Peace Corps Response assignments offer qualified Americans the opportunity to obtain considerable career experience, while accomplishing tangible results in a short period of time. Such assignments are challenging, but for Americans with significant work experience and an interest in serving overseas, the experience is extremely rewarding.
Positions range from three months to one year in length and are designed to address development needs as identified by the host country. Volunteers provide targeted assistance in diverse assignments covering a range of projects, including food security, civil engineering, information systems, library science, and university level teaching.
Agriculture and Environment
With increasing threats from pollution, climate change, and slash-and-burn agriculture, the need for introducing sustainable agricultural and environmental practices has never been greater. Peace Corps Response Volunteers provide critical interventions to host communities in such areas as food security, agribusiness, appropriate technologies, organic farming, ecotourism, environmental education, natural resource management, forestry, and much more.
Volunteers partner with multilateral organizations such as the U.N. World Food Program and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to increase crop productivity and eliminate barriers that contribute to food insecurity. Volunteers also provide assistance to host-country governmental agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environmental Protection to help shape policy on a regional or national level. Many Volunteers also partner directly with local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to encourage the adoption of sustainable conservation practices at the community level.
I find it useful to work in the fields with my Panamanian counterparts—not necessarily because I enjoy planting and harvesting, but because I can help them develop new techniques and skill sets that they did not know they had. The fields of rice, corn, tomatoes, guandu, garlic, onions, papaya, yuca, cilantro, and oysters are visual proof of our endeavors. With the lack of rain and the uncertain effects of El Nino, we are contemplating not planting rice. This is a serious consideration for them. To contemplate changing crops in response to unpredictable weather patterns is a step in the right direction. I am proud of my counterparts; even if they do decide to plant rice next year, they meticulously discussed the pros and cons beforehand. The tourist effort and the oyster project have shown us that people are now asking the right questions of each other and of their communities."
Read about how Bob Arias, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Panama, helped build the capacity of several agribusiness groups to make smart crop decisions and plan strategically.
Community and Youth Development
Peace Corps Response Volunteers working in Community and Youth Development have the opportunity to influence positive behavior change at the grassroots level. Many Response Volunteers work directly with community groups or youth groups in focused assignments such as HIV/AIDS awareness, girls' empowerment, behavior change communication, volunteerism, livelihood projects, sports and fitness, and leadership and life skills education.
Volunteers in the Community and Youth Development sector have the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the populations with which they work, ranging from juvenile offenders, women's handicraft groups, at-risk youth, special needs children, or indigenous community members. Volunteers partner with such organizations as the Special Olympics, Save the Children, CARE International, and countless others worldwide. Many Volunteers also work with government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Welfare or the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
My tasks during the six months I spent in St. Vincent included developing an HIV/AIDS peer counselor curriculum, setting up the St. Vincent Planned Parenthood Association website, writing grants, and facilitating HIV/AIDS education workshops for youth. The male youth were especially eager to participate in the activities. We were originally told that the boys would be less likely to initiate skits or discussions, but we found that the males in our group, while greatly outnumbered by females (it was a voluntary program), were often the first to volunteer. The boys were very attentive listeners. I was really impressed with their level of respect, engagement, and willingness to participate."
Read about how Renu Hasan, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in St. Vincent, successfully engaged male youth in discussions on such sensitive issues as HIV/AIDS education, sexuality, gender roles, and relationships.
Business/NGO Development and Information Technology
In today's global marketplace, small business owners are finding that they need to increasingly rely on technology, new marketing tools, and strong organizational capacity to remain competitive. Peace Corps Response Volunteers are making a difference in the livelihoods of families and communities worldwide through their work in microfinance, organizational development, youth entrepreneurship, website development, income generation, and more.
Volunteers work with libraries to implement new database systems; youth centers to provide employment skills training; farmers' cooperatives to strengthen financial management; and nongovernmental organizations to expand community outreach. Some Volunteers collaborate with community-based organizations to work toward a single goal, such as marketing handicrafts. Others work with larger, national organizations to increase program visibility and strengthen internal operations.
I am a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Jamaica and am assigned to work with the Negril area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT). NEPT is the managing organization for the Royal Palm Reserve, an ecotourism attraction in Negril. I was charged with developing a new marketing strategy and writing a new marketing plan for the reserve, which has been a great transition from my work in Mauritania (where I was a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer). Thus far, my work in Jamaica has presented me with a unique challenge: This is the first time my work is so environmentally focused. I have, for all intents and purposes, become a conservationist."
Read about how Eric Barnett, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Jamaica, used his background in business and marketing to promote the efforts of a wetlands reserve.
Disaster Preparedness and Response
With their ability to adapt to changing situations and effectively engage diverse populations, Peace Corps Response Volunteers are well-positioned to undertake challenging disaster preparedness and response projects. In recent years, Volunteers have provided targeted assistance to disaster-prone countries in all corners of the globe—from Thailand and the Philippines, to El Salvador and Colombia, to Madagascar and Burkina Faso.
Volunteers in disaster preparedness assignments focus on building the resilience of communities to withstand the effects of natural disasters such as floods, landslides, typhoons, droughts, and earthquakes. Volunteers do this through the development of hazard maps, vulnerability and capacity assessments, disaster risk reduction committees, and evacuation routes and drills. Working hand-in-hand with local authorities, Volunteers focus on preparing citizens to know what to do before, during, and after an emergency or disaster event.
In September 2009, a catastrophic flood ravaged Burkina's capital city, Ouagadougou, and caused unprecedented destruction. Over 150,000 people were affected—most of them were displaced from their collapsed mud brick homes. I participated in a training seminar with the Red Cross to learn proper construction techniques, and I began coordinating logistical aspects of the housing project with technicians, government officials, Catholic Relief Services staff, and over 400 beneficiaries. In addition to using my civil engineering skills, I was able to use my language skills and cultural knowledge to help bridge the gap between the field and the office."
Read about how Stephanie Servetz, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Burkina Faso, returned to her original country of service to assist flood-ravaged communities in the rebuilding process.
Education and Teacher Training
With increasing demand from host countries for teachers and teacher trainers, Peace Corps Response is opening new education assignments across the globe in critical need areas, such as English as a foreign language, mathematics, science, special education, and university level training. Peace Corps Response Volunteers also provide assistance in such areas as library development, environmental education, information technology, and vocational education.
Most Education Volunteers already have some professional teaching experience and/or training in their assigned content areas. Response Volunteers work side-by-side with local teachers to introduce innovative teaching techniques at all levels of instruction: from pre-kindergarten to adult learners. Volunteers may find themselves in primary school classrooms in rural villages or teacher preparation programs at urban universities. Most education assignments involve some degree of teacher training and capacity building, in addition to direct classroom instruction.
In my Response assignment, I served as a library assistant for the Education Development Center, an organization which runs learning resource centers throughout Liberia. These centers have books, computers, and programsÃ±all designed to meet the needs and interests of learners whose education was robbed during the country's 14 years of civil conflict. The centers also provide training and resources to teachers in rural, night, and adult schools, and allow educators to collaborate and share effective teaching strategies."
Read more about how Ruthia Yi, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Liberia, helped incorporate technology into her community's learning resource center.
Global Health Service Partnership
In 2013, the Global Health Service Partnership will place approximately 33 trained health professionals to serve as adjunct faculty in medical, nursing or clinical officer schools in Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi, to focus on improving education, training health professionals and building capacity within the local health-care systems. One-year assignments will open on May 15, 2013 and Volunteers will begin service in July 2014.
Health and HIV/AIDS
The need for increased access to health care services in rural and remote areas, coupled with a lack of trained local health workers, means that opportunities are ripe for Peace Corps Response Volunteers to make a difference in the Health and HIV/AIDS sector. Response Volunteers pilot new and innovative interventions in the areas of malaria prevention, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, occupational therapy, health care administration, and more.
Volunteers working in health projects are often placed directly in community clinics or hospitals to address a specific gap in care. Other Volunteers utilize their backgrounds in business or marketing to facilitate health promotion efforts for NGOs, such as Population Services International, Planned Parenthood, and Helen Keller International. Some Volunteers are also placed with a Ministry of Health to assist with the creation and implementation of community health worker volunteer programs.
My role as a consulting pediatric physical therapist was to expand the evaluation and treatment skills of a group of four young, enthusiastic physiotherapists and to assist Karin Dom [a home for children with disabilities] in developing and implementing its new early intervention program. Mornings were spent in the physical therapy room observing treatment sessions, offering ideas, co-treating with colleagues, and demonstrating new ways of assessing and working with children. Most of the children had significant levels of cerebral palsy. The therapists had a solid understanding of handling and positioning techniques to relax stiff muscles. My goals were to strengthen the therapists' observational and problem-solving skills, demonstrate how to engage the children in meaningful motor learning activities (like play and functional skills), and involve the families in treatment ideas that could be carried out at home."
Read more about how Christine Giannoni, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Bulgaria, strengthened the skills of physical therapists who work with special needs children.
Last updated Jan 30 2014