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Peace Corps Volunteers Organize Open Mic Night in Azerbaijan

Event encourages artistic expression in local youth


WASHINGTON, D.C., February 15, 2012 Peace Corps volunteers Dustin Windham of Rosenberg, Texas, and Kelly Windham of Austin, Texas, organize a monthly open mic night in northwestern Azerbaijan with dozens of high school and college-aged participants. During each My Microphone event, the students perform a variety of five-minute dance, song, story, music and poetry routines before a large audience.

Magnifying glass iconA youth participant reads during open mic night.After spending a few months in Azerbaijan it became clear to me that local youth have so much thought and creativity, but they struggle to find positive outlets to express themselves, said Kelly, an English teaching volunteer and graduate of Texas A&M University. Thats why we came up with the idea for My Microphone. The event draws on the countrys rich history of poetry, music and dance.

When the Windhams first arrived in northwestern Azerbaijan, they worked with local community members to identify an artistic venue that would foster community interaction. A basic plan for the open microphone night was created, and in the spring of 2011 the first My Microphone event took place in a local community theater.

Magnifying glass iconA group performance during open mic night.Participants of My Microphone place an emphasis on writing and creating their own songs, stories, dances and poems, said Dustin, a graduate of Texas A&M University who has been working as a business volunteer since 2010. This really empowers the participants and promotes creativity and personal expression in Azerbaijani youth.

About Peace Corps/Azerbaijan: More than 420 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Azerbaijan since the program was established in 2003. Currently, 155 volunteers serve in Azerbaijan. Volunteers work in the areas of education, youth development and community economic development. Volunteers are trained and work in Azerbaijani (Azeri).

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agencys mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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