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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Peace Corps Response
Up to 12 months
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Virtual Service Pilot
3-6 months
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Christopher J.

“It has been rewarding to see how much we can accomplish and how my skills can be applied in different contexts, all from the comfort of my home.”

Christopher J headshot

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

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Kenya, I’ve known the Peace Corps for a long time. When I heard about the opportunity to engage in Peace Corps’ Virtual Service Pilot, I saw it as an opportunity to share the skills and experience I’ve gained from decades working in the corporate sector in the United States, years after my original, in-country service. I'm currently working on my second VSP engagement, and I’ve found that I can get a lot done and add a ton of value, even virtually. I’ve been fortunate to work with some terrific partners in Guyana in both engagements.

2. What projects are you working on?

My current engagement is with a wiri wiri pepper farm. Together, we are working to develop a business plan for this environmental stewardship organization. Part of this work involves putting together a small business training program for the community.

3. What strategies have you used to meet the challenges of a short-term, remote experience?

Luckily, I haven't had too many challenges apart from internet bandwidth issues for my counterparts in Guyana. When we run into these issues, we revert to communicating on WhatsApp. After all, on-camera, virtual meetings are not always necessary. Peace Corps does a great job of matching skilled local partners with Participants so that we can both benefit from the exchange of knowledge. In each virtual service experience I’ve had, I’ve been able to remove or resolve roadblocks for the client by providing expert advice and developing a shared, agreed-upon solution.

4. What benefits are you gaining from your participation?

There have been several benefits. First, I’ve met people from a country I initially knew nothing about. Second, I’m challenged to dig deep into a topic I’ve never experienced, and I’ve really loved learning about wiri wiri peppers and the whole pepper/spice industry from the people I work with. Third, I am able to provide detailed analysis and recommendations to my community partner and co-develop solutions that were appropriate for the partner, considering market forces and available resources.

5. How has your previous Peace Corps and/or professional experience influenced your VSP experience?

My former in-country Peace Corps experience in Kenya has helped me throughout my career, especially as I’ve worked in global companies. In the Peace Corps, you learn to be patient, listen to partners, and develop agreed-upon solutions.

In my professional life, especially after graduate school, I developed deep skills in market and financial analysis, marketing planning and implementation, and developing and presenting solutions. These skills serve me well working with VSP partners, and I feel I’ve been able to share these skills with the people I’ve worked with on these VSP engagements.

6. What do you think you will you bring away from your experience as a VSP Participant?

I believe this is a great opportunity for seasoned, skilled Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and others to learn new cultures and help partners develop solutions to barriers or take advantage of opportunities. I would recommend this opportunity to anyone, as I have learned a lot and have found value and purpose in connecting and collaborating with people virtually.