Peace Corps Director Honors Agents of Change with Kennedy Service Awards

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This year’s JFK Service Awards winners included (pictured from left) William Bryan Dwyer, Ryan Goff Smith, M.D., Robert “Bob” Arias, Peace Corps Chief of Staff Laura Chambers, Lauren Breland, Theresa Govert, Trevor “Froggy” Chance.

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.

Upstate New York Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Paraguay

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New York resident Caleb Rudge will depart for Paraguay on September 21 to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Caleb Rudge, 22, of Big Indian, New York, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Paraguay on September 21 to begin training as an Environmental Development Volunteer. Caleb will live and work in a community to spearhead local conservation efforts and build a sustainable environment.

“I desperately wanted an experience that would push me, not to be bored for a second behind a desk,” said Caleb of his desire to join the Peace Corps. “I am hoping to learn a new language, become familiar with new food, and work in an unstructured environment.”

Caleb is the son of William and Patricia Rudge and a graduate of Onteora High School in Boiceville, New York. He then attended SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies in May 2016.

During the first three months of his service, Caleb will live with a host family in Paraguay to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist his community, Caleb will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Paraguay, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I want to learn how to be resilient in the face of diversity, I want to become more independent and self-motivated, and I want to be able to fluently speak Spanish,” Caleb said. “I can’t wait to meet new people, people from a culture so far away and different from my own.”

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

Caleb joins the 416 New York State residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 13,527 New York State residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Click here to read more about the Peace Corps in Paraguay.

Southwest Harbor Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Rwanda

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Southwest Harbor resident Zachariah Dewey will depart for Rwanda on September 20 to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Zachariah Dewey, 25, of Southwest Harbor, Maine, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Rwanda on September 20 to begin training as an Education Volunteer. Zachariah will live and work in a community to teach English as a foreign language to Rwandan high school students.

“It’s where I’ve been headed for a long time,” said Zachariah of his desire to join the Peace Corps. “I’ve always wanted the chance to explore the world and help expand people’s horizons.”

Zachariah is a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, Maine. He then attended University of Maine in Orono, Maine, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in May 2015.

During the first three months of his service, Zachariah will live with a host family in Rwanda to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist his community, Dewey will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Rwanda, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I want to teach Rwandan youth in my community to speak better English,” Zachariah said. “Just doing that will be enough of an achievement.”

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

Zachariah joins the 54 Maine residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 1,877 Maine residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Click here to learn more about the Peace Corps in Rwanda.

Lancaster Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Ukraine

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Lancaster resident Matthew Hoffman will depart for Ukraine on September 19 to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Matthew Hoffman, 30, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Ukraine on September 19 to begin training an Education Volunteer. Matthew will live and work in a community to develop and implement new language teaching methods and materials with teachers at a local school.

“I wanted the opportunity to engage in ground level work for civil society, integration into a community, and most importantly, an environment for me to learn more than I could ever hope to teach,” said Matthew of his desire to join the Peace Corps.

Matthew is the son of Michael W. Hoffman and attended Lancaster Catholic High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He then attended Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and later Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs in May 2013. Matthew also earned a master’s degree in international affairs in May 2015 from Penn State School of International Affairs in State College, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, he worked in construction for several years as a commercial insulator.

During the first three months of his service, Matthew will live with a host family in Ukraine to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist his community, Matthew will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Ukraine, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I look forward to integrating and building trust within the community, forging lasting friendships, and cultivating a respect for the agency of people and cultures often portrayed otherwise,” Matthew said.

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

Matthew joins the 286 Pennsylvania residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 8,049 Pennsylvania residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Click here to learn more about the Peace Corps in the Ukraine.

 

Life of Pie: Peace Corps service through the eyes of a Volunteer’s Pug

When you first arrive at your site, you’ll be TOTALLY pumped to meet all the members of your new community.

So happy this weekend! #Thailand #puppy #dog #love #pets #pug

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

Making mistakes when speaking the local language will make you feel like this… (But don’t worry, you’ll improve with time!)

That's actually my head band, it's my color, can't you see!? #playful #puppy #pug #pugdog #peacecorpspug

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

You definitely won’t be able to get enough of the delicious new foods your host country has to offer.

Morning workout anyone? I belong to the #fitcorps #pug #puppy #pugsofinstagram #pugsofinstagram #peacecorpspug

A video posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

You’ll find during service, bandanas are not only useful…they’re a fashionable accessory.

Mom, am I a movie star yet? #pup #pug #puppy #dog #cute #adorable

A video posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

Making close friends in your community will come naturally with time.

Mom's coteacher @lilhippo_o is a little obsessed with me. #pug #puppy #cute #school #thailand

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

The best aunts bring me bones!! @lilhippo_o #puppy #dog #love #pets

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

And your soccer skills will vastly improve during service from all the pickup games you’ll play with the local kids.

David Beckham has nothing on me! #pup #puppy #play #soccer #pets #dogs

A video posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

At the end of some days, you’ll be totally exhausted.

Afternoon power naps are at least an hour right? #pup #pug #thailand #love #dog #peacecorpspug

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

But your fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and community members will seriously become your family for life.

@peacecorps PM says I'm her favorite volunteer! #pug #puppy #dog #pets #pcv @peacecorpsthailandmagazine

A photo posted by Pug Pie and Ty (@pugpieandty) on

 

If you’re more of a cat person, check out this Peace Corps Volunteer’s account of raising a pet kitten at his site. 

Ty Miranda, 24, is a Washington, DC native currently serving as a Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer in Thailand, where she adopted her new pug puppy, Pie. Miranda graduated from the George Washington University in 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in religion and peace studies.