#HowISeePC ➡️ Our 4 Favs: July 5, 2015

See Peace Corps life through the eyes of Volunteers. Every week we’ll be sharing our favorite #HowISeePC photos from Volunteers around the world. Live, learn and work with a community overseas… and take lots of photos along the way!

1. Organic gardening in Paraguay.

2. A moment to remember in Mozambique.

A photo posted by Kevin O’Brien (@iowakob) on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:08am PDT

3. On the way to a wedding in Zambia.

A photo posted by Rachele (@rachelemichelle14) on Jul 2, 2015 at 5:45am PDT

4. Beautiful Guatemala.

#HowISeePC Instagram Takeover: Cameroon

Community Economic Development Volunteer Benjamin D’Innocenzo took over our Instagram account yesterday from the Peace Corps country whose motto is Peace-Work-Fatherland. The home of The Indomitable Lions and Waza National Park. A place where you can enjoy local specialties like brochettes, sangah and ndolé. Have a guess? It’s Cameroon!

Check out his great photos capturing his Peace Corps experience – everything from weightlifting to business classes to fishing!

Check back soon for another new takeover from Asia. Where do you want to see a Peace Corps takeover from? Let us know in the comments!

About Peace Corps/Cameroon: There are 205 volunteers in Cameroon working with their communities on projects in education, youth development, agriculture and health. During their service in Cameroon, volunteers learn to speak local languages, including: Pidgin English, Fulfulde and French. More than 3,560 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Cameroon since the program was established in 1962.

8 things I’ve learned in 50 years between Peace Corps tours

The first time I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer was in May 1965. Fifty years later I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Cotonou, Benin.

I am the first to admit that I have been very fortunate during my 72 years, having enjoyed an interesting and productive life. My family has been supportive, my friends encouraging and my colleagues interesting and challenging. I love lifelong learning, hands-on accomplishments and completing projects. The challenge of getting to know people and working in other languages and cultures is exhilarating and personally rewarding.

I retired in 2006 from California public education as an administrator in information and educational technology. I discovered Peace Corps Response while searching for old Peace Corps friends online. Eventually there was a position that interested me so I applied in 2010, was accepted and began a string of Peace Corps Response Volunteer (PCRV) positions.

1966-PCV-in-GuineaHere’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. 1. Being a PCV is a challenge! I arrived in Guinea in late spring of 1965 to work as a teacher in Conakry. The Peace Corps helped me and the other Volunteers with French language training and lessons on the education system in Guinea. I remember my first day and first class. I was waiting for the students and, after they all filed in, I spoke: “Good morning, my name is Kerry and I am an American. Are there any students who speak English that could help me?” After a few seconds of silence I realized that I had no choice but to communicate in French. I had come face to face with my first big challenge.
  1. Being a PCV is never boring! Conakry, Guinea was an exciting center of African arts in the 1960s. The popular music of the day was “Afro-Cuban” – what some call “salsa” music. It was a colorful mixture of great sounds and incredible beat. Some of the best bands played in Conakry. I remember one Saturday night at a local club that had an enormous dance floor with a low pit in its center. Inside the pit: about a dozen crocodiles.
  1. Being a PCV means learning new things all the time! Serving in Niger in 1967, I was sent to a very small village in the Sahara desert to help make a short film for the UN. The village had no infrastructure but there were two Niger 1967 Ingall Niger Sahara Desert My Camel and Niger SoldierArmy servicemen stationed there. One of the soldiers was going on leave to visit family in the desert and he invited me to accompany him. I jumped at the opportunity and was told to follow his instructions and do everything he told me to do. I agreed. Lesson one was how to ride and care for a camel. It took a few lessons, and now I can say I know what you have to do to care for and ride a camel.
  1. Being a PCV gives you the opportunity to help others. I returned to Guinea for a few months as a PCRV in 2010. I lived in Dubreka with the family of an administrator of a local high school. Soon after my arrival, one of the English teachers at the school lost his wife to sickness. They had two young sons and the event was a severe blow to the family. I volunteered to take over his English classes during his absence. The teacher was well liked by staff and students, and teaching his classes was at first pretty somber. I ended up taking his classes for three months. The students who were most appreciative of my help were those who would be taking their college entrance exams a few months later.
  1. Being a PCV you smile and laugh often. I was a PCRV in Senegal in 2011 and I had a small detached house in a compound with two other houses and a number of small businesses that faced the street. I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday and after asking around I discovered that in Senegal if you want a birthday party, you have to throw your own party. I arranged a luncheon for all the people from the houses and the businesses to attend. We had a nice lunch, soft drinks and I even got a cake from the bakery. Everything went well and all were satisfied and happy. The next morning a young boy came to me and asked, “When are you going to have your next birthday? I hope it is next month!”
    Kerry and Dubreka family - Christmas Day 2010 - Moussa, Kerry, Christine, Felix, Pascal, Roger, Mathe, Suzanne, Juliette, Felix Jr., Kamano

    Kerry and Dubreka family – Christmas Day 2010: Moussa, Kerry, Christine, Felix, Pascal, Roger, Mathe, Suzanne, Juliette, Felix Jr., Kamano

I apologize, I have to tell a second story about smiling and laughing! While living in Guinea, I taught my host mother how to make spaghetti. After that, she made spaghetti often. I moved to Senegal but continued to call my family in Guinea to keep up with what was going on. During one call I inquired about “what was new” and found out that the family had a new Peace Corps Volunteer living with them. When I was told that the PCV did not speak any languages known by family members, I offered to help if they wanted to ask the Volunteer any questions. The new Volunteer was put on the phone, I introduced myself and asked if there was anything she wanted to ask the family. She responded, “Well, there is one question I have. I don’t understand why they feed me spaghetti so often.”

  1. Being a PCV changes how you look at the world. We each, in our own way, must face challenges and overcome. This story concerns an older women who worked as an office custodian in Benin. I observed her over the weeks as she cleaned our office and it bothered me that she would bend over at the waist and wash the floor with a wet rag. All I could think was how much that must hurt her back. I asked a coworker why she didn’t use a sponge mop (readily available). He told me that from the woman’s point of view, her back was not the problem but rather how she was going to get enough money to buy food for her family. I felt rather stupid and insensitive. As I thought about it I came to the conclusion that each of us faces what we think are problems, and worldwide we all have to find ways to deal with and overcome our problems in our own ways.
Kerry working with one of the teachers from the Thies Technical Lycee durning the first class in the Junior Achievement class Jeune Entrepreneur on March 9th, 2011.  Students are working in groups to select a product or service for their company.

Kerry working with one of the teachers from the Thies Technical Lycee during the first class in the Junior Achievement class Jeune Entrepreneur. Students are working in groups to select a product or service for their company.

  1. Being a PCV offers lots of chances to make new friends. My family in Dubreka had seven kids, Mom, Dad and me in a small, three-bedroom house with no running water. In a typical week, we had electricity for maybe 20 minutes. Food was scarce and expensive, there was no door or roof on the backyard toilet and the house was in disrepair, but I remember the good times: studying English with the children in the late afternoon, talking with my host mother about her life as she prepared family meals, working together, laughing together and simply hanging out.
  1. Being a PCV is truly being of service to others. Service to others is the most important role of a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have heard many people describe themselves as being in service to others: politicians, government employees, even business people; however, as I look at the world around me, it seems to me these are careers. I have a problem with the concept that because a career involves working with people it is in service to others. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is not a career – it is taking time away from careers to voluntarily give of your knowledge, skills and attitudes for the benefit of others. I have seen the eagerness and spark of understanding of young people learning from me how to set up and operate computer networks, form small businesses, communicate in English, make movies and take still photographs. I cherish these memories and they are some of the most satisfying events I have enjoyed.

If you are interested in experiencing some of the things in the above list, join the Peace Corps. Then become a Peace Corps Response Volunteer. The personal rewards are incredible.

KerryJohnsonKerry Johnson first served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea (1965-66) and Niger (1967-68). He returned to service 50 years later with Peace Corps Response tours in Guinea (2010-11), Senegal (2011-12) and Benin (2013, 2014, 2015-present). 

Why I fasted for Ramadan

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Religion is an intrinsic part of life and culture here in Morocco. It permeates through language down to the structure of daily life, to family and community, and in the inclusion of studying the Quran in schools. It is nearly impossible to separate religion from discussions on culture because the two have become so intertwined.

There are five main pillars of Islam, one of which is Ramadan. Ramadan is celebrated for a full month every year according to the lunar calendar. During this time more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fast, or abstain from eating and drinking (including water), from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is a time to reflect on one’s self and one’s faith, and in this spirit Muslims are cautioned against engaging in any vices, such as smoking, having sex or gossiping. This year Ramadan began on June 29 and culminated with the celebration of l’3id sgir (or 3id al-fitr in Standard Arabic) on July 29.

Living in Morocco affords me the opportunity to witness and experience Ramadan firsthand in a country to which religion is everything. The people of this country, which quite literally transforms for one month, join together to fast and dedicate their thoughts to Islam. One of the most crucial aspects of my job as a Peace Corps Volunteer is to participate as actively as I can in order to learn about the lives of Moroccans and truly integrate in my community. For this reason I decided to fast for Ramadan this year.

Fasting for Ramadan has been unlike any experience I’ve previously had. I’ve never considered myself a “religious” person, I’ve never felt the pull of a higher power like many of my loved ones and others around the world do. But I do believe strongly in the power of community, the power of doing good deeds and the power of believing in one’s self. As it turns out, with Ramadan having come to a close this week, I’ve never felt more spiritual in my life.

The spirit of giving I’ve witnessed this month has been unparalleled. I have been welcomed into the homes of friends as well as complete strangers, in my community and while travelling, to break fast and share food nearly every night as the sun goes down. One evening a man in my community, whom I’ve only spoken with on a few occasions, surprised me with a steaming plate of couscous and vegetables to bring home for dinner. And it isn’t just me who is a recipient of this hospitality – Muslims also strive to share what they have with the less fortunate, such as the homeless or those struggling to make ends meet. This sense of caring for neighbor,s ever-present in Moroccan society yet exemplified by Ramadan, touches my heart deeply.

Fasting for Ramadan has been a test in my own spiritual discipline, in self-restraint and finding my own sense of mindfulness. Imam Sohaib Sultan wrote in Time at the beginning of Ramadan, “Fasting proves to us that we are, indeed, masters over our own passions and that we can reach for greater heights beyond our lower desires.” By striving to live beyond my physical desires, I have been able to focus my thoughts on those truths that transcend all: friendship, community, freedom, forgiveness, purpose – and how I personally fit in.

Were there days I was unable complete the tenets of the fast? Absolutely. Temperatures in my community have exceeded 100° F since April, with many days recently reaching 135° F, and there were days I decided it was in my best interest to drink water. There were also days that I spent binge-watching House of Cards instead of engaging in my type of spiritual acts, such as reading or doing yoga. And that’s okay with me. More than ever, Ramadan has taught me how to listen to myself. To listen to my mind, to listen to my heart, and to listen to my body – and how best to bring myself back into balance when things have fallen off track. I believe that this sense of introspection is a critical aspect of Ramadan, and an experience for which I am incredibly grateful and hope to continue applying to my life moving forward.

One of my favorite aspects of working for the Peace Corps, as opposed to other service-oriented programs, is the belief that Volunteers should live just as members of their community do. I speak the same language as my community. I buy seasonal foods every week at the local market (souq) just as they do, and I am just as affected by power and water shortages as they are. I live in the same neighborhood as my students and attend the same weddings and ride the same buses. These are the realities of their lives, and now they have become mine. Ramadan, too, is an intrinsic part of life here, and as the holy month comes to a close I can honestly say I feel more connected to my community than ever.

abbey walshAbbey Walsh is currently serving in southern Morocco as a Youth and Community Development Volunteer. She is co-chair of the “Serving People with Special Needs” Committee for Peace Corps Morocco, and this summer she is assisting a women’s argan cooperative with business development. She loves photography, running and couscous Fridays in Morocco. She is an alumna of American University, in Washington, D.C. This was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog

NC State Alumna and Salemburg, N.C. Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2015 – Tiffany Bridges, 23, of Salemburg, N.C., has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart July 6 for Costa Rica to begin training as youth development coordinator. Bridges will live and work in a community to empower youth to make informed decisions about their education, health and lifestyles.

Tiffany Bridges Peace Corps Costa Rica“During my undergraduate studies at NC State, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Guatemala. It was my first time traveling outside of the United States and it was an experience that allowed me to grow as a person. I was able to see another country, live with a host family, improve my Spanish skills and volunteer with a program meant to help those in need. Since that experience, I have been looking for an opportunity where I can have a similar experience and utilize my degree in social work. The Peace Corps will allow me that opportunity. The Peace Corps will allow me to gain knowledge of another culture, become proficient in another language and help those of a vulnerable population,” said Bridges of her desire to join the Peace Corps.

Bridges is the daughter of Angie and Gene Jones, of Holly Ridge, N.C., and a graduate of Aberdeen High School, in Aberdeen, Md. She then attended North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, N.C., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work. Bridges also earned a Master of Social Work in May 2015 from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, in Charlotte, N.C. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she interned with Mayan Families, in Panajachel, Guatemala, and distributed essential vitamins to local children, conducted home visits to access cookstoves and prepared meals for elderly community members.

During the first three months of her service, Bridges will live with a host family in Costa Rica to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist her community, Bridges will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Costa Rica, where she will live and work for two years with the local people. Her projects will focus on positive youth development, lifeskills and leadership for local low-income, resource-limited youth in at-risk communities.

“As a social worker, I look for opportunities that will allow me to grow, broaden my cultural competence and give me experience working with different cultures and vulnerable populations. By serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, I will have the opportunity to help another country as well as develop myself. Spending two years in Costa Rica will allow me to develop my Spanish skills and broaden my cultural competence,” Bridges said.

Tiffany Bridges Peace Corps Costa RicaBridges will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Costa Rica and help Bridges develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

“After my service ends, I will be able to use what I have learned as a social worker during college and what I have learned in the Peace Corps to effectively help my clients, specifically those of different cultures, when I start my career as a social worker in the United States,” Bridges concluded.

Bridges joins the 148 North Carolina residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 4,146 North Carolina residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

There has never been a better time to apply to Peace Corps, and reforms have made the process simpler, faster, and more personalized than ever before. In 2014, applications reached a 22-year high for the agency, with more than 17,000 Americans taking the first step toward international service. Through a one-hour online application, applicants can now choose the countries and programs they’d like to be considered for. Browse available volunteer positions at www.peacecorps.gov/openings.

About Peace Corps/Costa Rica: There are 122 volunteers in Costa Rica working with their communities on projects in youth and community development and English education. During their service in Costa Rica, volunteers learn to speak Spanish. More than 3,565 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Costa Rica since the program was established in 1963.

WATCH: Every girl deserves an education

More than 62 million girls around the world are not in school. The White House, Peace Corps, USAID and others are working with organizations around the world to Let Girls Learn. Learn more about this important initiative and how you can take action here.

Peace Corps Viewpoints: The LGBTQ Volunteer Experience


During Pride Month, the Peace Corps celebrates the contributions of LGBTQ Peace Corps Volunteers. In 2013, Peace Corps started accepting domestic partners. Peace Corps Volunteers Jessica and Khayla share their story as a same-sex couple in Ecuador.

Additional video provided by Todd Hemelstrand