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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Brian M.

“Witnessing community members’ enthusiasm for sustainable tourism initiatives and their exchange of cultural insights about the region has been really rewarding.”

Bryan M Headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps, specifically the Response program?

From 2018-2020 I served as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Volunteer in the northern part of the Kyrgyz Republic. My interest in returning to the country stemmed from the meaningful connections and shared experiences I forged during my initial service. Witnessing the incredible natural beauty of the country, as well as the hospitality and welcoming nature of Kyrgyz communities, inspired me to pursue the Response position and continue collaborating on projects that have the potential to support the growth of the tourism industry in sustainable and environmentally responsible ways.

2. What projects are you working on with your community?

Together with my organization, I’m co-creating a comprehensive marketing strategy for the entire Naryn region. This involves amplifying the voices and stories of local community members, showcasing natural wonders like Kel-Suu and Chatyr-Kol lakes, and highlighting the richness of the Kyrgyz Republic’s cultural heritage, such as Tash Rabat. Our goal is to build a brand for the region that showcases the cultural assets, ecological diversity, and raw beauty of the area. We're also building a solid web presence that allows travelers worldwide to see what the region has to offer and reflects the diverse perspectives and values of the community.

Brian with his counterpart Gulira
Brian with his counterpart Gulira

3. How have you leveraged your previous professional experience and skills in your service?

I've relied on my experiences in product marketing, content strategy, and non-profit development to help my organization develop community-led tourism initiatives. For instance, we are in the process of collaboratively developing content strategies that highlight the authentic experiences of community members in the region. Our aim is to ensure that our strategies are rooted in the knowledge of local communities and built on sustainability principles.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

One of the best aspects of my Peace Corps Response service so far has been the reciprocal learning and exchange of ideas among community members and me. To generate support and community insight for our organization's plans, we traveled to communities all around the region and met with people who work in the tourism field – tour guides, guest house owners, restaurant owners, interpreters, etc. Witnessing community members’ enthusiasm for sustainable tourism initiatives and their exchange of cultural insights about the region has been really rewarding.

Scene from the Kyrgyz Republic
Local horse herders and guides worked with Brian to plan for the 2024 tourist season.

5. What strategies have you used to address the challenges of a Peace Corps Response Volunteer experience?

The Naryn Region is one of the more isolated and least developed in the Kyrgyz Republic, so there are certainly challenges related to having limited resources and infrastructure. To address these, I've worked with my organization to prioritize effective communication and collaboration, leveraging local knowledge and community networks to help keep our projects on track. Additionally, being flexible and adaptive can really go a long way, and we’ve made sure to tailor our plans and strategies to meet the specific needs and capabilities of the region.

6. How will the skills you are developing help you in the future?

My service has allowed me to build on some of the skills I learned during my previous service here. Specifically, I've been able to refine my skills in community engagement, strategic planning, and resource management. These skills will undoubtedly be valuable in my future endeavors while helping me form a deep understanding of how to approach sustainable tourism development collaboratively. Hopefully, these skills will help me after service, as I plan to pursue a doctoral degree focused on sustainable tourism development and marketing in Central Asia.