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Peace Corps: A Matter of Women Inspiring Women

A former female Peace Corps Volunteer meets with her former mentee, a woman from Kazakhstan.

As a Volunteer in Kazakhstan from 2009-2011, Rebecca (Becca) Gong Sharp became involved in a small, local, non-profit dedicated to educating young people on sexual and reproductive health. Becca was in her early 20’s at the time, fresh from college and, as part of her Volunteer work, also taught classes at a local English Club in the Kazakhstani city of Shymkent, where she was posted.

Photos in a book depict the NGO that a former Peace Corps Volunteer and some young woman co-founded.
Photos in a book depicting the NGO Becca and some young Kazakhstani women co-founded.

The non-profit had a strong youth arm, and eventually Becca began merging her two roles by inviting some members of the English Club to join the youth arm of the non-profit. As Becca recalls, the young women she met in the English Club—each of whom was only 15 or 16 at the time—were passionate, hard-working, and eager to make an impact in their communities and among their peers. Almost immediately, Becca and the young women decided to co-found a youth-led non-governmental organization called “Dostar.”

As Becca spearheaded grant-writing for funding opportunities for Dostar, she also taught the young women the value of telling the story of an organization. Since they were growing it all from the ground up, there were plentiful roles to fill and multiple ways for the young women involved to gain and develop skills. Each young person—including Becca herself—blossomed in the work and the synergy was immediate and palpable. By the time Becca left Kazakhstan at the end of her service, Dostar had won awards, solidified funding, created a welcoming environment for Kazah youth to explore issues of health and reproduction, and begun to be replicated in other cities. Beyond the strengthening of the organization, though, the time Becca and the young women spent together had solidified them into firm, committed friends.

Becca returned to the U.S. and followed a path that included marriage and motherhood, always keeping in close touch with the young Kazak women she’d worked so hard alongside. Those women eventually graduated high-school and took their own unique paths. Some also took on marriage and motherhood, but all also followed careers.

Becca ended up back at Peace Corps as the Regional Director of the Europe, Middle East, and Asia (EMA) Region. It was in this role that she was able to go full circle with the impressive young women whose lives had intersected with hers so long before. Although Peace Corps no longer has Volunteers in Kazakhstan, Becca went back to attend a reunion with some of the women she’d worked with nearly 20 years ago. She was accompanied by a videographer who captured the story and caught up with Becca and two of her Kazakhstani friends. Becca no longer works for Peace Corps, however the legacy of her service and commitment to making a difference is a prime example of women inspiring women.

Watch the video below.

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Peace Corps: A Matter of Women Inspiring Women