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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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Kaitlan M.

“It is immensely meaningful for me to carry forward initiatives that originated during my two-year service in 2015.”

Kaitlan M Headshot

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

My two-year service in Fiji served as a catalyst for my decision to pursue agriculture in graduate school, with the goal of addressing climate change. While in grad school, collaborators from the sports community approached me to develop a project focusing on life after sports in the South Pacific. This led me back to Fiji, where I collaborated with the rugby academy and designed a program integrating agriculture training into sports development.

Unfortunately, the initiative was disrupted by the closure of borders during the peak of the COVID pandemic. Despite this, I continued collaborating remotely with my community partners until an opportunity to return presented itself. When the opportunity to serve as a Virtual Service Pilot Participant (VSPP) arose, I was thrilled to reengage in a role focused on enhancing the agriculture sector in Fiji. The VSP experience provided an avenue for me to channel my passion for supporting agricultural communities, ultimately evolving into my current role in the Response position.

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

The Markets for Change Project is a program dedicated to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, aiming to enhance marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Samoa and foster safe, inclusive, and non-discriminatory environments. In my role as a Response Volunteer, I offer comprehensive technical guidance to strengthen the capacity of the host organization in supporting and promoting best business practices for market vendors. The training sessions cover various topics, including farm planning, budgeting, product selection, record keeping, market research, and market planning.

Additionally, I am collaborating with the host organization to establish community pilots, wherein we implement nurseries, demonstration farms, and processing facilities. This initiative aims to create a circular income generation model, specifically focused on agroforestry practices and the value-added items derived from these practices.

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

Under the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program, I have extensively collaborated with rural farming communities, providing expertise in business development and organizational management. Through these training sessions, I have gained valuable field experience, enabling me to comprehend the barriers to accessing markets and fostering a deeper understanding of group dynamics. Furthermore, my two-year Volunteer service and graduate research have provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the Fiji agriculture sector.

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

It is immensely meaningful for me to carry forward initiatives that originated during my two-year service in 2015. During my virtual service, the highlight for me was the chance to meet the participants in person while undertaking a separate Farmer-to-Farmer assignment in the host country.

As a Response Volunteer Kaitlan has been able to carry forward the initiatives that originated during her two-year service in Fiji.
As a Response Volunteer Kaitlan has been able to carry forward initiatives that originated during her two-year service in Fiji.

5. What strategies have you used to meet the challenges of a PCR Volunteer experience?

Breaking down a big-picture idea into smaller, actionable steps is always a challenge. It's essential to keep in mind that growth and progress take time, and nothing matures immediately after being planted. I had other challenges during my virtual service, and those were mostly around the fact that remote trainings are challenging due to the absence of personal interaction. To overcome this, it was crucial to encourage active engagement and allowing ample time for conversations within the group.

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

I am acquiring the essential skills to recognize synergy among the missions of multiple stakeholders and identify alignment in diverse projects. I am cultivating patience in nurturing connections and consistently fostering relationships as projects evolve.