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Vermont Regional Office of the Peace Corps

Stories Here is Ariel Delaney.  Ariel was a UVM student who joined the Peace Corps and was sent to work in Morocco.  Read Ariel's Blog Here.

In Their Own Words - Stories from Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

M.C. and Greg :   Papua New Guinea
         Papua New Guinea (commonly called PNG) is part of the British Commonwealth. It received its independence in 1975. New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. The western half of the island is called Iran Jaya (part of Indonesia). The eastern half is called Papua New Guinea ("PNG"). PNG is comprised of newly roadless lowland plains and central highlands. It has rugged highlands with peaks rising to 16,000 feet. There are tropical glaciers, volcanoes, island chains, tropical rain forests, beaches, world class snorkeling and diving, beautiful coral and sea life. Not to mention a plethora of WW2 wreckage. There are over 800 different and distinct languages spoken in a country that is only slightly larger than the state of California. It has 700 varieties of birds (including 38 of the world's 42 bird of paradise species). There are 2,800 types of orchids (that is 16 of those on the planet!). It has the world's largest butterfly- the queen alexandra birdwing with a one foot wingspan! About 75% of the population relies on subsistence farming to survive. The population of PNG is 4.5 million. The life expectance is only in the mid 50's. There are 19 provinces and the national capital district (Port Moresby). The natural resources are: gold, copper ore, natural gas, timber, agriculture (coffee, coconuts, palm oil processing, etc.).
        Greg and I were PC Volunteers on the island of New Ireland. We were rural community volunteers. In our small village (Named Bol) we had no electricity, telephones, or toilets. We worked to start a housing project using burnt and damaged timber (there was a huge forest fire in 1997) and local materials to build local homes for families in our small village. We actually ended up working with 7 villages in the area to develop this project. Greg also worked with village leaders to get fresh water into their villages using a gravity feed system (since we had no power and people had to walk miles to get fresh water). We also did work developing new recipes using local foods. The children loved it and it gave us an opportunity to talk about nutrition with the mothers of the area.
        In our training we learned to do an "asset assement". This has been something that we are trying to incorporate into our lives. It is a way of looking at a situation. It asks you to looking at the positive in a situation and seeing what you can offer to enhance what is already going well. BE POSITIVE! It is something that we can all remember. There are too many of us that dwell in the negative. So many people in our village literally had the shirt on their back and two pairs of shorts. We knew many families that shared a pair of flip flops between their entire family! We are so lucky to come from the USA and have the opportunities that we have. And more important than all the "stuff" that we have, it is the relationships that are important. You would think that the people of PNG would be depressed not to have electricity, phones, running water, etc.... However, they are some of the happiest people that we know. We are sure that it is because of their strong ties with their family, friends, and other clans. In many ways we can all learn from them to appreciate what you have!
        The Peace Corps is America sharing is most precious resource, its people, with the world.
        We encourage everyone to take the challenge to expand their world. Join the Peace Corps! It is certainly the toughest job that you will most definitely love.
      Papau New Guinea     Papau New Guinea     Papau New Guinea     Papau New Guinea    

Vanessa :   Uganda

        I was a volunteer in Uganda, East Africa from 1996-1999. Uganda is a former British colony, which makes English the official language, although over 30 tribal languages are spoken. Uganda 
  is a small country, about the size of Oregon, and lies just north of Lake Victoria and west of Kenya. This small country has amazing diversity in environments - everything from hot, dry savanahh to tropical rainforest to permanently snow-capped mountains. The people are extremely friendly, which is a good thing since there are over 20 million of them! 
This high population is quickly depleting their natural resources, and much of my job, as an Environment Peace Corps Volunteer, was to help Ugandans to use their resources more sustainably. I did two main projects as a volunteer. The first was to help promote improved agriculture techniques that would improve the productivity of their soil (and hopefully avoid the tendency to enter into the nearby national park to clear new land or collect wood). The second was to write an environmental education teacher's guide with local primary school teachers. Although I can point to these concrete tasks that I did as a volunteer, I think the most important aspect of my service was becoming part of the families of my closest Ugandan friends. Not only did I come home with a whole new concept of what Africa is like and my place in the world, but also I hope that the people I got to know developed a new, and probably more accurate picture of what America is all about.

Uganda     Uganda     Uganda     Uganda Market
Logan:  Russia
       Logan was a volunteer in the village of Lazo in Russia Far East from 1997 to 1998. As you might imagine, they have a short, warm growing season, followed by long, cold winters. Logan was a volunteer in the Non-Governmental Organization Development program, with a focus on helping local environmental groups develop.
     These pictures show some of his life as a volunteer. There is a picture of the inside of his house, with his wood stove. He had to collect and chop his own wood to heat his house and cook. There is also a picture of Logan in a type of shack, where he stayed when he was working with one of the environmental groups to count and identify tigers in this area next to a nature reserve in order to help with wildlife protection. In another picture, Logan is in the one and only school in Lazo. This school served as both a primary and secondary school. He taught some environmental education in this school. IN one project, he exchanged paintings of local endangered species between his Russian classes and some classes in U.S. schools. Lastly, there is a picture of Logan with some of his fellow volunteers during one of their in-service trainings.

Russia     Russia      Russia     Russia PCVs

Carmen:  Uganda

Carmen Jaquez served as the Vermont Peace Corps representative from 2003 to 2006.  This is a description of her service written while serving as the PC Rep. 

I served as a PCV in the beautiful country of Uganda from 1995-1997.  My primary responsibility was to work as a Community Conservation Education Officer for the Kigezi Wildlife Reserve and the southern boundary for Queen Elizabeth National Park.  

Located in the southwest portion of the country,  the Kigezi region is amazingly beautiful, fertile and diverse.  I lived in the village of Nykabungu in a 20 X 20  mud hut  with pit latrine, outside bathing shelter and a cookhouse I built by myself using recycled bicycle crates and my Leatherman®.  I have never loved a house as much as I loved that one.  My house was located on the second to last hill before dropping into the western arm of the Great Rift Valley - otherwise known as the Albertine Rift Valley.  I looked out over the savanna of the valley floor and Lake Edward while my northern horizon was filled with the glacier covered peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.  To the west was the Virunga Mountains in Congo (then Zaire) and to the east the dense Maramagambo Forest.  Every day I felt I lived in the most diverse ecosystem on the planet.  It was everything I had ever dreamt of.

My fondest memories include listening to the old ladies in the village gossip while we shelled peas under the mango tree  and the sound of the wind through the banana trees that created my back yard.  It sounds exactly like the wildest of rainstorms.  I know I had my bad days.  I know there were days I cried because I missed home so much and I wasn't sure what I was doing in Uganda.  And I know I had moments I was so frustrated because I couldn't communicate as well as I would like and so many things were out of my control.  But I don't remember the details of those days.  I only remember the times that I would walk home with the kids from school, or the good-natured bargaining with the women who sold tomatoes in the market.  I will never forget the numerous times those ladies would add on 1 or 2 tomatoes to the small pile I had just purchased.  I would smile and say thank you and wonder if they did it to express their appreciation for trying to learn their language and taking the time to work with them or if this was just how it was done here.

I remember evening walks through the park  and how I fell in love with the thousands of brightly colored (and not so brightly colored) bird species.     I went into the Peace Corps with a strong need to protect natural resources and walked out a person with a huge amount of respect for Ugandans and the challenges they face as well as a need to work towards sustainable relationships between both humans and the natural resources they live within.  

Each day was different and yet somehow my life was a routine.  I will never forget the feeling of homecoming I experienced every day when I would come back from a long day of community meetings and discussions.   I would walk my bicycle into my neighbor's yard on the way to my house.  Loy, the wife, and the children would be sitting on mats on the ground, talking or sharing a snack.    Invariably my two small cats would be sprawled out on the mats with them.  No other cats in the village had this privilege.  "Kuri-Kayo!!" (welcome home) they would all yell.  "Nara-gayo!!" (I am home) I would would smile back.  I typically had an hour or two to bathe and begin cooking my dinner before the sun set and the village would settle in for the evening.  I loved the evenings because I could listen to all of the families around me eating dinner, listening to national news on their small transistor radios, talking about the day.  Everything was done outdoors in this semi-tropical region.  Dinner sounds were always followed by the clinking of pots and pans during cleanup and the subtle splash of water as people washed themselves of that day's dirt before all became silent and my neighbors went to bed.  These small activities filled my days and evenings and gave me an experience I will never forget.  Uganda has become a part of who I am and I am forever thankful for that.

I don't know how similar my experience is to that of other Volunteers.  I do know that it became an experience that changed my life and will always skew the way I think about the world.  The news is no longer filled with random events, rather it represents the good and bad that happens in millions of lives on a daily basis.  Those lives are not so different than mine except that many do not have the opportunities that are abundant for me.  My time in Peace Corps made me realize that a farmer is a farmer and a mother is a mother, regardless of where they live.  People have the ability to accomplish so much as long as the desire is there.  I know that I will always want to be the facilitator for those who have the desire but not the means.  And it all began in that small village of Nyakabungu.

Learning to Dig  Carmen's House   Ugandan Family

For more Peace Corps experiences visit the main Peace Corps web-site

Last modified January 12 2009 03:24 PM

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