Counterpart Spotlight: Josoah
For Peace Corps community counterpart Josoah, there are no better coworkers than Peace Corps Volunteers.
“Peace Corps works directly with the people,” said Josoah. “There’s no middle man. They see the root of the problems in the places where they work.”
Josoah works with and hosts volunteers in the Androy region of southern Madagascar, an area that has known its share of problems. In Madagascar's arid South, droughts are common and food security is a major concern.
In the late '80s, while Josoah was still a student, a severe drought known as the Iron Belt put a squeeze on his family's finances. Josoah's parents sold their livestock, farmland, and even the family's dining set in order to pay for his school fees. Despite their best efforts, however, they still came up short, and Josoah was forced to abandon his schooling.
Undeterred, Josoah took up carpentry, and eventually earned enough money to support the family that had sacrificed so much to send him to school.
"I went to earn money making ox carts, tables, and chairs," said Josoah. "I earned some money, and I used that money to feed my family."
After getting himself and his family back on their feet, Josoah turned his attention to his neighbors. In 2003 he established the Association TINONE (an Atandroy word meaning to help people help themselves) and successfully applied for funding to train disadvantaged young people in carpentry.
In 2006, Josoah and his community welcomed their first Peace Corps Volunteer. They have hosted three more volunteers since then, and together they work on on projects like education, reforestation, and permagardening.
PCV Ian, who lived and worked with Josoah from 2013-15, remembers how instrumental Josoah was in completing a project with a previous volunteer which put roofs on 31 area primary schools.
"He's an amazing guy," said Ian. "To be honest I don't think I would have been able to achieve the school project had it not been for him."
Josoah realizes the importance of education to his country's development, and he is committed to improving access to it, despite the challenges. Students in his area traditionally had to travel upwards of twenty kilometers to the regional capital to attend high school—that is, until Josoah founded an accredited high school local students could attend. The school opened its doors in 2014, and in 2016 over 80 of the school's students took the national exit examination.
For the volunteers he hosts, Josoah serves not only as a coworker, but as an inspiration.
"Josoah has a passion for development," said Ian. "He's one of those rare people that gives you real hope."