On September 23, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Peace Corps Chief of Staff Laura Chambers presented the 2016 John F. Kennedy Service Awards at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to six members of the Peace Corps family who have given outstanding public service, both at home and abroad. The award is granted every five years to two current Peace Corps Volunteers, one Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, one Returned Peace Corps Response Volunteer and two Peace Corps staff members.
Among this year’s awardees were Theresa Govert of East Haddam, Connecticut, and Lauren Breland, of Long Island, New York, who are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Botswana and Thailand, respectively.
“I am very proud to celebrate these exceptional members of the Peace Corps family,” said Director Hessler-Radelet. “To them, public service is a way of life and their dedication to promoting our mission of world peace and friendship is inspiring. No matter where they’re serving, the connections they forge and the difference they make in the lives of others exemplify the Peace Corps spirit.”
Established in 2006, the John F. Kennedy Service Awards recognize the exemplary contributions of Peace Corps staff and volunteers over the years, along with their advancement of public service. Award recipients demonstrate exceptional service and leadership and promote the Peace Corps mission and three goals: to help people of interested countries meet their needs for trained men and women; to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served; and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.
Theresa Govert began serving in Botswana in August 2013 and extended her service as a volunteer leader with a local gender affairs department and non-governmental organization. Today, she splits her time organizing events that are focused on gender equality and working to create a beauty salon and spa that functions as an alternate employment opportunity for female sex workers.
Theresa has spent the last two years using creative expression as a way to establish safe spaces for people to gather and discuss gender issues. Specifically, she worked with 15 communities in Botswana to participate in the One Billion Rising campaign – an initiative to raise awareness about gender-based violence around the world – through a variety of activities such as dance and photography. In achieving that mission, Theresa collaborated with the Ministry of Health, National Gender Affairs, the United Nations, the U.S. Embassy in Botswana and national television, newspaper and radio stations.
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Theresa earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies from the University of Connecticut.
As the daughter of two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Theresa was raised in Naivasha, Kenya next door to the Peace Corps training center.
Lauren Breland has always felt passionate about the empowerment of youth and marginalized communities. Lauren currently serves in Thailand as a Youth Development Volunteer, working in local schools to help young students learn English, life skills, community service, reproductive health, sports and other topics.
As an older African-American Volunteer, Lauren represents the diversity of America and has educated her community about her life in the U.S., sharing American music, food, games, and stories from home. She also participated in OneWorld Classrooms, for which 37 of her students drew pictures illustrating Thai culture, sent them to people across 10 countries and received similar drawings in return.
With a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Administration from the University of Baltimore, Lauren has donned many hats while working for school districts and various not-for-profit organizations across the U.S. in such a way that has exemplified her dedication to spearheading important initiatives. Lauren began her service with the Peace Corps in January 2014 and has extended her service until April 2017 to ensure the sustainability of her projects in her community.