Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at Thunderbird

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Celebrating National Peace Corps Week 2020

Kelsey Teskey, class of 2020

Kelsey is a native of the Sonoran Desert and attended Arizona State University. During her junior year, she interned in Washington, DC with the Commission on Safety and Cooperation for Europe, where she co-drafted legislation that ultimately became ratified into law. After that semester, she worked with the McCain Institute, which solidified her decision to graduate a year early to join the Peace Corps in Jamaica as a Literacy Advisor. While in Jamaica, she cofounded the Gender in Development Group and the first annual Boys Camp, established two computer labs, assisted in revenue growth for a farming cooperative, and started a Boys and Girls Club at her school, which hosted representatives from technical schools and tutors whilst teaching the children about empowerment and challenging stereotypes. However, one of the best moments during her service was meeting her husband.

After her service, Kelsey worked at the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family for a year until she started her master’s degree at Thunderbird. While at Thunderbird, Kelsey was the Peace Corps Recruiter for ASU, where she was a part of a team that was responsible for moving ASU’s national ranking from 16th to 8th place in only a year! Additionally, she served as the Thunderbird Student Government President and has been the catalyst for reviving the Peace Corps community at Thunderbird. She is excited to be graduating in May with a Master in Global Management degree.

Paul George Smith Jr., class of 2020

August 2006: “Inspiration”

In a large conference room at my university in Colorado, I witnessed a life-changing PowerPoint presentation and the most inspirational speakers. They were Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who showed pictures and told stories about their service abroad. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life; I wanted to one day serve in the USA Peace Corps. I knew this because service in the Peace Corps combined the things that I loved most in life: helping people, improving the world, travel, learning about new perspectives, cross-cultural communication, project management, building friendships, pushing my limits, building resilience and improving life.

January 2016: “Invitation”

It was the early hours of a cold winter morning. After reading a very special email, my eyes welled up with tears. After waiting 10 years, and after an arduous application process, I had finally received an invitation letter to serve in the USA Peace Corps. The tears in my eyes were tears of gratitude, philanthropic passion and patriotic honor. I was incredibly excited to begin my Peace Corps service in Cambodia in Southeast Asia; I was so excited that it was difficult to have to wait about 7 more months until my deployment. During these 7 months awaiting my departure, I was busy working full-time running my own business and writing my own book. On top of this, I was required to endure countless medical checkups, vaccinations, training and administrative tasks that were necessary to prepare me for working abroad in challenging environments.

July 2016: “Arrival”

Arrival in Cambodia. Culture-shock. No air conditioning. Not knowing the language. New foods.  Everything was new and challenging, but I knew it would be okay. I had been through difficult adjustments like this before during my international development job in rural Northern India. I implemented the adaptation and resilience skills that I had learned previously – and I developed new ones as well. I knew that this was my new home for the next 2 years – and I was committed to doing the best I could do the entire time.

July – September 2016: “Boot Camp”

        Pre-Service Training (PST) was like the Peace Corps “Boot Camp”. It was 2-3 months with my cohort of about 70 fellow new Volunteers. Every day was full of intensive training in history, culture, technical skills, healthy habits and safety precautions. During this time, the Safety and Security Officer had designated me as a “Warden”, which meant that I would be on a team in charge of the safety and security of other Peace Corps Volunteers. I participated in additional training in the Emergency Action Plans and various other topics that would be enabled if necessary. Along with the 70 other Volunteers from all parts of the USA with a diversity of backgrounds, we all engaged in numerous team-building exercises and projects within our communities. We worked closely with each other, but we knew that at the end of these few months, each of us would be separated and assigned to our various villages sprinkled throughout Cambodia – some of us would be a few miles from each other, and some of us would be much more isolated and distant from other Volunteers. I am excited to learn about my assignment, and again, I knew that I could be assigned to any place and that I would do the best I could with everything.

October 2016 – October 2017: “Immersion & Integration”

I had arrived at my site. I was in a small rural village in the center of Cambodia. I lived with a host family who was very kind. I adjusted to the food, to the language and to the heat. This year was full of working full-time at a small hospital surrounded by a monastery full of monks and vast rice paddy fields. My team and I provided health check-ups, health education, vaccinations, pre-natal and ante-natal care and emergency services to thousands of villagers. I continued improving my fluency in the Khmer (Cambodian) local language and building relationships with my colleagues, village chiefs and those in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Health. Completed Participatory Analysis for Community Action (P.A.C.A.) in order to garner data, design development projects, write grant proposals and conduct fundraising alongside my local counterparts.

November 2017 – April 2018: “Construction & Education”

Our grant proposals were finally approved, our fundraising efforts finally reached our targets and all stakeholders were finally prepared. After countless hours of preparation, it was finally time. Throughout these months our teams constructed 9 sanitation stations, 1 water tower, installed a motor to pump water from the well, installed plumbing, and built a hygiene facility for pregnant mothers. In addition to construction efforts, our teams provided health education and distributed 3,200 bars of soap to local villagers. As a manager of these projects, I could not have had anything done without the successful collaboration and support from all of the generous donors and all of the great people at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Health, the US Agency for International Development, Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, the Room to Read Organization, WorldVision, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and the Korean International Cooperation Agency. All of my colleagues were fantastic and I am forever grateful to all of them.

May 2018: “Analysis”

Since the construction and education projects were completed, this month included follow-up observation and data collection about the use and sustainability of the construction projects and education initiatives. We analyzed the effectiveness of the facilities and the health programs and made slight changes in order to improve the long-lasting maintenance and sustainability of the facilities and the programs.

June 2018: “Completion of Service”

My full-time work at the Village Health Center was done. The projects were done. Everything with respect to work was done. On the other hand, friendships with everyone and gratitude would last forever. At the final “Close of Service Conference” when all of the Peace Corps staff and the other Volunteers came together, we finished all administrative tasks that were the end of our Peace Corps service and the beginning of the next chapter of our lives. Peace Corps service was rewarding beyond measure, but it was quite a challenge. As they always say, it truly is “The Toughest Job You Will Ever Love”.

Christine Muraguri, class of 2021

Christine Muraguri was born and grew up in Kiambu, Kenya. She moved with her family to Raleigh, NC where she attended high school. Before she attended UNC-Wilmington for college, she learned about the Peace Corps and the opportunity to serve and promote World Peace and friendship. She prepared and applied for the Peace Corps, and after graduating, was invited to serve in The Gambia, West Africa. After Pre-service training, Christine was hosted in Bantunding, Upper River Region by the Wali family. Christine worked with the Baja Kunda Health center to increase awareness and knowledge of common health issues and to promote immunization of children, maternal and child health, as well as education in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. During this time, she also worked with the community to start the process to open a school in Bantunding, which lead to the enrollment of multiple students, including six of her host siblings that did not previously attend school. To support these efforts, she also began a health club, a homework club, and a reading club in Bantunding, as well as in Chamoi and Baja Kunda, the neighboring communities. She organized and led the HIV Bike Trek, in which fellow PC volunteers biked to four different schools over the course of a week and trained teachers, students and community members about HIV/AIDS. She also organized and led the training of the Village Development Committee, which empowered them with the knowledge and connections to plan and implement projects within the community. During her Peace Corps service, Christine used her intercultural knowledge to connect to and share the diversity of the USA, with Host Country Nationals. After completing her service in 2015, Christine returned to NC where she worked as a Human Resources Specialist. She also sat on and worked with the Board of Myles of Great Hopes to plan, organize and execute fundraising events, cultural awareness events and worked on the operations aspects of the non-profit organization. She also worked with Rise Against Hunger as an Event Support Specialist, contributing towards the mission of ending world hunger by 2030. Christine is currently a Master of Global Management student. She has always been and continues to be an active member of the Kenyan and African diaspora. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, and hiking. 

Santosh Umesh, class of 2021

Santosh Umesh served for more than 2 years in northern Ethiopia in a region called Tigray. He taught English as a second language to 11th-grade students at the village’s local secondary and preparatory school. In addition to classroom teaching, he also developed and initiated tutorials that were differentiated by English proficiency across all sections and conducted Continuous Professional Development seminars for teachers and school administration on various topics. Similarly, Santosh Umesh established weekly Teachers’ English club to hone student-centered teaching techniques and improve English communicative capabilities. Santosh Umesh developed and implemented advanced learning techniques such as the school-wide “English Day” where English was mandatorily spoken by all students on Thursdays. He also hosted Camp Ambessa in Selekleka, Tigray, Ethiopia with the help of 5 other volunteers and 4 Ethiopian counterparts for more than 40 grade 9 and 11 students from across the Tigray region. 

During his time in Ethiopia Santosh engaged in various secondary projects. He started an awareness campaign against open-defecation at his site, where he collaborated with the local administration to educate about proper sanitation and created signage to deter open-defecation.  He also served as Media and Communications Chair for the Peace Corps Ethiopia “Developing Racial/Ethnic Allyship with Multicultural Support” (DREAMS) Committee with a focus on building and maintaining a strong social media presence to continually promote diversity. He was the Editor-in-Chief for DREAMS countrywide newsletter “The Quarterly Cup”. He created, organized, and facilitated trainings that are still being used to help bridge barriers of experiences between PCV’s of color and others. Finally, he started and initiated a weeklong anti-cheating campaign at the local primary school to combat the prevalence of cheating in the Ethiopian school culture. 

Ampofo Mensah Jr., class of 2021

Ampofo Mensah Jr. is a First-Generation bicultural Ghanaian American pursuing his Masters in Global Management at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Arizona. Ampofo hails from the Bronx, NY where he was born and raised, learning and growing in one of the harshest communities, he was still willing and able to seek out education, ask questions, and create a willingness to overcome the struggles around him. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Humanitarian and International Development Professional. He is targeting Sustainable Development, Global Capacity Building, Corporate Social Responsibility, Global Operations and assisting those in need of trained Americans in Management and leadership functions opportunities. Ampofo pursued an opportunity within the Peace Corps towards the end of his Undergraduate career.  His interest within the Peace Corps was primarily driven by his longing to become well rounded in his knowledge, skills, and focus on cultures that were misrepresented in America. As Peace Corps Volunteers, they are to appraise and utilize opportunities where and when they exist within and outside of the community they are assigned to serve. After a competitive application process stressing technical skills, motivation, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, Peace Corps invited Ampofo to serve as Primary Literacy Advisor in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica. Ampofo was assigned to the Literacy and Numeracy Project and began an intensive 10- week pre-service training program in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. The program consisted of orientation to the role of Peace Corps Volunteers; community development; language and cross-cultural training; and technical training that included exposure to the Jamaican Education System, history of Jamaica, challenges facing the Jamaican students, literacy and numeracy strategies as well as practicum experience in a two weeks summer camp designed with at-risk students.  After this pre-service training program, Ampofo went from Peace Corps Trainee to a sworn-in Peace Corps Volunteer. He utilized “Patois” during his service and effectively used and understood patois to communicate at work, with colleagues, Jamaican counterparts, and in daily life. He was awarded the distinguished award in Advanced Patois Language Learning in recognition for attaining Advanced High in Patois proficiency and displaying exceptional superior efforts in mastering and utilization. Ampofo managed and developed the Sports program at his institution coaching, soccer and volleyball, leading the program to many wins within the community promoting gender-equitable practices within sports. One of Ampofo’s lasting projects within the region prior to completing his service was the creation of a comprehensive computer lab which he wrote grant proposals, created budgets, and developed the design for in hopes of providing the community with a space for students, community members, and teachers to take the education of computer literacy further. 

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