Blog

  • 13 Dec 2016 by Sam Ryals

    From December 7-11, 2016, ten RPVCs (Karmie Johnson, Julie Thach, Joanna Farrell, Stephanie Bergado, Tatiana Nieuwenhuys, Kirsten Strawn, Kathy Angus, Amy Hutson Badham, James Clark and Laurel Hitchcock) completed our 14th World Map in Alabama. The newest map is located at Norwood Elementary School in Birmingham and was painted with the help of students from the 4th and 5th grade classes.  Many thanks to Principal Daniel, the teachers and all the students who helped make this map possible.

  • 27 Feb 2016 by Sam Ryals

    Who I am: My name is Katie Adams, and I served in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program of Peace Corps Nicaragua. I started here in September of 2012 and would have completed service in November 2014, but I extended for an extra 6 months as a Regional Volunteer Leader and finished in May 2015. For my extension, I moved to the local department capital called Somoto, a town famous for its proximity to the beautiful Somoto Canyon and for its long tradition of baking rosquillas, small corn and cheese based cookies that are perfect with a cup of locally grown coffee.

    As a Volunteer Leader (PCVL) I conducted site visits with volunteers in my region as an extra means of support and was more involved with local site development for future volunteers. I also worked on a grant project funded by USAID’s Small Project Assistance (SPA) program to provide monthly professional development encounters for 25 local high school English teachers. Each encounter involved a morning of workshops focused on new methodologies and teaching strategies and an afternoon of English class using textbooks provided by grant funds. It was great to see teachers progress in their English levels as we work through the curriculum. Their enthusiasm for practicing English and implementing new strategies in the classroom was really motivating.

    What I did in Peace Corps, including where and I served: Although I’ve moved sites twice (once mid-way through my service and once to become a PCVL), I’ve always lived in the department of Madriz, which is found in the northern mountainous region bordering Honduras. My initial site was the medium sized town of Palacagüina. I worked there for my first year before being transferred to a smaller village just an hour away called San Lucas where I spent my second year of service.

    In all the places I’ve lived and worked and traveled in country, one thing I always come back to is how Nicaraguan girls are negatively affected by a machista culture that teaches them not to advocate for themselves and pursue their dreams. I was working with a group of adolescent girls in my site to talk about life skills and reproductive health, as well as dance and play sports. Additionally, for the second two years of my service, I was involved in organizing the national girls’ empowerment retreat, Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), held in the department of Jinotega. Each year GLOW brings 60 girls together from across the country to participate in a 5-day camp where they have the chance to discuss how gender stereotypes and inequality impact their lives and create a network of young women ready to create positive change in their communities.

    Why I went and what impact I think my service had (on others and on me): I decided to join Peace Corps directly after earning a BA in Spanish with a minor in Economics at Birmingham-Southern College because I wanted to connect what I had learned about community, relationships, and the complexity of service (as well as my Spanish skills) with real-world work on the ground in another country. I wanted to commit myself to integrating into a new culture and test my ability to adapt, be patient, and have an open mind in the face of cultural differences and challenges.

    Although most of my service officially focused on work with local English teachers (planning and giving class, organizing professional development workshops, and using resources available to design new materials), I think one of my bigger impacts has been the work I’ve done with young women. Seeing how young women can become more comfortable talking about their bodies and standing up for their rights has been the biggest reward of my service and has definitely influenced the career path I plan to pursue in the near future as I return to Birmingham to work before going on to study for a Master’s in Public Health.

    I would recommend Peace Corps to today’s college students because: It’s a chance to step outside everything you know and love and rediscover it in a new way. For a long time I’ve been deeply committed to using my life in service of others, but I didn’t really know how that would play out after graduating college. I was often overwhelmed by big, complicated issues like poverty, racism, and inequality and couldn’t see how my contributions would make any difference. Then a friend shared the following quote during a service-learning activity: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” (Howard Thurman). Not only has Peace Corps service tapped in to those things that make me feel alive, but it has also opened up new roads and paths of interest to follow as I continue learning, serving, and living.

    Interested in learning more about my life in Peace Corps? Read my blog at: katiewandering.wordpress.com

  • 13 Feb 2016 by Sam Ryals

    During the summer of 2015, RPVCs Karmie Johnson and Amy Badham along with a small group of family and friends traveled down to Camden, AL to begin  the 2015 GBRPCV’s annual Peace Corps Map project. That first day, they drew the outline of the world map in a common area of an after-school program facility. On June 5, older students participated in the painting of the map. Approximately 30 middle and high school age students participated in the completion of the map. An additional 150 K-12 students participated in geography and writing lessons using the map directly. It provides an continuous educational and decorative touch to the facility that houses BAMA Kids, an effective after-school and summer program that meets the needs of at-risk youth in the Black Belt region of Alabama. The project was such a great success, that the administrator of the facility requested United States and Alabama maps as well.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 07 Oct 2015 by Sam Ryals

    The Catholic Relief Services IDFP provides an overseas opportunity to those interested in careers in international relief and development with a faith-based organization. Fellows increase their overseas experience and gain project management skills as they contribute to the work of Catholic Relief Services. More than 80% of IDFP participants go on to become program managers with CRS.  These 10-month fellowship opportunities are based overseas in one of our country programs.  Fellows experience different facets of running a CRS program overseas. They are exposed to project management, business development, budgeting, working with donors, working with partners, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting.

    While we are unable to make a visit to your campus this fall, we would like to offer interested students the opportunity to participate in an on-line information session hosted by our team. We will be hosting two types of online info sessions this fall:

    Open webinars for anyone interested in the IDFP. These webinars will take place during specific dates & times in October & November. See the flyer with more information, including the schedule for the open webinars.

    Individualized webinars for specific universities, graduate programs, or classes with 10 or more students interested in the IDFP.

    These online information sessions are usually 30-45 minutes long. They are designed as interactive sessions where we discuss the program, provide application tips and answer questions regarding the application process, the fellowship year and a career with CRS. It would be great if you spread the word about our program amongst your other RPCVs as well.

  • 27 Aug 2015 by Sam Ryals

    It is not too early to think about gifts for stocking stuffers/teacher and/or family and PC colleagues.  We have the international calendars for 2016.  These are our only fundraiser and any profits are used to support Peace Corps Partnership Projects or our own Alabama pcvs in their service projects or care packages.  Everyday has a special holiday to celebrate with our friends around the world.  This is a “happiness” gift.

    Countries featured this year include: Mozambique, Namibia, Moldova, Jordan, Peru, Sierra Leone Ecuador, Thailand Tanzania, Ethiopia, Poland, Mexico and Turkey.

    Calendars are $10 each or $8 each if you order 10 or more.  As they have cost us more this year, we will have to charge for shipping if we can’t get them to you in person. ($2.50 for 1-3, $5.00 for 4 or more).  Email Kathy Angus (kjangus@charter.net).  Let her know how many you would like and she will get them to you.

  • 27 Aug 2015 by Sam Ryals

    There are two Peace Corps recruiting events scheduled in September that you might enjoy attending:

    September 22nd: Hispanic Heritage Month Diversity Dinner at Cantina Tortilla Grill in Birmingham:  Go to the link to rsvp   http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/meet/events/21112/

    September 23rd: A screening of the movie “Girl Rising” from 4:30pm to 7pm in Ryals Hall Rm. 407.  We will begin the film about 4:50pm to give  people time to get in and settled with food and to leave time for Q&A at the end. For information and to rsvp: http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/meet/events/21065/

  • 27 Aug 2015 by Sam Ryals

    There are two Peace Corps recruiting events scheduled in September that you might enjoy attending:

    September 22nd: Hispanic Heritage Month Diversity Dinner at Cantina Tortilla Grill in Birmingham:  Go to the link to rsvp   http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/meet/events/21112/

    September 23rd: A screening of the movie “Girl Rising” from 4:30pm to 7pm in Ryals Hall Rm. 407.  We will begin the film about 4:50pm to give  people time to get in and settled with food and to leave time for Q&A at the end. For information and to rsvp: http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/meet/events/21065/

  • 20 May 2015 by Sam Ryals

    August 1st Lake Party

    The Greater Birmingham Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (GBRPCV) are co-hosting a delightful summer lake party on Smith Lake on Saturday, August 1, 2015 with Southeastern Outings. You are hereby invited to attend! You are also welcome to invite friends and family members you think would enjoy this event.

    The goals of this party are to offer all participants a relaxing, fun day of lakeside activities and to provide information on the Peace Corps to those party participants interested in learning more about the Peace Corps. We are hopeful that some who attend will eventually submit their applications to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers overseas.

    Those who attend will include:

    – Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
    – Prospective Peace Corps Volunteers
    – Those having a general interest in the Peace Corps
    – Erica Wherry, Peace Corps Regional Recruiter from the Peace Corps Regional Office in Atlanta and
    – Other folks with an “international outlook” or general interest in international experiences

    Erica will have materials on the Peace Corps to hand out. Both Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Erica Wherry from the Regional Peace Corps Office will be available to discuss the Peace Corps with interested attendees and answer questions.

    Included below are descriptive details of the event.

    AUGUST 1, SATURDAY, Depart 10:00 a.m. from meeting place
    Peace Corps/Southeastern Outings Swimming, Picnic, Outdoor Lake Party
    Where: The residence of Daina and Clint Singletary on Smith Lake,
    34 County Road 131, Crane Hill, AL 35053

    Details: We are most fortunate that Clint and Daina Singletary have invited us to enjoy a lake outing at their spacious, elegant lake house on Smith Lake. The center of our activities will be the shore of a cove on the lake by the Singletary house. You can swim, float, picnic, kayak and probably be taken for a lovely afternoon pontoon boat ride on the lake. Bring your swim things, water shoes, picnic lunch, drink, towel, and a change of clothes. Also bring a float, life jacket, kayak and folding lawn chairs (if you have them).

    Reservations Required: If you wish to come to this event, you are required to email your reservation to Dan Frederick at dfred4@bellsouth.net or call Dan at 205/631-4680 by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 30. When you contact Dan, please be sure you leave either your phone number or email address.
    If you make a reservation to come to this party and then for any reason decide later to not come, please telephone Dan, 205/631-4680 right away.

    Feel free to call Dan Frederick, Publicity Coordinator for the Greater Birmingham Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at 205/631-4680 or email at dfred4@bellsouth.net if you have questions or would like additional information.

    DIRECTIONS TO MEETING PLACE
    Hayden/Corner Park and Ride—171 State Highway 160, Warrior, AL 35180. Exit 284 off I-65 North, headed North coming from downtown Birmingham on I-65 take right on AL 160 at end of exit ramp, immediate right on U.S. 31 and then enter fenced parking lot on right.

  • 18 May 2015 by Laurel Hitchcock

    Who I am: I am a retired academic adviser, after working a few years in a pathogen-free mouse colony while getting a master’s degree in pathobiology while my husband got his PhD in zoology. Here in Birmingham, Ala., I worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), serving as the academic advisor in biology and pre-health for 25+ years. In a volunteer capacity, I currently serve as the secretary of the GBRPCVs, but I have also served as treasurer and newsletter editor.

    What I did in Peace Corps, including where and when I served: In 1964, I was accepted into the Peace Corps (for the first time) to serve as a visiting health worker in Northeastern Brazil. We trained for three months in Albuquerque, New Mexico, getting Outward Bound training in the Sandia Mountains, in addition to many hours of instruction in Portuguese and maternal/child care. Once in country, I worked in a very small town in the west of Paraiba state (draw a line south from Fortaleza and west from Recife) encouraging people to use latrines and filter water. I also led vaccination campaigns and conducted many, many fecal exams, providing worm medicines. As for my lifestyle, we had a town generator that supplied some fortunate homes (including mine) with electricity for two hours each night. We did not have indoor plumbing, and I slept in a hammock for those two years. I love(d) Brazil and the wonderful, friendly, fun-loving Brazilians. Funny thing: I never did need the hiking boots or rappelling equipment that we used in training.

    In 1968, I was earning a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin, where I met my husband, Rob. I was accepted to a graduate program at Oregon State University; but Rob’s options were the U.S. Army band, the draft, or Peace Corps. He proposed, asking if I would go into Peace Corps with him rather than face 2-3 years apart. We were married in August and left for training in September. We trained in Frogmore, South Carolina, and we were sent to Botswana in southern Africa to teach biology and health (me) and math (Rob). We lived on the grounds of Gaborone Secondary School, a new school built after Botswana’s independence in 1966. The country needed volunteers to staff all the new schools and invited teachers from around the world. At our school, there were volunteers from England, Denmark, and France, in addition to the three Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). Since the students would sit for the British Overseas Certificate exams, we were urged to speak English with them at all times. As a result, our proficiency in the native language, Setswana, was no better after 3+ yrs there (we stayed an extra year) than it was when we left Frogmore. In addition to classes, we were responsible for coordinating activities like science club, photography group, sports teams, etc.  Once, for example, we took students camping in the Kalahari Desert, using big old green, floorless army tents (circa World War II). We got rained on, but the students enjoyed seeing several of the desert animals and a San (Bushman) village, where we dropped off vitamins from the health department.

    Why I went, and what impact I think my service had (on others and on me): I applied to Peace Corps the first time right after President Kennedy was killed.  I was a sophomore at Ripon College, a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin, majoring in biology and education. I had joined a sorority, and we spent many evenings partying. The announcement of Kennedy’s assassination came in a chemistry class, and school was closed immediately for early Thanksgiving holiday. We all watched TV news, crying, disbelieving that this could have happened. The President had asked us to ask what we could do for our country, and he had created Peace Corps. But the whole scene at college seemed not to address what I could do for my country. I had also read “The Ugly American” and believed that we needed to send people who were not movie stars, or diplomats traveling around in limousines, to other countries. Over the break, I filled out an application. Although I didn’t think I had any useful skills, it seemed to be something I could do that might make a difference.  Peace Corps decided that, with my biology background, I could be a visiting health worker. All through training, I worried they would decide I couldn’t do it after all, but I was sent to Brazil where Kennedy was revered.  Every home had a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and one of Kennedy on the wall.

    Did I make a difference?  My Peace Corps co-worker and I helped people get vaccinated and get latrines and filtered water into homes. Anyone who has ever lived without basic health services, sanitation and clean water knows the value of these interventions. I’d like to think we saved lives. At the time we were in Brazil the infant mortality rate (0-5 yr old) was over 150/1000 births in Brazil (http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/brazil/mortality-rate) and worse in the northeast. In the dry season, there were funeral processions nearly every day for little children who had died. Polio and other childhood diseases were also prevalent.

    In Botswana, Rob and I taught many kids who went on to college and some into ministries. All of them had more options after 3-5 years of school than they would have if they had just stayed in their small villages. The girls, especially, would be worth more as brides with their educations!  But some went further. Several years later, after coming back with my husband from Botswana, we met one of our former students in Massachusetts, where she was working on her master’s of public health. Most of all, what I hope happened is that people from my sites in Brazil and Botswana will remember living and working with a very normal person who was an American.

    While we were at the University of Connecticut, I worked part time as a Peace Corps recruiter, especially in the agriculture and science areas. I have stayed active with the RPCV group in Birmingham because I still think the mission is important. I also know that almost every volunteer has a tough time at some point in service when frustration and loneliness and “culture shock” cause them to rethink their commitment. RPCVs can help them over that hump. And, upon return, the cultural re-entry is often as hard as anything that happened while serving. So again I think we can help because we actually want to hear the stories and will listen again and again when family and friends want a quick summary and just want them to get back to “normal” and their life’s routine.

    I would recommend Peace Corps to today’s college students because: …. helping others is very rewarding, and it will probably also be the adventure of their lifetime.  Being a tourist in another country is no comparison to living with the people and their culture.