Evacuated Volunteers Participate in Virtual Service Pilot Program
December 18, 2020
WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen announced the completion of the first phase of the agency’s new Virtual Service Pilot program, which connected host country communities with returned volunteers who were evacuated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine posts participated in the first phase of an 11-week pilot. A total of 45 returned volunteers donated their time voluntarily serving as private citizens to conduct virtual engagements with our host country partners and, were selected based on a match between their skills and host country partner needs.
“Feedback from everyone involved has been overwhelmingly positive, and we have learned a great deal about how we can continue to be of service to our host countries from thousands of miles away,” said Director Olsen. “I want to thank the Peace Corps staff, returned volunteers, and host country partners who facilitated this innovative pilot program. They are keeping us connected and engaged as we prepare for the safe return of volunteers to the field at each of our posts as soon as conditions permit.”
Virtual Service Pilot participant MiKayla Wolf of Chickasha, Okla. was evacuated in March from Peace Corps Ukraine. She spent 20 months working with the All-Ukraine Association of People with Disabilities and was delighted to be reunited with students and teachers through the virtual classes delivered as part of the pilot.
“When my counterpart and I first discussed online sessions, we did not know how they would go,” [but] everyone adapted and moved forward during this project,” said Wolf from her home in Oklahoma. “In Ukraine, children are not currently in school because of COVID-19, and this was a chance for my children to interact with others and avoid isolation. The last time that I saw my kids and parents from the organization was at a painting class the day before evacuation was called and all of them were not there. I really wanted to see my kids again and continue to be a part of their development. There is still a lot of work to do in Ukraine regarding inclusion, and if I could assist online, I would do it.”
In addition to education, pilot participants engaged in health, financial literacy, agribusiness, and environmental protection activities.
Director Olsen said the Virtual Service Pilot program would continue in a second phase, with additional Peace Corps countries interested in participating. In phase two, evacuated returned volunteers who served in these participating countries will have the opportunity to express interest in donating their time as private citizens and collaborating with counterparts for approximately five to 15 hours per week for 10 to 12 weeks.
About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.