress. Other RPCVs write letters to the editor of their community newspapers and send emails to Capitol Hill. Our passion for a stronger Peace Corps is part of the advocacy efforts of the #ProtectPeaceCorps campaign. Your NPCA membership helps fund and mobilize this movement. I believe Peace Corps is one of the most creative and productive entities of the U.S. government. I’m also convinced the Peace Corps has faced daunting problems due to past budget cuts. I am concerned that Peace Corps’ presence abroad has been damaged because certain programs suffered from a sudden lack of funding. This has hurt the agency’s reputation and its relationship to some host countries and consequently makes it harder for staff in-country who try to make our volunteer experience a possibility. We all know the hard work and the timeconsuming effort Peace Corps staff takes to ensure that we are placed in relevant projects and suitable sites. All of that needs adequate federal funding. The Peace Corps has broad support across the political spectrum, but we all have work to do to make sure our leaders in Congress are informed about these issues facing Peace Corps. RPCVs can and should play an instrumental role in this process because we have the stories tell about our experiences and demonstrate our successes of working abroad. As our nation’s political dialogue becomes increasingly polarized, I believe our stories about these experiences from many cultures are persuasive examples of how the Peace Corps community
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contributes to the civic discourse. I urge all RPCVs to join me as we advocate for a stronger Peace Corps. Sam Ryals (Ukraine 2010-12) is NPCA advocacy coordinator for the Greater Birmingham RPCVs
OPEN SOCIETY SUPPORTS NPCA AFFILIATES When our nation wrestles with issues of national security and foreign policy, we have a unique, international and community-based perspective that is vital to our domestic political dialogue and the role of its citizens in the global debate. But the question is, “How do we project that perspective to affect our government’s policies?” The NPCA now is developing a comprehensive strategy funded by a grant from the Open Society Policy Center to empower our independent affiliated groups to speak out on critical issues. With this grant we are working with three affiliate groups on objectives critical to U.S. foreign policy: an in-depth exploration of the Iran nuclear agreement and developing more peaceful relations between the U.S. and Iran with the Peace Corps Iran Association; engaging the cross-cultural skills, adaptability and commitment of members of the Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees to this global humanitarian effort; and expanding the role of members of the Kentucky Peace Corps Association in a state whose opinions are crucial to advocacy for enlightened U.S. foreign policy. With appropriate leadership, mobilization of media resources, and the necessary infrastructure and technical skills, these groups can influence decisionmaking on key issues that uphold our Peace Corps values. Because these groups represent a cross-section of our large and diverse network, the success of these projects can encourage their replication among many of the more than 175 other NPCA affiliates. We can scale these efforts to build the grassroots activism of our affiliate groups to advance U.S. foreign and domestic policies. Anne Baker (Fiji 85-87), NPCA vice president
THE WOMEN’S LEGACY How Peace Corps learned to rely on women who lead By Jody Olsen
pick to lead the effort to establish the Peace Corps and negotiate its future with Congress, but Shriver was told by Congressional representatives that women could not serve overseas as staff or volunteers. Even former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, serving as Kennedy’s lead on the Commission on Women, commented that women will be harmed, will be raped. Others suggested ‘women don’t do this’ and yet Shriver responded, ‘Yes, women do.’ Although the first group that began training for Colombia was all men, the first group arriving for service in Ghana was well represented by women. Early Peace Corps leadership was more cautious about including female staff in overseas positions when establishing new country sites. During this period, Shriver said, “Men will be the chief executives for the Peace Corps in the various countries in which we serve.” At this time, no foreign service officers were women, and any other overseas positions for women were scarce. Shaking hands with women at the front of a crowd of more than 600 trainees on the White House south lawn on the late Women were not seen as afternoon of August 9, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “I think that by the end of the year we will have more than capable to be international 5,000 Peace Corpsmen, men and women of all ages, serving abroad in all parts of the world... countries which we did not chief executives. even know existed 20 years ago.” Sargent Shriver was in the Far East establishing new programs but his gender mandate In the early 60’s, being prevailed against political skeptics. The trainees were departing for nine countries: British Honduras, Cyprus, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Nepal, Senegal, Togo, Turkey and Venezuela. a Peace Corps Volunteer women as volunteers a month later, Shriver replied, “The women of our country have much to contribute to the peoples of other lands, and the Peace Corps will rely greatly upon their talents.” Shriver was President Kennedy’s
ABBIE ROWE. WHITE HOUSE PHOTOS. JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON.
May I assure you that it is our intent to include outstanding professional women on the staff,” Sarge Shriver wrote in May of 1961. And when a government official challenged his intention of accepting
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was about the only way young American women could experience being overseas, and they responded to Kennedy’s call readily. The first Philippines program had more women than men. One of the volunteers, Maureen Carroll said, “… we saw ourselves going as peace mongers, not war mongers.” She was a volunteer from Jersey City, New Jersey, and later described herself as totally naive. “Peace Corps opened the world to me, both figuratively and literally. The experience taught me to not be intimidated by work that seemed to be beyond my ability.” Many of the early Peace Corps programs reflected the perceptions of roles of men and women in the United States. Women dominated nursing and education programs, men construction, agriculture, and forestry and so in these early years the ratios of men and women volunteers reflected these programs. Today, this has changed. Each female, in her own way, broke down prejudices, the stereotypes of what women could and could not do, and opened new opportunities for subsequent groups of volunteers. These changes in attitudes can be reflected through their own stories. This is only one. When I left Utah for Tunisia in 1966, I had no idea what I was doing, and had never been on an airplane. I quickly discovered that the Tunisians, in an Arab country, did not know what to do with me as a woman. Who was I? Both men and women were confused. Over time, I became kind of a ‘third sex‘ not subject to their prescribed boundaries. I sat and had tea with the men in the shops talking about local politics and business, and then cooked over the kanoon with the women talking about food, children, and men. Being married gave me even more conversational freedom and an opportunity to model an American woman and in an American marriage. Did my Tunisian friends learn from me? I don’t know, but I know I learned from them. Women as leadership staff came more slowly, haltingly to Peace Corps. In the
early 70’s, Nancy Graham, the newly hired director of talent search, found that out of 65 country directors, only three were women. Nancy’s drive and that of Debbie Harding, another early female leader, raised the number to 33 within a very few years. To do so, they sought resumes from throughout the country and coached women on how their experiences, different from that of many male colleagues, were relevant to international leadership positions. Peace Corps Women Today Today 62 percent of Peace Corps’ 7,300 volunteers are women. Over the years, each group of female volunteers has motivated the next group, and each generation to the next. This extraordinary group of approximately 125,000 females spanning 56 years of service are giving back to families, communities, states, and nations in ways not possible without the Peace Corps experience, one contribution at a time. Today, women’s roles are stronger than ever, particularly here in the United States. Is there a need for further attention of Peace Corps women on behalf of women and girls? Yes. The issues faced by women and girls still need our support and giving back. Some of the issues might look overwhelming, but the Peace Corps experience has taught us to work with whatever situation we find, a person, a family, or community. The UN websites offer important statistics and information on issues we need to address.
account for 51 percent of all human trafficked victims globally. Women and girls together account for 71 percent, with girls representing nearly three out of every four child trafficked victims. Three-fourths are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Child Marriage: In 2015, one in four marriages around the world is a child marriage, but in Southern Asia and subSaharan Africa it remains one in three. Maternal Mortality: Maternal mortality globally has been reduced by 37 percent since 2000, however to reach the UN’s sustainable development 2030 goal of 70 per 100,000, this rate needs to double. NPR radio reports that the United States now has the highest mortality rate among the developed countries. Literacy: Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are women, and girls are less likely to continue education beyond the primary level. Young women account for 59 percent of the total illiterate youth population. Unpaid Work: Women spend almost three times as many hours on unpaid domestic and care work as men, which can interfere with educational and paid opportunities. Politics and Management: Women represent less than one-fourth of national elected positions globally, and remain significantly under-represented in senior managerial positions. Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 63.8 per cent of seats in the lower house.
Physical and Sexual Violence:
As described in New York Times and Washington Post articles, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. In the United States, 31 percent have been physically abused by an intimate partner. One in five women in the United States have been raped. Trafficking: According to Stop Violence Against Women, adult women
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Jody Olsen teaches graduate-level social work and global health at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and is a co-founder of Women of Peace Corps Legacy. As a volunteer, Olsen taught English and was a maternal and infant health care educator in Tunisia from 1966 to 1968. She was Togo country director from 1979 to 1981, and deputy direct and acting director of the Peace Corps between 2001 and 2009. She is an NPCA Board of Directors Emeritus.
NO MORE FOR THE KITCHEN The role Peace Corps women must play in development By Carrie Hessler-Radelet
ifty-six years after its founding, the legacy of Peace Corps is perhaps best commemorated not by great monuments or grand proclamations, but rather in the stories of friendships forged, communities strengthened, and lives forever changed. Women and girls are at the heart of that story. Today, two-thirds of all volunteers are women. It’s hard to believe that in the early days of Peace Corps, women were barred from service until Sargent Shriver put his foot down. Countless women in the Peace Corps community are taking the lead in ways large and small—in our country and abroad—to create a world that reflects our Peace Corps ideals. I’d like to start with a story about one volunteer who, by working closely with the women in her community, has made an incredible impact. And now those women she impacted have themselves become extraordinary agents of change. Two years ago, I was in Quito, Ecuador, in a small warehouse with a corrugated-tin roof and a chain-link fence. I was there to visit Peace Corps Volunteer Alex Munoz. Alex was a fourthyear environment volunteer, and she was tasked with establishing a recycling program in the capital city. As volunteers are trained to do, Alex did a participatory community assessment and discovered the little recycling that was taking place was done by women. “Scavengers” is what their community called them. They sort through trash throughout Quito to salvage anything that is recyclable— plastic, cardboard, metal. It’s a dirty, dangerous job. There are sharp objects in the bins that they sort through. Toxic substances. Many are
single moms, and most have no other means of income beside this work. It’s hard work that calls for the women to haul around 80-kilo bundles of recyclable materials. But it wasn’t just the physical conditions that made the work hard. Before Alex arrived, each woman worked as an independent operator. Each staked out her own territory and conspired to keep others from the most lucrative dumpsters. They competed for sales of their materials and rarely spoke. Sometimes, they even thwarted each other. They worked mostly at night because they didn’t want their neighbors to know they picked through trash to make a living. “When Alex came,” a woman told me, “everything began to change.”
organization, the Asociación Buena Esperanza de Pichincha. They have elected leaders and they run themselves like a formal association. And they have been awarded a contract with the municipality of Quito which has led to their official recognition as an association of environmental promoters. Now, the women proudly wear blue uniforms provided by the municipality that say: Asociación Pichincha: Keeping Quito Clean and Healthy. With Alex’s encouragement, the women also worked together to identify small do-able changes they could make to improve their productivity and their health. The women found that they could pool their resources and buy a plastic compacter, which allows them to fetch a higher price for plastic. And they
Dorcas, 14, wrote, 'No more a girl for the kitchen and a boy for the classroom. No more a boy for the farm and a girl to be washing the clothes.' Forging a team of collectors Alex brought the women together for the first time ever, and they began to talk about their lives; the difficulty of their work and how hard it was to make a living. Alex listened, and then she made the observation that together they would be stronger. They began to see that if they worked as a team, they could sell their stock in volume and set higher asking prices. They began to realize if they worked in pairs, it would be safer, especially at night. The women started to see each other not as competitors but as partners. Together, they established a formal
bought gloves and face masks to protect themselves from injury. And they have become artisans, using recycled materials to make beautiful jewelry and bags that reflect their cultural heritage. Maria, the president of the association, told me, “Before our sister, Alex, came, we were scavengers. Now we are recyclers, artisans, entrepreneurs, leaders in our community. We’re helping to preserve our city and our culture. We’re keeping Quito clean and healthy for our children.” Today, the city of Quito depends on them; the shopkeepers respect them; their community admires them; and their
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children look up to them. The women of Pichincha are now leaders in their community and role models for their children—especially their daughters. The women of Pichincha have discovered their potential; their purpose; their dignity. These women, along with the many other incredible women leaders that Peace Corps Volunteers work with across the globe, are our inspiration as we in the Peace Corps community expand our commitment to girls’ and women’s education and empowerment around the world.
'Before our sister, Alex, came, we were scavengers. Now we are recyclers, artisans, entrepreneurs, leaders in our community. We’re helping to preserve our city and our culture. We’re keeping Quito clean and healthy for our children.’
victim of domestic abuse or be infected with HIV. Peace Corps’ commitment to girl's education and empowerment builds on its 56 years of experience of working with girls, women, and communities at the grassroots level. It starts with school Volunteers work with their Around the same time that I was communities to reduce poverty and visiting Alex in Ecuador, Peace Corps nurture opportunity at the “first mile” of started to play a prime-time role in Let development, where most aid agencies, Girls Learn, a whole-of-government and even host governments, rarely reach. initiative dedicated to addressing the Volunteers arrive to do specific barriers that keep over 62 million girls jobs requested by their host around the world out of school. The communities as teachers, health research was clear: adolescent girls face workers, environmentalists, and social specific challenges in attending school, entrepreneurship coaches. But they do from economic and physical barriers to much more. They drink tea with village elders. They play soccer with the neighborhood kids. They get to know the pregnant mom next door. Many live with host families. And it is in this “in-between time” that strong bonds of trust are built. Volunteers begin to share their lives, their hopes, their perspectives. And their new neighbors and friends begin to open up and share their dreams, their ideas, their challenges, and While Peace Corps director in 2015, the author (left) met Alex Munoz (right) at the Quito recycling center where the women of their solutions. Asociación Buena Esperanza de Pichincha continue to keep the capital city clean and healthy. cultural beliefs about the role of women and girls. And when girls don’t attend school, it doesn’t just affect their future—it has consequences for their families, their communities and ultimately, their countries. A World Bank study found that every year of secondary school education is correlated with a 15 to 25 percent increase in a girl's future earning power. When a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to marry later; raise a healthy, educated family; earn a decent living; and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community. She is less likely to be a
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And slowly, volunteers learn to see the world through their community’s eyes. They begin to understand the opportunities for—and barriers to— development in their little corner of the world. And the relationships of trust they build through cups of tea and shared labor become the foundation for their work as catalysts of community-led change. Breaking down barriers So when it comes to addressing some of the most stubborn barriers to girls’ empowerment, Peace Corps Volunteers are uniquely positioned to help local leaders, families, and the girls themselves implement lasting solutions. Sometimes, those solutions mean changing attitudes, such as helping communities to see that encouraging girls to reach their full potential or teaching young men to respect women does not have to mean they are turning their backs on their most important values and traditions. Sometimes, those solutions address physical barriers—because we know that something as seemingly basic as access to safe bathrooms or even menstrual pads can have tremendous impact on a girl’s attendance rates in school. And sometimes, those solutions address economic barriers, such as helping girls develop entrepreneurship skills that will help them pay for their books, uniforms and school fees, all while proving to their families they can contribute to the family economy. Thousands of volunteers like Alex have received additional training in gender theory and practice, evidencebased anchor activities, and the basics of community mobilization and behavior change. Each of those volunteers is putting their training to use by working with their community to identify ways to help girls and women achieve their potential. More than a homecoming But Peace Corps’ contribution to girls and women around the world would not
be complete without mentioning the lasting impact of Peace Corps service on the lives of volunteers themselves and the communities they serve here at home in the United States. Today, more than ever, Peace Corps service isn’t just about making a difference in a faraway country. It’s about transformative change here at home as well. Consider the example of Meg Garlinghouse who is the director of LinkedIn for Good, spearheading social impact programs at the career networking site. Meg started her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, in a small village where she worked on initiatives ranging from a millet project, a treeplanting competition among 12 villages, and an exporting business with female artisans. At the end of her two years in Niger, Meg wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. But after completing her Peace Corps service, she said, “I literally thought I could do anything. … If I wanted to be a doctor, I could be a doctor. I’d done something really hard and been pretty successful.” She learned so much from the resourcefulness of the local leaders in her community. She learned how to operate in uncertain circumstances, how to partner with people from different walks of life, how to effectively help individuals make the most of their abilities—and how to ask for help herself. She learned lessons in grit, agility, and confidence that she couldn’t imagine learning anywhere else. And as it turns out, those were precisely the skills that proved to be most valuable when she came across job opportunities in Silicon Valley. As Meg put it, “What we are now seeing is that some of the most important predictors of success in life are characteristics like grit and resilience.” Peace Corps Volunteers have gone on to become doctors, scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, members of Congress, and leaders in just about every field you can imagine.
What they bring to these leadership roles is a deep understanding of why it is that empowering girls and women to reach their full potential matters so much—not just in small villages in Africa or a fast-growing city in Ecuador, but also right here, in the United States—on college campuses; in our halls of government; in our executive boardrooms; in Washington, DC; in Silicon Valley; and in small towns across our beautiful nation. Shortly before I left Peace Corps, volunteers in Ghana came together to lead their annual Girls Leading Our World camp. In the supportive, inspiring environment of a camp dedicated to leadership skills and positive decisionmaking, girls discover opportunities to talk honestly about their challenges, their goals, and their dreams. After attending the camp, a 14-yearold girl named Dorcas was inspired to write a poem. She wanted to tell the world, she said, about the strength of her Ghanaian sisters. And this is what she wrote: No more a girl for the kitchen and a boy for the classroom. No more a boy for the farm and a girl to be washing the clothes. We all want to be equal. Mothers of Africa, Mothers of the whole world. Arise, and let’s fight for our equality; Let’s fight for our dignity; Let’s fight for our pride; And let’s fight for our respect. I can’t think of a more inspiring call to action.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet is president and CEO of Project Concern International. She served as the 19th director of the Peace Corps from 2012 to 2017. Prior to Peace Corps, Carrie was the vice president of John Snow, Inc. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Samoa from 1981 to 1983 with her husband, Steve. She is an NPCA Board Director Emeritus.
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THE GLOBAL IMPERATIVE We know the benefits of an education for a woman By Carol Bellamy with me, and I’m glad to see its strong influence on the work of the Corps today. Looking at that work in Guatemala today, we see women volunteers helping other women becoming game-changers in their communities. Take Tina Galante, who helped mothers from a Parent Teacher Association in a rural Mayan community take charge of nutrition training in a primary school where 70 percent of students suffer from chronic malnutrition. Tina’s encouraging words to those who were unsure of their abilities sum up the Peace Corps ethos: “You are the experts here in this community. These women are your neighbors, your friends, your family. They’re going to pay a lot more attention to you than to some gringa!” A growing role in the Peace Corps The history of the Peace Corps has walked alongside the history of women’s rights over recent decades. At first, women were barred from volunteering in an era when they were still seen primarily as home-makers and mothers who needed protection from the outside world. Thankfully, Sargent Shriver stepped in and women were admitted. In those early days, there was a strong focus on agriculture, which meant that many volunteers came from the agricultural sector – a sector then dominated by men. But as the Peace Corps expanded into new areas, particularly education and health, women found themselves eminently qualified to serve. It’s no surprise to me that the number of young women joining the Peace Corps continues to rise. There is a proven desire among young women to get out there and explore new horizons: data from the International Institute of Education suggests that 65 percent of students
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who study abroad are women. In 20142015, 78 percent of students from 27 U.S. universities taking part in study programs in Africa were women. In some countries the numbers of women rose to 90 percent. It seems that when a woman’s desire to experience the world combines with her desire to serve humanity, the Peace Corps is the ideal place to go. It matters immensely that women join the Peace Corps, and that the Peace Corps continues to serve the world’s women, because if we want sustainable development in each and every country, girls have to be educated and women have to be empowered. A moral and economic imperative Obviously, there’s a strong moral imperative here. It’s unfair that two-thirds of the world’s uneducated children are girls, and that two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. It’s unjust that their lack of education fuels their poverty and poor health, as well as the likelihood that they will marry too early, give birth too early, and see their prospects – their hopes and dreams – evaporate. But this is also about the economic bottom line. Not only are women increasingly making their presence felt in the global economy, it is vital that they do so. If you want to strengthen your economy, you simply cannot afford to have half of your people lagging behind. It’s no exaggeration to say that global economic well-being starts in the classroom. Study after study has shown that educating women and girls is the single most effective strategy to ensure not only the well-being and health of women and their children, but also longterm economic success. It is also the single thread that runs through poverty reduction, good maternal and child health, and greater political participation
arlier this year, I read a remarkable story by a Peace Corps Volunteer, Jane Spelce. Remarkable because Jane is now in her 60s, and was just 10 years old when a big announcement was made at her school in Austin, Texas: President John F. Kennedy had formed the Peace Corps. She told her no-doubt astonished mother that she wanted to join up. Years later, having raised a family, Jane finally applied to the Peace Corps– inspired by her son-in-law who had served in Africa. More than a half-century after that big school announcement, she found herself teaching classes in Paraguay on topics close to her heart, including selfesteem and leadership. One American woman helping other women to reach their full potential. It’s a story that has particular resonance for me. At around the same time Jane was telling her mother she wanted to join the Peace Corps, I was a young woman telling my astonished parents exactly the same thing. My father was adamant: not a chance. My mother took a very different view, and in 1963, I joined up. It was during our training that our world was shaken by the death of the man whose vision had so inspired us. But we pushed on and, like Jane, I headed south, becoming part of the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Guatemala. I consider it a great honour to have served as the first Peace Corps Volunteer to have directed the organization that opened my eyes to the world. The experience has shaped my life in so many ways. And one of its earliest lessons was the critical importance of women, not only as Peace Corps volunteers, but as powerful agents of change within communities. It is a lesson that has stayed
An estimated 1.3 million children need humanitarian aid in the Bay of Bengal. Yasmin Akther is an eightyear-old Rohingya refugee who fled from racial violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and recent cyclones. She attends classes in makeshift learning center in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh.
as well as better economic productivity and economic growth. To put it simply: when you educate a girl, she’s not the only one who benefits from her education. While it changes her life, it also makes things better for everyone around her. For every extra year of education, a girls’ eventual wage rate
increases by an average of 10 percent to 20 percent, according to the World Bank. And an extra year of secondary school boosts that to between 15 percent and 25 percent. There is evidence that women are more likely than men to invest their earnings wisely and in their families. So the boost that education gives to those
earnings benefits not only the woman, but her family, her community and her country. Every year of education delays a girl’s marriage and reduces the number of children she will have. Girls who receive education beyond grade seven marry four years later, on average, than girls with less
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education, according to the UN. They also, on average, have 2.2 fewer children. The benefits to the children of an educated woman include their very survival. A child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five. And a girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV, according to a report by the Global Campaign for Education. Research in developing countries shows a strong link between the education of mothers and the immunization of children against preventable diseases such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles and tuberculosis. Even when adjustments are made for household wealth and the average level of education, if all women in lower-income countries completed at least a secondary education, 40 percent of those children who currently have no immunization against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough would be much more likely to receive it. These are just some of the benefits. But there are serious challenges to be overcome before these benefits are shared by every girl, and by every woman and her family. Rising to the challenge First, we have to get every girl into school. Around 60 million girls aged 6 to 15 are still missing out, and girls still lag far behind boys when it comes to completing secondary school. But access—crucial though it is—is not enough on its own. Education must also be of good quality. And right now, the world faces a learning crisis: 617 million children and adolescents worldwide are not reaching minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. That is the equivalent of three times the population of Brazil being unable to read or handle mathematics with proficiency. Such a waste of human potential tells us that getting children into the classroom is only half the battle. Now the challenge is to ensure that every child in that classroom is learning
the basic skills they need in reading and mathematics, as a minimum. Female teachers are also critical. And we need far more of them—Peace Corps volunteers included. Girls also need to feel safe on the way to school, in the classroom and playground, and on the way home.
It’s unfair that two-thirds of the world’s uneducated children are girls, and that two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. It’s unjust that their lack of education fuels their poverty and poor health …. So, girls need schools that are close to home, that offer them a good quality education tailored to their needs, delivered by inspirational female teachers in an atmosphere that is safe, secure and nurturing. The impact of educating every girl and boy on the planet would be immense. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, nearly 60 million people could avoid poverty if all adults had just two more years of schooling. If all adults completed secondary education that number would increase by seven-fold, and 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. That is enough to cut the total number of poor people in half worldwide, and by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Can it be done? Of course! Not only can it be done, but governments are now obliged to do it by 2030—the deadline for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Goals focus on equity, with governments required to make sure that nobody is left behind. The education goals are clear: every girl and boy completing free, equitable and
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quality primary and secondary education. We need to work collectively to hold governments to that promise and hold them to account if they are failing to deliver. In keeping with the principles of the Peace Corps, this is no longer a question of charity, but of countries and communities doing it for themselves, empowered to pursue their own priorities. It is about working in partnership with them to achieve their own goals, rather than parachuting in with a ‘to do’ list. The first step is to see women as partners, as contributors and, very importantly, as a resource to be mobilised. And I’m proud to see that so many Peace Corps volunteers are helping women themselves to take that first step. As Jane Spelce wrote in her story: “Even at the age of ten, I realized the emotions we were all feeling as we watched our young new President, so full of hope and inspiration, and I remember this one word he spoke often and later wrote about. It has remained with me through a lifetime—”courage”—courage to step forward and do the next thing, set the next goal, help the next person, make the next plan.” That courage is embodied in the work of Peace Corps volunteers each and every day, as they uphold the principles that have guided the organization from its earliest days: meeting real needs; building bridges between people; broadening our collective view. Those principles, captured in the work of the Corps by, for and with women worldwide, are helping to build a more prosperous and peaceful future.
Carol Bellamy served as a volunteer in Guatemala from 1963 to 1965. She served as a New York State senator, president of the New York City Council, at Morgan Stanley investment bank, president of World Learning and was executive director of UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, for 10 years. She presently chairs the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and is an NPCA Advisory Council member.
A PARENTING PLAN Global reproductive health goes where it will do the most good By Latanya Mapp Frett As a global health organization focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights, Planned Parenthood Global faces even greater challenges as we navigate cultural and societal ideas about gender, sex, and morality. With sensitive topics like this, the way information is delivered matters just as much as the information itself. In places where talking about sex often remains taboo, using peer counselors to educate their fellow adolescents has been shown to increase access to and even efficacy of sexual and reproductive health education. Peer education programs reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and empower young people to control their lives and pursue their dreams. Through our Youth Peer Provider (YPP) program, our partners train young people as contraceptive counselors and take it a step further. Youth peer providers not only educate their peers, but are also equipped
The global gag rule This vital work is needed now more than ever as the strides we have made in the global reproductive health movement are threatened by dramatic shifts in U.S. foreign policy by the Trump administration. Most prominent of these changes is the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, which has been reinstated by every Republican president since President Ronald Reagan first issued it by executive order. While the Helms Amendment restricts U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortions “as a method of family planning,” the global gag rule goes a step further by blocking aid to foreign
MARK TUSCHMAN / PLANNED PARENTHOOD GLOBAL
’m writing from our new office in Nairobi. The furniture may be new and the paint fresh, but our work has a storied history here in this city and Africa as a whole. I’m the executive director of Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. For more than 45 years, we’ve been working with partners around the world to break down barriers to health care. In August, I moved our headquarters from New York to Nairobi to bring our organization closer to the work that we do and the partners we support. Personally, I almost feel like I’ve come home. I first visited Nairobi during a semester abroad as a law student. Soon after, I came back to Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho from 1996 to 1998. I didn’t live in a village like most of my colleagues. With degrees in law and public policy, I was accepted into the United Nations Volunteers program, which usually means placements in large cities. For me, that meant Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, where I worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. Yet my work constantly brought me out to the field, quite literally. I was a child protection officer and my work focused on the so-called “herd boys.” These are boys often between the ages of seven and 12 who would spend those years out on the lands taking care of their families’ cattle, leading them from place to place in search of pasture. When the boys reached adolescence, the next 7-year-old in the family would take over. Years later, adolescents and youth continue to be an important focus of my work, though now with a greater emphasis on girls, women, and reproductive health.
to provide friends, classmates, and peers with discrete and consistent access to contraceptives and STD prevention, including birth control pills and condoms. Our YPP program sets us apart and has been adopted and adapted by partners across Africa and Latin America. And our unique sustainability model empowers partners to stand on their own. We partner with organizations that are working at the grassroots level and that know the culture and context in which they work far better than we could.
A young Planned Parenthood Global peer provider offers contraceptives in a Gboko, Nigeria hair salon.
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organizations who use their own non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortions or to advocate for access to abortion services in their own countries. And in an unprecedented move, Trump not only reinstated the policy, but expanded it to apply not only to family planning programs—as past iterations had done—but U.S. global health funding writ large. The global gag rule causes serious harm for the most vulnerable people of the world. The policy stands between doctors and their patients, and it restricts the medical information that health care providers are allowed to offer. It limits free speech by preventing local citizens from participating in debates. And the threat of lost funding coerces providers into censoring vital information and giving incomplete care, which can either mean substandard services or diminished access to a range of health services, including family planning. Each time the global gag rule has been in effect, the negative impact of the policy has been far-reaching: health infrastructures have fallen into disarray; clinics that once provided a range of reproductive, maternal, and child health care, including HIV testing and counseling, have been shuttered; outreach efforts to marginalized populations were eliminated; and access to contraceptives was severely limited, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and—contrary to the original intent of the policy—more unsafe abortions. In the past, the U.S. has been a leader in promoting democracy, women’s health, and human rights around the world, and the Peace Corps has been a critical part of that humanitarianism. U.S. foreign assistance should never be used as a wedge to censor free speech or to limit access to health care for the most world’s most vulnerable women, young people, and communities. Some of the primary recipients of U.S. global health assistance are countries in Africa like Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda where vital programs like PEPFAR,
which has been instrumental in rolling back the tide of HIV/AIDS, are now at risk because of the global gag rule. By moving Planned Parenthood Global’s headquarters to Nairobi, we shorten the distance between our global team and those at the grassroots level who need us the most, because they are on the frontlines of experiencing the impact of harmful policies like the global gag rule. Ultimately, it will help us gain valuable insight, bolster cross-regional collaboration, and create options for new donors. Protecting youth in Lesotho Back in Maseru where I was serving with the Peace Corps, I was a human rights officer for UNICEF. I was tasked with looking for inconsistencies and violations of human rights treaties and reporting them, and I found that the herd boys were abused significantly in the search for grass. The boys themselves often didn’t have enough food to eat and they had no money. It’s a hard life out there, and so they would fight. With no supervision, the younger boys were susceptible to sexual violence from the older boys, and the cycle of violence would continue as the abused became the abusers. And when their stint was over, they would start school late, and many wouldn’t start at all. You have to think about it from their perspective—they’re starting school at 12 and sitting with four and five-year-olds; they’d hardly want to do this after working and roaming on their own since the age of seven. Adolescence is a critical period of human development, and for these boys, that development was in some ways hastened, and in other ways halted. They felt like they were men. They had enjoyed autonomy and living out on their own. But because they were plucked from childhood at seven years old, their maturity and certainly their education level stalled. It was so clear to me that these boys needed two things from us: (1) We needed to educate their parents and communities about what was happening
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to them, and (2) we had to get actual resources to these boys—not just food to fill their immediate needs, but education to ensure their futures. I did this work for two and a half years. I thought, if we couldn’t bring the boys to school, we’d bring school to them. They couldn’t enroll in one school because they had to travel for the cows. So, we needed schools that would move with them, or at least be there at each place they stopped. The more educated you are, the more you’re able to communicate your needs and what is happening to you. And with a school, these boys finally had someone to report those issues to. It’s about meeting people where they are and giving them a voice—a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my career. My work with the Peace Corps eventually led to 20 years of service with UNICEF and later the U.S. Agency for International Development, much of it here in Africa. Though I would eventually find my way from child protection to reproductive health, those couple of years with the herd boys left an imprint on me that continues to guide the work that I do, even now in my executive role with Planned Parenthood Global. Food and education—they’re certainly not the most controversial things to ask for, and yet I saw firsthand the challenges in delivering such basic necessities to kids in the countryside. Like the roving schools teaching herd boys in Lesotho or youth providers delivering birth control in soccer fields and hair salons, Planned Parenthood Global’s move to Nairobi is about meeting people where they are.
Latanya Mapp Frett is the executive director of Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, with some of the most innovative and sustainable health projects in Africa and Latin America. Frett is an adjunct professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
WOMEN WHO RUN It takes generations to change governments By Barbara Ferris
had the opportunity as the Women in Development coordinator for Peace Corps in 1990 to work with volunteers in many of the former Soviet Union countries. Meeting with women leaders in communities of these emerging democracies, I learned that many of them were highly educated, held leadership and decision-making positions in their governments, had a broad range of benefits like child care, health care and retirement while men fulfilled their military duty in countries around the world. After the walls of the Iron Curtain fell and the soldiers returned home, there was an increase in alcoholism and domestic violence. As democracy began to take hold, these women knew that they needed a seat at the tables of governance - they just didn’t know how to get there. I spent more than a year researching organizations training women in the technical skills of how to run for elected office. I found two small underfunded NGOs—one in Uganda and one in the Philippines. But there was no global training center to partner with local NGOs to provide tools and skills to teach women how to engage in the politics, policies and decision-making roles in their own countries. I founded the International Women’s Democracy Center in 1995, received a grant from the Boston Foundation and was awarded special UN Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council, a credential that ensures we can participate as an official delegation at any UN special sessions, global conferences and expert group meetings. I attended the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing, where we hosted a workshop, “How to Make the Decision to Run for Office,” at the NGO Forum to determine the level of need to teach women leaders
how to run a campaign. Over 200 women from 39 countries attended the workshop. Some had just been elected to office and wanted to know what their job was; others were community-based leaders who wanted to run but didn’t know how to organize a campaign. Snapshot of parliaments An estimated 23 percent of elected parliamentarians around the world are women, according to the InterParliamentary Union. The highest percentage is 41 percent in the Nordic countries and the lowest is a little over 17 percent in the Pacific region. Rwanda ranks highest with more than 61 percent—49 women holding more than half the 80 seats in the lower house and 10 of the 26 seats in the upper house or Senate. The United States ranks 101 with 84 in the House and 21 in the Senate. In 1977 when I worked on Capitol Hill for a woman representative there were 16 women in Congress! Change takes at least a generation! IPU also reports that as of June 2017, only 2 countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses: Rwanda with 61.3 percent and Bolivia with 53.1 percent; but a greater number of countries have reached 30 percent or more. As of June 2017, 46 single or lower houses were composed of 30 percent or more women; 19 countries in Europe, 13 in SubSaharan Africa, and 11 in Latin America have applied some form of quotas - either legislative candidate quotas or reserved seats - opening space for women’s political participation in national parliaments. Gender balance in political participation and decision-making is the internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Inter-Parliamentary Union
reports evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves the processes of government; the process of deciding what’s in a budget then balancing a budget; the process of determining which services will be provided to constituents and then providing the delivery of services; the process of outing corrupt politicians, then creating a process to decrease corruption so that services can be delivered. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses— even in the most politically combative environments—and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform. When I started the International Women’s Democracy Center, I decided all of our programs and projects would be facilitated in partnership with established local organizations to ensure we strengthen local leadership and training capacities and we would do it without U.S. government funding to ensure that we could work towards our mission without distraction. Our work is conducted through partnerships with local NGOs and global democracy organizations such as International IDEA in Stockholm, CIVICUS and the International Parliamentary Union in Geneva. For the last 23 years IWDC has effectively and efficiently pursued our mission to strengthen women’s global leadership together with local NGOs around the world to build the capacities of local women leaders who can empower others. We have learned that women often go into politics to change and improve things in their communities and men often go into politics because they believe power is owed to them. Never have I seen a training program anywhere in the world to teach men how to run for office. Running in Botswana Botswana ranks 163 in the world with
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As a result, 40 new candidates for local council won their primary election. Before the general election, we brought them together to work on message development and delivery. In the general Liberia’s president for 12 years, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was Africa’s first woman election, 35 head of state, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. China’s Xi Jinping welcomed women won her to China in 2015. She retires from office in January. seats on their local councils which were an increase from 70 to 105 9.5 percent of elected parliamentarian out of 400 local council seats in the seats held by women, but they hold country. cabinet-level and senior appointed positions in government, they are Sometimes not a job but a mission executives of corporations and are in key We have learned that one of the leadership positions across many sectors greatest deterrents for women to enter of the economy. politics is financial—they don’t have Twenty-two years ago, the head the resources or they don’t want the of their national women’s association, burden that comes with winning an Emang Basadi, attended our Beijing elected office. In some countries, those workshop. Emang Basadi operated legal financial expectations include having to literacy and women rights programs pay school fees, utility bills, funeral or but wanted to bring more women into medical bills which can be very expensive Botswana’s policy and decision-making in communities with few resources. arena. Together we created a five-year For many women, public service is not program to increase the number of running for office, but improving the women who would stand as candidates lives of women and their families, their for local and national elections. communities and their nations. We trained 35 women leaders from The workshops in Turkey focused nine political parties in the technical skills on determining what it was that women of how to run a campaign for elected wanted to change in their community, office and asked them to take back what identifying their allies, creating they learned to their own political parties. manageable strategic plans, building We taught them how to make the decision coalitions with their existing networks, to stand as a candidate, research the creating a budget to determine what opposition, present themselves publicly, kind of resources would be needed train volunteers, foster media relations, and how much money it would take to target voters, raise funds, and use be successful. In workshops with our technology. We taught them how to train partner, the Women’s Association of others in their own parties when they Ankara, we trained women leaders from went home and created a How to Run for 12 community organizations how to Office step-by-step manual in Setswana advocate for issues that impact their about each session and each session’s communities. goals.
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The issue they agreed on was to protect a parcel of land in the capital that was used by the public for picnics, hiking and recreation from a company that wanted to extract the mineral resources and destroy the area used by a large community. The women who gathered in Ankara had to figure out who would take decision-making roles and who would agree to minor roles. This was a newly formed coalition that found it difficult to agree on those who would take leadership and make decisions and who would accept lesser tasks. But the coalition persisted over a two-year period until the mining company reversed its decision and chose not to operate in that public space. Over the last two decades, our organization has partnered with local NGOs to facilitate campaign management workshops in Haiti, Togo, Yemen, Bolivia, Ecuador, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Thailand, Nepal, Liberia, Malawi and Belize. Although women around the world today are more willing to stand as candidates for elected office, culture, tradition, money and current politics continue to put up barriers to both running and winning elections. Religious impediments Following Northern Ireland’s Belfast Agreements in 1998, we were invited to work with women leaders as the country formed a new government. For 30 years of “The Troubles,” women held their communities together: they ran schools, health clinics, public services and local governments. But now they needed to cross borders and work together to rebuild their nation. In partnership with the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform, we created another five-year program on how to lobby their new legislature, run an issue campaign or run for elected office. We created the Community Advocate Mentor Program. Each year for five years 20 women—10 Catholics and 10 Protestants from around the country— went to Belfast and then to Washington, D.C. Before they left Belfast they studied
the new legislative structure, selected their roommates—one Catholic and one Protestant to a room—for the Washington program. During their two weeks in Washington, they studied and observed lobbying, advocacy, and the processes of the White House and of Congress and the courts. Each team shadowed a member of Congress for one day and a lobbyist for one day, a powerful experience for our participants and for leaders in Washington. Moving these women in Northern Ireland toward co-existence after a long domestic conflict challenged their sense of whom to trust and how to risk safety. Many of the women who participated had lost loved ones in a long and bloody civil war. A key component of the program was requiring Catholics and Protestants to share a hotel room in Washington. It forced them to look at their enemy as a human being — a mother, sister, wife, aunt and grandmother. They said they could never do this in their own communities. But they learned quickly that the people they met in Washington who were part of the program do not place religion front and center. Shadowing a Member of Congress and a lobbyist for one day each was an extremely powerful component of our program for everyone because it gave both the members and lobbyists a firsthand understanding of what it was like to live in a zone of violent conflict for more than a generation and it gave the women an upfront view of how our legislative process works. Their fierce determination to learn how to co-exist and move towards peace was one of the hallmarks of the Belfast Agreement—which stated that women must be present in all spheres of public life. One hundred women from Northern Ireland were selected to participate and International Women’s Democracy Center was later invited to return to Belfast to facilitate a workshop for senior level women in the public and private sectors to advance their skills. We are seeing an increasing vacuum of
leadership in countries around the world and we continue to try to fill that gap by strengthening the power of local women to assume those roles in communities and countries around the world. Barbara Ferris is founder and president of the International Women’s Democracy Center
in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the International Women’s Forum. She has served as an advisor to the U.S. delegation to the UN and legislative assistant to a member of Congress. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco from 1980 to 1982. Visit iwdc.org for more information about the organization.
SOLVE PROBLEMS CHANGE POLICY IMPROVE HEALTH
For more than four decades, the Helibrunn Department of Population and Family Health has developed pioneering public health programs to serve global communities facing multiple inequities. The MPH program focuses on vulnerable populations, forced migration, sexual and reproductive health, humanitarian assistance, and much more. Learn more at mailman.columbia.edu/popfam facebook.com/mailmanpopfam
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LEVERAGING GOOD AT DINNER Over 400 chapters gather each month to fund women's empowerment By Peggy Smith
We get together monthly to dine in, catch up with friends, expand our knowledge of the world, and donate to reduce poverty and promote gender equity finances grassroots projects that empower women and girls and promote gender equity. I first heard about Dining for Women from another RPCV at a Peace Corps reunion more than seven years ago. When I discovered there were no chapters in Delaware, I gathered six friends and we organized our first chapter meeting. It was so easy, and it has been an incredible journey since then. Dining for Women’s success is our simple, but impactful model. Most Dining for Women chapters are small groups of friends, neighbors, or co-workers – anyone who wants to make a difference and share a sense of community. We get together monthly to dine in, catch up with friends, expand our knowledge of the
DINING FOR WOMEN
sk any Returned Peace Corps Volunteers about their experience and they will tell you, “It changed my life.” Yes, we come home to clean water and sanitation, hot showers, comfortable beds, and nice dwellings, but with a passion that does not dissipate. We have to get involved, to continue to serve a need. So, we volunteer in soup kitchens, teach English to the newly-arrived from developing countries, and for many, we join Dining for Women. Dining for Women is the world’s largest educational giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. From its humble beginnings in Greenville, South Carolina in 2003, Dining for Women has grown to more than 400 chapters in 45 states as well as several international affiliates. Through member education and engagement, as well as the power of collective giving, Dining for Women
Peggy Smith (in white jacket, center rear) and her Dining for Women chapter have been meeting each month for seven years and has led to eight more chapters in Delaware. The total raised each month among more than 400 chapters is sent to a development project. One beneficiary was Togo’s Hope Through Health, founded by RPCVs Jennifer Schechter and Kevin Fiori.
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world, and donate to projects that reduce poverty and promote gender equity. Members give what they can, usually what they would have spent dining out. Our individual gifts are combined with those of thousands of other DFW members. Together, we are empowering women and girls, while also fostering global citizens and powerful agents of change here in the U.S. Each month at chapter meetings, we feature a grassroots project, selected through a highly competitive grants process. With education materials provided by Dining for Women, we learn about the country, the challenge, the project details and budget. DFW also provides info on local culture and recipes; many chapters enjoy sharing traditional meals from the featured country. The same passion we felt as PCVs— the foods, customs, speaking in a different tongue, the joy of becoming part of a family so different from in the United States—it is all there as we view the Dining for Women grant videos and learn about the featured project. We are there, and we know that small amounts of money and women who care can make a difference. In 14 years of gathering for dinners like ours, Dining for Women has invested about $6 million in grassroots projects in more than 40 countries. Hope Through Health in Togo is one of several projects launched by RPCVs in development NGOs with strong Peace Corps ties that have received funds through our network of monthly lunches. Our national giving circle has also collaborated with the Peace Corps on
UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITIES girls’ education and empowerment. Last year we awarded a $100,000 partnership grant to their Let Girls Learn Program, which funded 39 Peace Corps projects in 23 countries. That gift helped more than 65,000 individuals directly and indirectly. DFW invested an additional $70,000 in the Peace Corps’ Partnership Program in 2017. Our synergies with Peace Corps extend further to our advocacy efforts and our shared support for the U.S. international affairs budget. Collectively, we can influence our government to ensure consistent funding for the issues we all care about. Dining for Women feeds my passion and I am not alone. Many RPCVs have found a like-minded community in their DFW chapters. Nancy (Johnson) Rich, who served in Colombia, says Dining for Women supports the Peace Corps mission “by supporting women as they learn how to better their lives and the lives of their families.” Katie Rosch Hegedus served in Mali and says whenever someone describes a DFW project at a gathering, “I can see my Malian friends, hear them laugh and feel their love.” It re-engages us all to learn, to have empathy, to teach another, and to contribute to the grassroots projects where we can make a difference. I encourage you to gather a few friends or some Peace Corps colleagues to join up with or start your local NPCA affiliate group and Dining for Women chapter and collaborate on programming, advocacy and bringing the world home. Peggy Smith served in Colombia from 1965 to 1967 and trained Nepal volunteers from 1973 to 1976. Stay tuned to peacecorpsconnect.org and diningforwomen. org for news on an upcoming partnership!
Can women overcome Middle East and North African law and custom? By Maria A. Longi
recently had a chance to meet three generations of women in Irbid, Jordan’s second largest city. We were sitting in the family’s newly opened bakery, iCupcake, tucked away on a street just off the busy city center. The owner, Milana Al Mushasha, had been making and selling deserts from her home—sometimes with the help of her mother and her daughter—for more than five years. But the hurdles she described in moving from a home-based informal business to a proper commercial shop would have caused less determined small business owners to give up. “I could have easily stopped after the municipality shut down my shop the first time, but my dream was far too big to give up,” Al Mushasha says. “It’s never easy, especially when you have a family to look after, but I feel very hopeful about the future.” Now her shop is full of female university students who find it a safe place to study and chat, and she is providing job opportunities for other young women. Milana Al Mushasha had financial and other support from the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development, under our local enterprise support project, when she expanded and formalized her business. But the challenges she told me about are widespread in the region. Barriers to economic opportunities Women in the Middle East and North Africa are better educated and more highly skilled than ever, and there is wide agreement among development experts
that women can help boost regional economies. But many of those economies are missing out, in part because of genderbased legal restraints on full economic and political participation. The World Bank’s Woman, Business and the Law report says women are cut off from entrepreneurship and formal employment by laws that prohibit married women from becoming heads of households, applying for a passport, or getting a job without permission from their husbands. That report also says this region is home to 11 of the world’s most restrictive economies in terms of women’s ability to work or establish a business. Another World Bank report says, “The MENA region loses more economic potential due to low female economic participation than any other region of the world.” More broadly speaking, overall job creation in the private sector has been too slow to absorb the large and growing number of young jobseekers, men and women alike. And within this already limited sphere, women are unable to compete on an equal footing. Young women face unemployment rates as high as 40 percent in some parts of the region. At USAID, we are working with our local partners to boost inclusive economic and political participation across MENA and around the world. These efforts must be specific to each country’s context, and a systematic focus on the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment is integrated into all our programming. Our focus is on the economic and political challenge to society, rather than on one gender, with a critical policy challenge being the
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iCupcake owner Milana Mushasha (second from right) invited USAID’s Maria Longi (third from left) to see her start-up bakery in Irbid, Jordan, accompanied by women of her family who supported Al
creation of a large and diverse set of job opportunities for women and men. Even if jobs are created, targeted efforts are needed to increase women’s participation in both economic and political spheres. These include changes in policies to secure women’s equality under the law, addressing the frequent mismatch between the skills employers need and the skills workers have, and actively promoting women’s full and independent economic, civic and political participation. The problems are even more apparent due to the demographic shifts in the region, where conflict has resulted in a marked increase in female-headed households. Those heads of households frequently lack work opportunities, face mobility restrictions as well as food insecurity, and are often excluded from economic transactions. USAID creates opportunities In the Middle East and North Africa region, USAID and its local partners recognize the challenges and the opportunities in women’s economic and political participation. For example, in Tunisia, our Business Reform and Competitiveness Project has worked with more than 300 enterprises and created more than 15,000 new private-sector jobs. Of these 300 enterprises, nearly 10 percent were female-owned; and of the 15,000 new jobs, nearly 60 percent were filled by women. This project, like many other economic development projects, includes a component to improve the laws and rules that affect private business, in a country where traditionally the most attractive jobs were in the public sector.
Reforms to boost private sector job creation and entrepreneurship, including access to finance, may open a diverse set of opportunities to bring more women into productive employment. In individual cases in Tunisia and elsewhere, women’s economic participation sometimes comes down to a simple challenge: matching a jobseeker’s specific skills to an employer’s specific needs. Take the example of Tahini Mahdweni, a young woman who graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in electronics. Through a new USAID-supported career center at her school, she learned to advertise her skills in a CV and practiced interviews. She now has a job with Shams, a small solar energy company in Kairouan, in the interior of Tunisia. Crucial political links Back in Jordan, USAID supported a unique, cross-cutting gender program called “Takamol” – a name that comes from a unique Arabic expression that connotes a harmonizing and synergetic relationship between men and women. The program included research and data collection, a popular media campaign called “Faces of Takamol” as well as economic and political empowerment activities. One of the participants is Kawthar Al-Ma’dat, a retired school principal who is now a member of Takamol’s National Women Leaders’ Network. Recently, she became an elected member of the local council in Al’arida, Jordan. “In the recent elections, thankfully, I won a seat competitively against 18 other candidates. Now, I am a member of the local and municipal councils which include four other women,” Al-Ma’dat says in a
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recent Facebook post. “The main thing that pushed me to run for the elections is my belief that women understand other women’s needs better, also it is easier for a woman to ask for services from other women and a man might not even meet women’s demands.” Despite opposition, Al-Ma’Dat started the first women’s association in Al’arida. “Through my work, I was able to help with the employment of 200 young adults in the area in various factories in Sahab,” AlMa’Dat says. “I was also passionate about encouraging women to participate in political life, and I was able to successfully convince four women to run in the last elections. They all won.” In my Peace Corps assignment in Slupsk, northern Poland, I worked with two Polish women to enhance environmental education in their city—a key challenge in the former Warsaw Pact with an obvious impact on sustainable development efforts. In my work at USAID, the goal of sustainable development remains central. Along with our local partners, we recognize we will never reach that goal unless the whole population is engaged. Without a doubt, women in MENA face significant challenges in their quest for full economic participation and political empowerment. But these challenges are not just for women, they affect the whole society. Sustainable development cannot succeed without the participation of the entire population. Entrepreneurs like Milana Al Mushasha in Irbid and community leaders like Kawthar Al-Ma’dat in Al’arida demonstrate how societies benefit from inclusive economic and political development.
Maria A. Longi is acting assistant administrator for the Middle East at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Poland from 1997 to 1999.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
CAPITOL GALLERY HILL UPDATE
A SPY IN TAWARIQ This painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is titled "The Spy Zambur Brings Mahiya to the City of Tawariq," a folio from a “Hamzanama, or the Book of Hamza.” The ink, opaque watercolor with gold work on cloth is attributed to Mah Muhammad, an artist working in India in the 1570s. Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet,
traveled the world spreading the teachings of Islam. The story was a popular subject for public recitation in coffeehouses. Emperor Akbar commissioned the two-foot tall manuscript of 1,400 large illustrations to aid in public recitations. The work is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 464 in New York City.
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CELEBRATION OF WOMEN
Recognizing achievers in the Peace Corps spirit By Jody Olsen
omen of Peace Corps Legacy began in 2013 at a small gathering of women who had served as volunteers and/ or staff. Three years later we became a 501(c)(3) and an official NPCA affiliate group. We are a growing group of committed volunteers that come together through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and at NPCA gatherings. Our volunteers represent all generations of Peace Corps, former staff, former Volunteers, and those influenced by Peace Corps’ work. Our mission is based on our belief that our affiliation with Peace Corps has had a profound impact on our lives and that we, in turn, have had and want to continue to have an impact on our communities and our world. Our mission is to bring Peace Corps women together to serve communities and create a better world for future generations. The goals of Women of Peace Corps Legacy are to Celebrate the ongoing legacy of women of the Peace Corps; Inspire commitments to serve everywhere, and Expand and mobilize the network to leverage our talent, experience, and wisdom. We have four asks of women who have served as part of Peace Corps: Reflect on your service - how has it helped make you the person that you are and share those stories with us on our website; Mentor young women either formally or informally and let us know what happens in those relationships; Reach into your pockets and donate to organizations that impact women and girls; and Serve your communities in whatever way you can. We celebrate our achievements We are honoring these commitments through activities that encourage NPCA
affiliate groups, individuals committed to Peace Corps, and others to support work for women and girls. One of our most visible activities is the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award given yearly to recognize the accomplishments of women who have served as staff and/ or as volunteers and have continued in leadership roles supporting women and girls. Its namesake, Deborah Harding, was instrumental in including gender programming into Peace Corps legislation as well as devoting a lifetime of service to women and girls both internationally and domestically. I encourage you to Google her to learn of her amazing achievements. This award is presented at the NPCA’s Connect annual conferences. In 2016, President of Liberia Ellen JohnsonSirleaf presented the first award to Sara Goodkind, who served in Romania and in the 1990’s established the first Girls Leading Our World camp, a tradition of Peace Corps service known as Camp GLOW. Goodkind subsequently focused her career on issues of violence against
award which will be presented at the NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect national gathering on August 23 through 25 at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in the Pocono mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. Anyone is eligible to nominate. Information and the applications are accessible at www. womenofpeacecorpslegacy.com and at www.peacecorpsconnect.org. We are accepting applications through March 31, 2018. Please nominate someone who has continued to serve women and girls beyond her Peace Corps experience. We offer visibility to organizations specifically for supporting women and girls. NPCA and WPCL host webinars that highlight organizations and issues related to women and girls. We recently featured the non-profit organization, “Dining for Women,” an organization that raises money for girls’ activities throughout the world and then makes grants to grassroots organizations. The webinar is archived on the NPCA and WPCL websites. Our December webinar highlights organizations countering violence against women. Future webinars will include NPCA affiliate group leaders as they celebrate international Women’s Day on March 8, 2018, interviews with WPCL women of achievement award winners, organizers of girls’ programs for international day of the girl child on October 11, 2018, and other topics. We tweet at least weekly about NPCA affiliates and other organizations and their work with women and girls. We post
Examples abound of women who served in Peace Corps who after their service became social entrepreneurs to give back to their communities of service including on behalf of women and girls. women. The second award was presented at Peace Corps Connect last summer by the acting director, Sheila Crowley, to Dee Aker who served in Colombia and spent the last 17 years at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Studies at the University of San Diego. We are now accepting nominations through March 31, 2018, for our third
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regularly on Facebook and are building a database of organizations from which to draw information. This database will be available at the NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect in August. Those engaged with us in Women of Peace Corps Legacy will give a day of service in Washington DC for International Womens’ Day on March 8. Stay tuned via our social media outlets
for more information. Women of Peace Corp Legacy will donate annually to GLOW projects through the Peace Corps Small Projects Fund on behalf of Women of Achievement awardees. Examples abound of women who served in Peace Corps who after their service became social entrepreneurs to give back to their communities of service including on behalf of women and girls. They include: Kate Solomon, the chief executive officer of Babo Botanicals in Paraguay; Sherry Manning who leads Denver-based Friends of ENCA Farms
to support ecotourism and the training of organic farmers in Benquet Province in the Philippines; and Lisa Curtis who founded Kuli Kuli, a company that promotes the healthful products of the Moringa plant produced in Niger. We consider Women of Peace Corps Legacy to be a movement of all of us who have been touched by Peace Corps. While we are not a membership organization we hope that you will join us on social media and actively engage in our three goals and our four asks. You can contact us through email@example.com.
A widespread group in Florida wins for commitment By Jonathan Pearson
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT… NPCA and its affiliate groups regularly conduct a nationwide sign-on letter to the President, urging strong support for Peace Corps funding. 106 affiliate groups signed onto this year’s letter, requesting increased funding for the Peace Corps in the fiscal year 2019 budget request that President Trump will submit to Congress in early 2018. In our recent letter we wrote, “Like America’s other proud and distinguished service members, a Peace Corps volunteer’s mission is never complete. That is why, since 1961, over 225,000 of us have returned home from service committed to transforming America. Imbued with unique skills and experiences and primed to tackle society’s most pressing issues in a leadership role, we have banded together through affiliate groups to take matters into our own hands, positively impacting and improving every corner of American society—at no added cost to the government.”
nature and complexity of activities. One of the more recent developments is a proposal to work with a Rotary Club under the new Partnering for Peace initiative on a water project in Guatemala. The initial assessment will be conducted by engineering students from the University of North Florida. RECORD BREAKER In their own backyard, First Coast The Friends of Fiji report that the Floridians conducted fundraising and past two years have been record-breaking awareness-raising events focusing on in project contributions. Since the topics ranging from domestic violence and beginning of 2016, the group disbursed homelessness, to refugee resettlement more than $49,000 to support a variety and job training. The group has sponsored of projects in Fiji. This includes support international movie events, baked and for Peace Corps Partnership Projects distributed more than 1,000 cookies focused on the construction of key to raise financial support for local refugees, pressed for strong Peace Corps policies in Congress and greeted new citizens at naturalization ceremonies. Proof of the success of their programs is the expansion of their network of members. John Metz (67-71) and Kathleen Macleod (64-66) were among 150 Peace With more Corps Iran Association members attending workshops on Iran current than 200 members, events, arts and advocacy in Annapolis, Maryland in October. CAROLYN YALE
Twelve years after it was founded, the First Coast RPCVs—a group whose membership stretches a long way along our southeast coast shores from Daytona, Florida to Brunswick, Georgia—was honored to receive the 2017 Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service. Some of the members are separated by as much as 150 miles of 1-95 Interstate and a drive time that can exceed three hours. But the distance does not discourage them. In accepting the Ruppe award at the NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect conference this past summer, Rosemary Takacs said the process of getting this group together happened pretty much “in the same way that atoms attract to make molecules: a couple (returned) Peace Corps Volunteers bumped into each other and we became inseparable.” Takacs said that from the beginning, the membership of this affiliate was “born busy.” They hosted happy hours, an annual Partnership Dinner to support in-country projects of currently serving volunteers. The group’s infrastructure – with bylaws, board elections, a group treasury and social media – culminated with the group attaining its non-profit 501(c)(3) status within the first three years of existence. As the group has grown, so has the
First Coast is planning a satellite branch in St. Augustine, which is just south of Jacksonville.
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 29
infrastructure in communities, including composting toilets, rain catchments, school construction and computers for school libraries. Most recently, the group’s 2017 Gala Fundraiser raised over $16,000 to repair the Navatusila District School in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.
PARENTS TEACH CHILDREN Through a grant from the Open Society Foundations and its own fundraising, the Friends of Liberia's two-year-old Family Literacy Initiative has brought them together with the WE-CARE Foundation and HIPPY International in a pre-school preparation program that provides parents with the skills, tools and confidence to become their child’s first teacher. The project works in three communities of Liberia’s northwest coast and has recently doubled participation to 120 families and more than 130 children.
ADVOCATES IN SALT LAKE CITY Even while they are creating their leadership structure, the fledgling RPCV Association of Utah worked with NPCA staff to meet in Salt Lake City and Ogden with two members of Congress, Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah’s second Congressional District. A half dozen RPCVs expressed support for strong funding for the Peace Corps and Peace Corps health legislation now before the House of Representatives.
SERVING TOGETHER One bright sunny Saturday morning dozens of volunteers at the 2017 Peace Corps Connect in Denver joined local RPCV leaders harvesting an array of peppers, tomatoes, squash, and chard as part of RPCVs of Colorado is continuing community garden collaboration with Grow Local Colorado. The harvest was delivered to the Gathering Place, Denver’s only daytime drop-in center that serves women, children and transgender individuals who are confronting poverty and homelessness. The RPCVs of Colorado have donated more than 800 hours of service in the last seven years, harvesting produce valued at $4,500.
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SHARING WITH SENEGAL Bokk Baby delivers baby apparel to Moms across the Atlantic
argaret Davidson and I met while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal. When Margaret returned to the States from Senegal, she came home to a newborn nephew, John, who was quickly outgrowing all of his infant clothes. Margaret’s sister had already filled their closet with barely worn onesies, blankets, and other clothing items, and now had no idea what to do with them. After returning from Senegal, we moved to Denver together and both began working for nonprofits. Being passionate about the environment and having become especially interested in the impact of the global fast fashion industry, we decided to combine the creativity and skills we both bring to the table and start Bokk Baby, a sustainable baby clothing company and social enterprise. Bokk (vb; \bōk\) means “to share” in Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal. A lot of parents acquire an abundance of outgrown baby clothes in great condition, without a convenient way to donate them to those in need. We couldn’t find any brands with a commitment to both sustainable manufacturing and post-consumer responsibility. Instead of feeding more textiles to a landfill, we imagined giving high-quality, gently used baby clothing a second life. We all share the same planet and we believe we all have a responsibility to take better care of it for the next generation. As we launch Bokk Baby online in early 2018, we’re taking a full-circle approach to sustainable children’s apparel by recycling second-hand baby clothes to new mothers in Senegal. The audience at NPCA’s Connect
By Danny White
A Senegalese supporter shows a Bokk Baby package.
conference in Denver last summer awarded Bokk Baby a $3,300 prize during a competition among pilot social enterprises sponsored by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado. Bokk to Senegal For our products, we’re using organic, natural fibers like hemp, bamboo, and organic cotton to produce soft and durable clothes for babies from birth to two years of age. From fabric milling to finished onesies, these garments are hand-crafted in partnership with several Los Angelesarea manufacturers that share some of our core principles: reducing waste, providing fair wages, and helping to revive the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry. Our first collection includes blankets, three styles of onesie in our bamboo/ organic cotton blended fabric, as well as a raglan sweatshirt and jogger pant in our hemp/organic cotton blended fabric. We focused on creating cozy, classic styles
printed in original patterns that we design ourselves. Individual apparel items in our collection range from $20 to $50. Our signature gift boxes for Mom+Baby ($150 retail) contain apparel from our collection, organic bath and body products from Clary Collection, a small-batch organic skincare line for the whole family, and a special gift for Mom made by artisans in Senegal. We include a pre-paid return shipping label in our gift box, so parents can send back to us at our office in Denver gently used baby clothing and blankets of any brand. Additionally, we are offering our customers a “trade in/size up” loyalty program, where they can receive a discount on another item when they send us back their outgrown Bokk Baby apparel. We sort, clean, and package all donations we receive into individual Bokk Bundles. The bundles are then shipped in bulk to health facilities in rural Senegal through a partnership with Senegal’s Ministry of Health. Each woman who gives birth in one of our partnering rural clinics receives a take-home Bokk Bundle. Each bundle contains: a receiving blanket, a couple of infant clothing outfits, and important health information. Delivering the bundles to new moms in Senegal helps to advance one of the Ministry of Health’s primary objectives--to encourage women to have their babies in official health facilities under the care of trained midwives. Our donation program in Senegal is funded entirely by sales from our e-commerce store, and as we grow we hope to expand into more health facilities in Senegal, the United States, and the rest of the world. Bokk Baby’s co-founders Margaret Davidson and Danny White served in Linguère, Xol Xol and Dakar from 2012 to 2014. She was a health volunteer and worked with her village to renovate the local community health facility. As an urban agriculture volunteer Danny helped manage vegetable gardens at a hospital, youth prison, and high school.
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 31
A volunteer inspires local organic farmers in the Philippines By Sherry Manning
Last August Friends of ENCA Farm was honored to win the judges choice award during the Partnering for Prosperity Social Entrepreneur Competition at the NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect Conference in Denver. The competition was organized by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado to showcase the work of RPCVs who continue to serve around the globe. The funds won during the competition will help to purchase packaging materials for ENCA seeds, to train participating farmers in small-business development, and to implement an inventory tracking system for the production and sale of native seeds throughout the community. By empowering small-holder farmers, we can further the sustainable food supply revolution. Through education and cooperative community empowerment, farmers begin to return to the historical practice of saving their own seeds. This ensures they are no longer dependent on purchasing seeds after each planting and forced to use harmful chemicals to grow their food. To learn more about Global Seed Savers, check out encaorganicfarm.org and learn how you can get involved with their seed-saving work in the Philippines.
my host family strengthen their ENCA More than 2 billion people in the Farm Community and teach the larger world—and most of the people in community about organic farming the Philippines—rely on food that is practices. Filipino small-holder farmers produced by small-holder farmers, those are trying to return to the historic practice who farm less than 2 hectares of land. of saving their own seeds and ending their But three major chemical companies own dependence on purchasing chemical and the majority of the world’s seed stock expensive un-savable seeds from local and much of their engineered seed is farm supply stores. dedicated not to growing food for families I returned to the Philippines two but to supply a vast agricultural industry years after my service in 2010, as their with seeds that grow crops such as soy, plans evolved. We have just announced ethanol, cotton and tobacco. they have become Global Seed Savers, Inspired by the vision of my Philippine part of an international non-government host family, the Cosalans, I founded organization that supports and advocates Friends of ENCA Farm seven years for hunger-free and healthy communities ago in Tublay, a town in the northern with access to sustainable farmerPhilippines. I called it ENCA to honor produced seeds and food. Enrique and Carmen Cosalan, the owners, Global Seed Savers partners with because I wanted to ensure the future the Benguet Association of Seed Savers, of their organic and sustainable farming which has 20 farmer members, to build a practices. social-enterprise organic seed business in The family had won a landmark the Philippines. By ensuring that smallSupreme Court case in which the national holder farmers have access to locally government tried to take their land right produced, regionally adapted organic away. The 45-hectare farm had suffered seeds and launching a sustainable, farmer Sherry Manning is founder of Friends of from years of environmental destruction led, owned, and operated seed business, ENCA Farm. She started her work with the by a large upstream mining company, and the project is an intelligent solution to a Cosalans in 2006. She attended the Rocky has been in the Acop and Cosalan families complex issue. Mountain Alliance’s seed school in 2010. for more than a century. After the court victory, the family turned the land into an ecotourism site and community environment education space and have worked hard to preserve and restore the Ibaloi culture and organic farming practices on the farm. ENCA Farms became my Peace Corps service project to help Farmers of the Benguet sat for a photograph at the May launch of their seed library in Tublay’s municipal hall.
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KAREN LEE HIZOLA
SEEDS TO SHARE
IS PEACE CORPS WORTH IT? A Heritage Foundation conservative says yes By Joshua Meservey
writer should usually begin an opinion piece with a bold assertion or surprising fact, but I am going to defy convention by writing this: I did not encounter many fellow political conservatives when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on the Linking Income, Food, and the Environment project in Muyembe village in Zambia from 2006 to 2009. The reality that most volunteers are liberal poses a challenge for Peace Corps advocates when budget season rolls around. We know the value of speaking the local language, but there are not many fluent Republican speakers in the ranks of those who support Peace Corps. That should not stop anyone from advocating for Peace Corps with conservatives and Republicans, however. I do not speak for all conservatives, obviously, but I consider myself representative. I think Peace Corps is a worthwhile U.S. program, and my reasoning might provide insights into how other conservatives could view this issue. A big part of my affection for Peace Corps stems from my gratitude for the opportunity it gave me to have a meaningful, unique experience. However, the litmus test I use when judging the value of a U.S. government program is whether it sufficiently strengthens the U.S. to justify its expense. I think Peace Corps does. U.S. interests are key for me, not just because the U.S. embodies a unique set of values—however imperfectly realized—that I believe best promotes human flourishing, but also because the people I love the most live in the U.S. My family and many of my closest friends are all here, and I want them to have the best possible life. Peace Corps contributes to that goal in a small but real way. The agency is understandably concerned about being
viewed as an instrument of U.S. statecraft because of the complications that could bring to Volunteers. However, the reality is that Peace Corps is a part of U.S. public diplomacy, the message we send to people in other countries. In my work, I not infrequently hear Africans from a variety of countries speak fondly of a PCV they knew. That impact is impossible to quantify and should not be overstated, but it exists.
The litmus test I use when judging the value of a U.S. government program is whether it sufficiently strengthens the U.S. to justify its expense. Diplomatic training wheels The reason I find most compelling to support Peace Corps, however, is that it provides an almost unparalleled training ground for (mostly) young Americans who will go on to work in foreign policy and other fields. I know of no other organization that trains Americans in a broad range of languages, enables them to gain intimate knowledge of far-flung countries, and provides them the chance to build professional skills and the knowledge and confidence for competently navigating radically different cultures in as intensive a way as Peace Corps does. The value of having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer is obvious in my own career. My skepticism, reflected in the reports I have written on the topic, that more peace negotiations in South Sudan can currently succeed partially comes from Peace Corps drilling into me the
Meservey conducts beekeeper training in Muyembe in 2007.
truth that an initiative will be fruitful only if the participants are invested in its success. In Zambia we knew the concept as “stakeholder involvement” and spoke of it in the context of humanitarian development, but it applies to international peace negotiations as well. I believe that our development aid should focus on helping countries unleash people’s creativity, hard work, and entrepreneurialism. That belief was strengthened by my time in Zambia. I well remember watching village friends with few resources creatively solve various problems: a friend soldering together a plastic flip-flop using a burning coal from a brazier, for instance. I remember watching farmers plod home at twilight from working in their fields during the hunger season, often sustained all day by only a cassava tuber and a few handfuls of groundnuts. The work ethic and determination to succeed is there for many, but one of the things lacking is a competent, right-sized regulatory environment that provides the basic protections necessary for strong economic growth. I also remember how corruption and feckless government policies created an environment where opportunity was rare. I will always remember a conversation I had with a Zambian friend who wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. He told me those
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 33
dreams were unattainable because he did not qualify for one of the few bursaries to university the government gave. He guessed he would instead ask the village chief for a plot of land and become a farmer. Farming is a noble profession, and there was great happiness in my village full of farmers. Yet I will never forget the sound of resignation in my friend’s voice. Zambia lessons The memory of the failures of some of my development plans for my village frequently reminds me of how hard it is to understand the complexities of foreign countries. The listless collapse I observed of other development projects makes me cautious about top-down solutions imposed by elites. I am keenly aware that the danger of my misunderstanding a critical dynamic of an overseas challenge is today even greater as I live thousands of miles from the places I write about. Living in a Zambian village made some previously abstract truths more real. I was reminded daily of how deep culture runs, but also that below it lies our common humanity. Those vivid demonstrations of the fact that people everywhere have the same fundamental impulses inform the policy proposals I write and hopefully make those ideas more workable. My Peace Corps experience infuses every aspect of my thinking on what U.S. policy to Africa should be. My reasons for supporting Peace Corps would not convince all conservatives—and some liberals—who are skeptical of the agency. We should treat their counterarguments seriously, engage with them respectfully, and be alert for where Peace Corps reforms are necessary. Yet I am convinced that Peace Corps is a net positive for the U.S., something that all Americans from across the political spectrum can support. The views expressed are those of Joshua Meservey and should not be construed as an official position of the Heritage Foundation, where he is a senior policy analyst for Africa and the Middle East. He worked in refugee resettlement in East Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer and later worked for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.
WHAT WE WRITE ABOUT Reviews of books by RPCVs On the Edge: An Odyssey By Stephen E. Murphy published by Odyssey Chapters via CreateSpace, 2016 188 pages, $15.95 paperback, $5.99 Kindle Reviewed by Bob Arias Harvard missed an opportunity to welcome young Steve from Seattle, and work on his MBA with Boston’s finest… their loss, our gain! On the Edge, An Odyssey takes you from the Northwest to Boston to Rio and South America on a journey full of surprises and adventure, as well as his service in the administrations of Bush 1 and Bush 2. I found his book both exciting and a joy to explore funny
moments as Steve becomes an adult in Brazil. But before he can continue, Vietnam calls and he becomes a U.S. Navy Lieutenant junior grade, and finds himself as a participant in the war. Steve, or as the Brazilians call him… Estive, never allows grass to grow under his feet, always on the go. He gives us a view of an individual searching for his place in life. Never a dull moment. At his lowest point with no clear picture of who he is, he considers ending things, but first talks to a local Boston priest who tells him, “pay attention to the little things in life, that is what matters.” I met Steve at Peace Corps where he was briefly a Bush administration political appointee (Schedule C) at the Peace
The site for Peace Corps writers These reviews have previously appeared on PeaceCorpsWriters.com, an online publisher of Peace Corps literature that was created by novelist John Coyne and designer Marian Haley Beil, who met while serving in Ethiopia from 1961 to 1963. They started out hosting a 1986 panel discussion of Peace Corps writing at Peace Corps’ 25th anniversary and three years later founded a 4-page quarterly print newsletter that tracked the work of other Peace Corps writers. A year later they began giving annual writing awards – and in recent years have awarded cash prizes - in a variety of genre at NPCA national conferences. “We saw our publication as a way of sharing information about publications, readings, writing grants, and teaching positions for RPCVs,” says Coyne. As RPCV
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Writers & Readers the newsletter grew to 20 pages, published six times a year and launched then online as PeaceCorpsWriters.org. At the 2010 celebration of the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, Coyne and Beil organized a celebration of Peace Corps Writers at the Library of Congress with the aid of Congressman John Garamendi and his wife, Patti, who had also served in Ethiopia. Since founding their own imprint, Peace Corps Writers, Coyne and Beil have published 75 books written by Peace Corps Volunteers, and most are about the Peace Corps experience. Most are on Kindle, some are in print. They continue to promote and recognize Peace Corps writers and have broadened their literary mission and asked RPCVs to contribute blogs to their site.
Corps as Regional Director for the InterAmericas Region (02-03.) He had a special appreciation for Latin Americans, this man from Seattle. As a native speaker, he functions in Portuguese, Spanish, and some French. Steve fully understands the cultural differences and challenges of day-to-day contacts. Learning who Estive is kept me focused on his book and very interesting life… difficult to put down! I would recommend On the Edge to recent graduates and folks going into retirement, asking what is next in life. If you are searching, this book can share with you what is really important… the small things in life! Steve’s motto is simple, “Live life to the fullest.” Or as the Colombians would say, chevere, or awesome! And if you have time, try a Café Cubano and Ropa Vieja… life will never be the same! Stephen E. Murphy was Inter-Americas regional director 02-03. Reviewer Bob Arias served in Colombia from 1964 to 1966, became language director for Camp Radley, Puerto Rico in 1964, Colombia associate director in 1968, and Uruguay and Argentina country director in 1993. India-40 and the Circle of Demons By Peter S. Adler published by Xlibris, 2017 406 pages, $23.99 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle), $34.99 (hard cover) Reviewed by Richard M. Grimsrud This well-written and almost perfectly presented memoir was generally slow going for me at the beginning, became a page-turner largely because of its excellent irony in its extended middle section, and bogged down some at the end, because it was a bit verbose and excessively philosophical in its conclusion. Nevertheless, India-40 with the lengthy subtitle, A Memoir of Death, Sickness, Love, Friendship, Corruption, Political Fanatics, Drugs, Thugs, Psychosis, and Illumination in the U.S. Peace Corps . . . is certainly a good read for anyone with an interest in India and its development over the last half-century, and everyone with some experience in the Peace Corps. The opening section of the book “Departures” and especially Chapter 7 well captured the bonds formed during
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training by any group of Peace Corps Volunteers in learning a new language, often a new skill, and certainly a new culture in which all will be immersed for the next several years. I found the pre-training narrative somewhat longer than I expected, but the setting for the American milieu at the time of training in pages 10 to 14 was interesting and artfully done. On the other hand, I found the time shifts during “Departures” up to 2013 in Chapters 4 and 7 discombobulating and maybe effecting some anachronisms in the rest of the text like the reference to the “hanta virus” on page 113, an unknown phenomenon till the ’80s, I think. But the use of this otherwise apt metaphor there points to one of India40’s greatest strengths, the way Mr. Adler observed things throughout his Peace Corps experience, particularly in India, and his pungent sense of humor kept the narrative moving throughout the book and, in the end, made it a fun read. I must say, though, I think the “Departures” Part was too long, and I could hardly wait for the author’s group to get to India (although that may well have been exactly his intent). When India-40 did get there, things very quickly gained momentum in the Second Part called “Initiations.” From about page 127, where the protagonist reached his duty station in Khed, until the farewell party there at page 304, I was mostly captivated and covered all those pages in little more than a day. At first, I was irritated by the repeated intrusions of Shiva(ji) in the action, but by the end I began to see the method in Mr. Adler’s madness especially since his narrative applied to his home state of Maharashtra. Spending my service on the other side of India in Bihar, where Rama and Buddha were king, the history of Shivaji presented by India-40 gave me an excellent insight into a very different area of a very complex and variegated country. Then too Mr. Adler seemed to slide into a different register down the way when he told of the pretty Japanese-
American woman in India-44 who got under his cynicism enough to become his life-mate and the mother of their three daughters. I think their respective renditions of their first date on pages 261 to 270 as “the world trembled” may be the high point of the whole work. In any event, when I reached page 383 of this tome, I had gained an appreciation for the sweat and skill which the author poured into India-40 and the Circle of Demons: A Memoir of Death, Sickness, Love, Friendship, Corruption, Political Fanatics, Drugs, Thugs, Psychosis, and Illumination in the U.S. Peace Corps. Like any reader, I suspect, I was stunned at the Coda’s revelation that several of the book’s most engaging characters were a figment of his creativity and imagination. On top of everything else I learned from Mr. Adler, through reading about the “demons” in his Peace Corps experience, it is clear that
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quite a fiction writer lurks within him. India-40 is obviously a labor of love that will touch any RPCV, and an enjoyable labor well worth the investment at that. Author Peter S. Adler served in Maharashtra, India 66-68. Reviewer Richard M. Grimsrud, served as a health-transport and drought-relief volunteer in Bihar 65-67. In the Belly of the Elephant: A Memoir of Africa By Susan Corbett published by CreateSpace, 2016 396 pages, $14.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Brooks Marmon In the Belly of the Elephant is Susan Corbett’s memoir of her life as an aid worker with Save the Children in Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in the early
1980s, following her Peace Corps service in Liberia. Amidst descriptions of a hard scrabble life in Dori, a small town near the border with Niger, Corbett weaves in occasional reminiscences of her service in Liberia and the harsh attitudes of many of her family members in the US to her decision to work in west Africa. Much of the work can be quite jarring—a reflection of both Corbett’s experiences in the harsh climate of the Sahel as well as an extremely candid writing style. While the book is not the optimistic coming-of-age story that the rising sun and sprouting tree on the cover art suggested, Corbett effectively illustrates the struggles of an expatriate worker outside of the comfortable posting of a capital city. She also seems to have had a knack for getting ensconced in drama—both romantic and political. Corbett left Liberia shortly before a
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1 Approximate amount. Award covers up to 30% of the application program fee. 2 $2,000 award for non-residents, $3,000 for residents. 3 Approximate amount. Applied as a credit to non-resident tuition fee.
For more on our commitment to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers visit moore.sc.edu or contact our full-time MBA team, firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.803.777.3709 Mary Soike, IMBA 2018 – Spanish Track, RPCV – environmental education Volunteer, Guzman, Mexico
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WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 37
coup in 1980, was in Burkina Faso amidst a coup there the same year, and was caught up in an attempted coup in Kenya while vacationing there in 1982. The description of the latter event was one of the book’s highlights. The rightward drift of American politics following the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency and a running discourse on the nefarious role of the CIA in Latin America and the Middle East also constitutes a significant backdrop to Corbett’s experience.
Corbett’s tales of both expat social gatherings and professional life will likely resonate with many Peace Corps Volunteers and Western aid workers. Again, Corbett’s recollections are quite frank. Her Peace Corps boyfriend, Rob, with whom she initially maintains a longdistance relationship dumps her by letter, including a high-end Swiss Army knife in the package. Briefly reflecting on the intent of this perplexing break-up gift, she quickly cuts that exercise off and simply
School of International and Public Affairs and The Earth Institute
concludes that he’s a “son of a bitch.” Although grounded in Burkina Faso, the book ventures to a number of African locales—The Gambia, Senegal, Kenya, and Somalia—as the author goes on holiday and considers a new job opportunity. Unlike many writers, Corbett doesn’t choose to focus on the immediate surroundings of these journeys. Instead, they form a backdrop to the various challenges that Corbett is facing in charting the trajectory of her social and professional life. The composite picture that emerges is a harsh one that can be a bit difficult to digest—“the bloodbaths of Liberia, the poverty of Upper Volta, the sorrow of Somalia.” At times the book borders on an embrace of the more unfortunate tropes of Western writing on Africa—a voyage on the Niger river is described as a venture “into the heart of Africa” and Dori is described as existing “on the edge of the world.” However, Corbett’s blunt assessment of her experiences and the struggles they provoke provide an unvarnished insight on an aid worker’s psyche. She has bravely told a story that many others would be reticent to share, which makes for a fascinating read. Author Susan Corbett served in Liberia 76-79. Reviewer Brooks Marmon served in Niger 08-10 and later worked in Washington DC and Monrovia, Liberia. Seasoned: A Memoir of Grief and Grace by Tom Zink published by Off The Common Book, 2017 238 pages, $20 (paperback) Reviewed by Michael Varga
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38 | WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ National Peace Corps Association
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The death of Tom Zink’s older brother, Steve, at age 16 is a traumatic event in the life of the Zink family. Conservative Lutherans, the Zinks adhere to a gospel where a death is God’s will, unfolding, in all of its mystery. Tom is only 14 when he loses his brother as they are delivering newspapers and Steve is hit by a car. Tom relies on the adults around him to make sense of this tragic event. But the adults are grieving in their own solitary way and offer little help to the young Tom. He divides people into those who knew about Steve (the “before
people”) and those who didn’t (the “after people”). And since so many of those Tom meets are “after people” he shares nothing about Steve, his tragic death, or even that Tom once had an older brother. Tom feels unready to become the new “older brother” to his other siblings, and teasing from his Dad undercuts his confidence. He takes solace in the Paul Simon song, “I am A Rock,” since a rock feels no pain. For much of his life, Tom locks away his feelings about his loss in a frozen tundra, far from his daily reality. In a frank memoir, Tom Zink has written about his journey from that fateful day—and Peace Corps service in Micronesia in the late 1960s—and many jobs, to marriage and fatherhood. There are occasions when Tom is prompted to share his feelings about Steve, but his religious outlook and fear of others’ reactions preclude Tom’s opening up. Late in his journey, Tom learns that others who knew Steve—a pastor, for example— have used what happened to Steve as a point of exposition for individuals making religious retreats. Tom comes to see that he could have benefitted so much more from being open about the loss he suffered, what he learned from it, and listening to how others handle death. This is a well-written memoir by a man willing to share how many of the choices he made early in life proved to be misguided. There is a little too much factual reporting about who was serving on which committees at church and which sports which cousins were playing, but this is a narrative anyone who has experienced the death of a sibling or other close family member can relate to. Death is a challenge for any of us, and the key lesson is that grieving with others who feel the loss—articulating what we are experiencing and what we are learning about the journey of life—is a salve to make the pain more bearable. There is a grace to be had, even in confronting the loss of a loved one. Author Tom Zink served in Micronesia 68-70. Reviewer Michael Varga served in Chad 77-79 and has published a Peace Corps novel, Under Chad’s Spell. Varga is a retired diplomat, who served primarily in the Middle East.
A librarian returns to ancient Aksum By Peter V. Deekle
anet Lee, the dean of the Dayton Memorial Library at Regis University in Denver, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to explore how to create an open-access publishing house in Aksum, Ethiopia. The town is the thriving but isolated remnant of a kingdom that straddled the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea during the days of the Roman Empire. According to the title of her grant request, Lee wanted to ensure that faculty are provided “an opportunity to share their knowledge, perspectives and values and that students and colleagues have unfettered access to their collective scholarship.” She was bringing her professional skills back to familiar territory. For two years beginning in 1974, she taught English and helped create a small school library in Emdeber. She didn’t stop trying when she left in 1976. She returned a half dozen times. Follow up trips resulted in her establishing a library in northern Ethiopia, in Mekelle, during her sabbatical in 2010. Lee and another member of the Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs, Dwight Sullivan, proposed a children’s library within the Axum Heritage Foundation Library & Cultural Center in a former governor’s palace. Sullivan had served in Yergalem in southern Ethiopia from 1970 to 1972. The library operates under the auspices of the Ethiopian Community Development Council in Washington, D.C. When Lee’s plane landed in Addis in August, federal immigration officials rejected the photocopy of the resident identification card the University of Aksum had mailed to her weeks before. A university agent flew to Addis and delivered the original work permit. “There have been moments when I thought I had made a mistake coming
here,” she wrote soon after her arrival, “but I am really quite happy. I am starting to connect with people and that is what it is all about.” Welcome to Aksum When she arrived in Aksum, school officials confessed they had no faculty housing and efforts to find suitable accommodations within the town failed. Her work permit gave her a discount on a hotel room and meals—with wi-fi during mornings and late afternoons, and there she decided to stay. “The school administration supplied me a table, three chairs, a bookcase, a monitor and keyboard and a dedicated line with limited Internet access.” That’s when Janet learned that a computer program was installed for the library’s online catalog a year ago, but not a single record has been loaded in the interim. “My biggest challenge now is trying to get an administrative password,” she writes. “I believe that it may just be that some basic instruction is needed to get them started and it was not something that local technicians could do.” As soon as Sullivan arrived to join Lee on the community library project, they awaited the arrival of a shipment of books, shelving, and theater seats. This collaborative project promises to be more engaging in upcoming weeks. Lee says her guiding light is Peace Corps Volunteer Jeremy Moree who has extended for a third year to work on the community library on a full-time basis. Jeremy has shown her his favorite restaurants and friendliest shops, and got her up to speed on her iPhone, including setting up a wireless hotspot and downloading WhatsApp. She doesn’t even mind the frequent question, “Jeremy, is that your mother?”
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 39
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Daniel Lewis Foote (92-94) has been nominated to his first foreign service post as ambassador to Zambia. He has spent several years in the State Department’s drug enforcement operations. He joined the State Department in 1998 after teaching high school Spanish and coaching football and track.
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Her university colleagues “are more up-to-date on what is going on nationally” but Lee follows world news from BBC programming. To improve her language literacy, she hired a tutor to give her a refresher course on the Amharic alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar. Lee also receives State Department travel warnings but says Peace Corps gives her access to more about what’s going on around her through the grapevine. In spite of the needed adjustments, Lee has lots of good things to say about the resourcefulness of people in Aksum. “Progress is seen in small steps. There is a saying, ‘Little by little, the egg begins to walk.’ It has become my daily mantra. “Needless to say, my Peace Corps experience has made this transition easier, patience, flexibility, accommodating the unexpected, living with a sense of wonder.”
“The IBEAR MBA Program is the toughest program you’ll ever love” Elizabeth Stokely, RPCV Ecuador, 2011-2013, IBEAR 2016 Graduate
The University of Denver recently announced that Chris Hill (74-76) has been named a professor of the practice of diplomacy and chief advisor to the university chancellor Rebecca Chopp for global engagement. Hill has served as dean of the school’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies for seven years. He served as a U.S. diplomat alongside Richard Holbrooke during the Dayton Peace Talks for Bosnia, and as ambassador to Iraq, Macedonia, Poland and the Republic of Korea and in 2008 attempted negotiations of a nuclear treaty with North Korea.
COSTA RICA Taylor Westfall (12-15) is now a State Department program analyst monitoring
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and evaluating overseas programs. She had briefly interned in the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and held a graduate internship with World Learning.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Joe Acaba (94-96) was awarded the additional seat on NASA’s Expedition 53-54 mission to the International Space Station. Acaba and astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos launched on Russian Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft in Kazakhstan for almost six months at the space station. Acaba had only six months to prepare for the flight.
studies at Tulane University. She will be examining the perceptions of the health of adults over 60 years old in Paraguay.
has also served at diplomatic missions in Kenya and Tanzania.
Peter V. Deekle is NPCA Achievements Coordinator. He served in Iran from 1968 to 1970.
President Donald Trump nominated career diplomat Larry E. André, Jr. (83-85) on September 7 to serve as ambassador to the East African nation of Djibouti. André has been ambassador to Mauritania since September 2014. André
GUINEA Meghan McCormick (11-13) is the new chief executive officer of Osez Innover (French for Dare to Innovate), an up-andcoming social entrepreneurship company that spans three countries in West Africa and is helping to build the region’s economy by teaching and supporting local youth who develop their own small businesses.
OMAN The executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services is Chris George (7779). In September the organization sponsored a multi-media exhibit in New Haven, Connecticut to personalize the light of the world’s refugees. The exhibit features the creative work of refugees with deep ties to the Middle East with a focus to expand the definition of refugees beyond war and violence.
PARAGUAY Hannah Kaufman (08-11) was recently awarded a Fulbright research grant in public health for her PhD
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 41
ALL COURTESY OF ABAARSO SCHOOL
Abaarso School is a boarding school funded by an American philanthropist to train the nation’s future leaders.
THE ABAARSO EXAM
A school looks for Somaliland’s future leaders By Stephen Finney
here are ten of us. Two soldiers, Omar and Omar, hold AK-47’s loosely between their thighs. Liban, a 12th grader, straddles the gear shift, forcing himself into a front seat position between one of the Omars and Abbas. He has taken the center of the front that my friends in Cameroon where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer called the “petit-chauffeur.” From the back of the car, I see headscarves and the backs of heads. James, an American and the head of the Lower School and chief of the entrance exam process, spent the morning on the phone working our network of current students in a lastminute effort to recruit more young Somalis from a country divided by region, clan and gender. Right now James is stoically doubled with dysentery beside me. In front of us are four Abaarso graduates who now work for the school. Ubah is a girls’ dorm parent and head of the Orphanage Tutoring Program who calls out for Liban to turn up the music on the radio. Mustafe, the current Abaarso administrative assistant presses tight against the door with bags on his lap. He tells the story of being born under the shade of a desert tree while his mother herded goats. Both spent last year at U.S. boarding schools before returning to work for us. Kawsar, a current girls’
dorm parent, becomes airborne as the car hits a rut and she adjusts her headscarf tighter around her chin. Saciid is a Lower School teacher and dorm supervisor who rests his forehead against the window and is the only one of us that harbors any childhood memory of this region of the country. Sunlight filters through the tinted window glass of our Land Cruiser, illuminating particles of dust hovering in still, hot air as we bump along this stretch of abandoned desert landscape. It is late morning or early afternoon as our sense of time expands and compresses within this cramped near-claustrophobic journey. We are held somewhere between four empty horizons of eastern Somaliland and the boxes of entrance exams stacked to the ceiling, blocking my rear window view. I can see only the eyes of Abbas, our driver, in the rear-view mirror flitting back at us. All others in the car look ahead and consider the several days work ahead, registering and administering the Abaarso School entrance exam to hundreds of Somaliland youth and then returning to our adopted Abaarso compound-home. Recruiting in Burco The Republic of Somaliland survived a brutal civil war and declared its independence from Somalia in May 1991. Somaliland has made great
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strides, including establishing a stable government with peaceful elections but along with larger Somalia is still ranked as the world’s most fragile state by at least one global monitor. Three quarters of the people here are considered unemployed. There is not much infrastructure for sanitation, water, energy for electricity, roads, highways, or education. Our school is a private co-ed boarding school in Somaliland that was founded by an American hedge fund manager eight years ago to build a generation of educated and ethical local citizens to advance these two deeply troubled societies from a network of clans. We were spread out across the city of Burco to register public school students to take our entrance exam a few days before. They were a sea of young faces, children of nomads and children of government officials. Squeezed among them I saw the familiar faces of some Abaarso students home in Burco for the term break who volunteered to help register applicants and proctor exams. During the school year, Abaarso students collectively give 25,000 hours of community service through the orphanage tutoring program and tutoring in village primary schools near Abaarso. They have come as ambassadors for Abaarso. Hani in white Lower School hijab plants Moringa seeds in cardboard milk cartons at our school, but today she barks directions to these recruits, answers their questions and turns their chaos into queues. Rahma leads young boys and girls to another room to register and be photographed to prevent someone else from taking the exam for another student. Rahma is wearing the blue hijab of the Upper School where she usually sits in the front row of my English literature class because her glasses are broken. Looking upon them, each of their faces in focus amongst the blur, the image of these two young girls who lead is powerful. It is a vision of the future of Somaliland, a vision of each of them 10 years from now.
Testing day The following day, more than 300 students will take the exam. By the end of the 2017 more than 1400 students across Somaliland will take the exam to compete for one of only available spots this Fall term of 2017 in seventh-grade class. Half will be female and all will reflect a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. The growth in applicant numbers is significant not only because of a widening range of geographic areas and socioeconomic backgrounds, but also because of the promising narrowing of gender gap. During the 2009 entrance exam there were 126 total applicants, of which 107 were boys and 19 were girls. Last year, the 2016 entrance exam was administered to 1119 students, of which 707 were boys and 412 were girls. This year, the gap between the number of boy applicants
Abaarso, came to Burco a few years before to lead a registration effort amid fears of local parents that he and his school would corrupt their children. Starr and his team were met with insults and hurled rocks. “One man got in Jonathan’s face, shouting, ‘Go to hell!’” recalls Hinda, a local Somali and one of the school’s early supporters. “I’ll see you there,” Starr replied. Tenacity is one of three core virtues of Abaarso. The demand is so high in Burco that we now administer the exam for two days and have registered over 500 students in 2017. In the eight years since Abaarso school was established, the boarding school has gone from being target of terroristic threats, false rumors, and nearly shut-down on many occasions to gain the respect and support
Our school is a private co-ed boarding school in Somaliland that was founded by an American hedge fund manager eight years ago to build a generation of educated and ethical local citizens… and the number of girl applicants narrowed to 859 boys and 579 girls. We live, work and learn in a walled-off, razor wire, guarded school compound in the middle of a hill in the desert about 20 kilometers from Hargeisa. It becomes difficult to imagine where our students come from. I’m reminded of the gravity of Abaarso’s mission when we travel like this between public schools where teachers are not present, cheating is rampant, school lets out after a few hours, 50 students share benches crammed into a class, and a girl’s education is neglected. Abaarso has created a place that has a weight and a center that holds. It is worth the endeavor, a risk for all of us, teachers, students, and parents. The school founder Jonathan Starr, an American hedgefund manager and the founder of
of Somalilanders through the repeated, compounding success of Abaarso graduates who have gone on to Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia and MIT. During our recruiting, we ask and hear from children taking the entrance exam. Why do you want to come to Abaarso? To get a scholarship and go to America. With the fast rise in growth, Abaarso risks losing student alignment in why they want to be at Abaarso. Studying abroad may be a valuable opportunity, but the holistic education we deliver is of utmost importance. As a boarding school, we offer academic and personal growth to ensure that our students embody Abaarso’s three core values: Integrity, Tenacity, and Reasoning. Without these, our mission to nurture the next generation of leaders for Somaliland fails. After the first few weeks at Abaarso,
Half of Abaarso’s freshman class are women.
the students’ answer to the question “Why do you want come to Abaarso” will change to from “To get a scholarship and go to America” to “To learn to be a leader.” Welcome to El Afweyn As we climbing out of the car in another town, soldiers shout at us. Omar and Omar shout back, but we see that the soldiers have far larger guns. I look into a sideview mirror and see a single hand on the barrel of a machine gun mounted on a flat-bed truck. The moment passes and a soldier whose teeth and lips are green with khat leans forward and whispers in broken English, “Welcome to El Afweyn.” We walk through a small door, then a larger gate, down a narrow corridor to meet five tight-faced, shirts-buttonedto-the-top men seated on one side of an elliptical chipped wood veneer table. We sit on the opposite side and wait through a long, tension-filled silence. Finally, one of the five who is the guardian of eighth-grader Mohamed Jamac speaks. “As you can see, there are troubles here in El Afweyn. “We have been in a violent clan conflict for some time. There have been more recent incidents. Before, we shut the
WorldView ∙ Winter 2017 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 43
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schools down for many months, but now some of the students are returning. But, we don’t think any of them will come to take the entrance exam in Cerigavo. It is far and the road is bad. Maybe if you give it here, we can get a few to take it…” We look at each other. The man speaking to us is the guardian of Mohamed Jamac, a talented eighthgrade student with the nickname “The Professor.” I find it difficult to picture him watching skinny goats search for tufts of grass amongst the rocks. But he has been here, he has felt the tension, he has tended the goats. Mohamed has taken the very same entrance exam and received the phone call from Qarshe, the administrative assistant to the Lower School, congratulating him on his acceptance to Abaarso. So we left El Afweyn and tested applicants in the far eastern town of Cerigavo. When we returned to El Afweyn 40 students took the exam. One of them was accepted and will come to Abaarso next year. As we walk to the Land Cruiser to leave El Afweyn, an old man walks toward us, leaning heavily on a cane. He embraces Saciid, then waves at the rest of us. He stares through eyes cloudy with cataracts and greets us. “As-salamu alaykum.” We chorus-respond “Wa’alaykumu as-salam.” He presses down hard on his knotty wooden cane and turns to his path home. As we get in the car for the trip to Abaarso, Saciid turns to tell me something. That was my father. I ask where he came from. He walked from another far village, Saccid says. And how long ago did you last see him? Years, he replied. I cry a little, but blame it on the dust. Stephen Finney worked in an agroforestry project in Cameroon from 2009 to 2011. He has taught math, English, science and design theory and serves as co-head of the Upper School.
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