North MacedoniaThe historical town of Skopje, North Macedonia (pictured above) may soon see an economic boom. The recently named North Macedonia commits to achieving the economic goals set in place to join the European Union. Furthermore, a recent parliamentary majority win by the Social Democratic Union Party promises to open trade throughout the country and improve the lives of North Macedonia’s diverse population.

Historical Disputes & Political Corruption

Skopje shares a long-standing history with the bordering country of Bulgaria and celebrates the same national heroes as well. Bulgaria, a current EU member, seeks to compromise on these issues before North Macedonia is allowed to enter the EU, claiming, “… [Bulgaria] has been piling pressure on Skopje for concessions with regard to what the two sides now call ‘shared history.”’

Since the Social Democratic Party’s majority win, the leftist party known as Levica promises to fight against the recognition of Kosovo and new trade agreements with Greece. Levica is asserting pressure on the majority party with claims of political corruption and embezzlement from former leader Nikola Gruevski. However, new laws adopted as preconditions to enter the EU include a crackdown on corrupt politicians and practices — ensuring that public prosecution and ethical legislation will remain protected in government spaces. Albanians represent the second largest ethnic group in North Macedonia but lack proper representation in government. Although the Democratic Union for Integration is largely Albanian, this ethnic population holds little power in parliament but great influence in public spaces as a majority vote.

North Macedonia Joins NATO

The goal of the Social Democratic Union Party, broadly speaking, is to improve the lives of citizens in North Macedonia. The party aims to achieve this through new agreements and membership with NATO. With their induction in late March 2020, the flag of North Macedonia now sways high in Mons, Belgium and Norfolk, Virginia — two Allied Command Headquarters. Jens Stolenberg, Secretary-General stated, “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.”

The Peace Corps in North Macedonia

International relations in North Macedonia continue to improve through a partnership with the Peace Corps. Since 2015, the population living on less than $5.50 per day has reduced by 8%. As a result of foreign investment through educational programs, improved housing infrastructure and healthcare — only 4% of North Macedonia’s population live on less than $1.90 per day.

Grant writing, funding from the E.U. and other independent organizations act as a liaison when government funding is not provided to rural towns. Through the Peace Corps, Northern Macedonians have the opportunity to learn English and engage in community-building activities. Some of these activities include business administration skills and special events, geared towards learning. The Peace Corps is not only interested in providing relief but also space for communities to incentivize growth and opportunity — with the ultimate goal being increasing education and employment rates.

The Macedonia Country Fund is another example of a Peace Corps initiative that supports sustainable projects for Northern Macedonia. “These projects focus on youth, education, community development, and people with disabilities.” Through partnership initiatives and foreign support, North Macedonia seems to be headed on an upward trajectory.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Health AssistanceThe beginning of the 20th century saw the United States begin to take its place at the forefront of the international stage. Fast forward to the middle of the century and the end of WWII and the United States took its place as a world superpower. With this newfound responsibility, the government of the United States began to do more to secure the safety and health of citizens of any nation in its sphere of influence.

Key Aspects of U.S. Foreign Health Assistance

  • U.S. foreign health assistance began with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, better known as the Marshall Plan. The plan’s goal, which it accomplished successfully, was to economically rebuild a war-torn Europe. This included hospitals and universities to train doctors.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy as a tool to better aid allied countries and countries teetering on the edge of the West and Communism. The organization also brought all of President Eisenhower’s foreign assistance programs under one agency.
  • U.S. foreign health assistance in the USAID is under the jurisdiction of The Bureau of Global health. For 55 years, the Bureau for Global Health has worked towards strengthening health systems, combating HIV/AIDS, combating other infectious diseases and preventing child and maternal deaths. Past Presidents have each had a hand in improving the operation and mission of the Bureau for Global Health.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both introduced plans to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths were prevented around the world.

Global Development Alliances

The USAID Bureau for Global Health is not alone in its fight — Global Health Development Alliances have partnered with USAID since 2001 to provide U.S. foreign health assistance around the world. These partners come from the private sector, and strive to both open new markets and help the local populace in need.

Private medical companies involve themselves in the alliance program — such as “The Utkrisht Impact Bond” led by Merck for Mothers and UBS Optimus — along with other large companies to target infant and maternal mortality in the Rajasthan region of India. Their program currently reaches up to 600,000 people and aims to save 10,000 mothers and children by 2020.

Multilateral and Bilateral Efforts

From 2006 to 2017, the U.S. foreign health assistance programs received a budget increase from $5.4 billion to $10.7 billion. Bilateral efforts comprise 80 percent of the U.S foreign health assistance budget, and one of these efforts is the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program run by USAID.

The program combats HIV/AIDS, prevents child and maternal deaths and reaches 24 countries on three continents. By 2020, USAID’s goal is to educate 120 million women and girls with family planning information, commodities and services.

Multilateral efforts by the United States government include participation in and funding given to, organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multi-government organizations and charities. Unfortunately, the budget request for U.S. health foreign health assistance programs was set at $7.9 billion.

The United States Peace Corps

The United States Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1960. Its goal then and still today is to help people around the world with the support of the United States government. By helping people in need, Peace Corps Volunteers spread goodwill about the United States and educate people about U.S. citizens and culture. They are probably best known for their English teaching program, but they also specialize in health initiatives.

Such initiatives include participating in programs initiated by Presidents Bush and Obama that reduce people’s exposure to, and number of cases of, malaria and HIV/AIDS. As part of their cooperation with USAID in 2012, the Peace Corps launched the Global Health Service Program to draw the attention of trained health professionals to countries in need.

Members of this program have a one-year service time rather than the usual two years. These volunteers not only help patients in the country, but they also pass on their knowledge and experience to sustainably help these populations in the future.

Center for Disease Control

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was granted $427 million from the United States Congress to participate in combating f HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, as well as promoting immunization and emergency response. The CDC was also granted $10.9 million to participate in recovery efforts in Haiti.

On January 10, 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7 magnitude earthquake. Since then, the CDC has helped the citizens of Haiti in various ways — stopping the spread of infectious diseases through the Haitian health system, educating the Haitian people about the spread and treatment of these diseases and helping the Haitian government reconstruct their health systems. The latter aid is a program first for the CDC.

International Aid Changes Lives

U.S. foreign health assistance has been a major help to many struggling people and countries around the world. Millions of lives have been changed for the better and saved because of the United States’ efforts.

Unfortunately, the budget request for U.S. health foreign health assistance programs was set at $7.9 billion. Although cuts will have to be made in staffing and funding around the world, men and women will not stop trying their best to work with the U.S. government and make a difference.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

2018 Federal Budget Threatens the Peace Corps
Most of the coverage of President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has focused on budget cuts to foreign aid and drastic changes to USAID. Often overlooked among the alarming changes proposed by the president are the potential cuts to national service programs such as the Peace Corps. Since the 1960s, the Peace Corps has served as an important service that the United States offers to developing nations. The proposed 2018 federal budget threatens the Peace Corps with a 15% funding cut.

President John F. Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in 1961. The Peace Corps Mission has three goals: to help people in other countries; to encourage a better understanding of Americans; and for Americans to better understand others. The programs consist of three months of training and two years of service in an assigned country. Since its inception, almost 220,000 volunteers have served in 141 developing countries.

In the past half-century, the Peace Corps has run a variety of initiatives to meet the specific needs of developing countries. Peace Corps volunteers currently serve in over 60 countries, mostly in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Ongoing initiatives include fighting HIV/AIDS; combatting hunger; protecting the environment and improving access to technology. One of the newest Peace Corps programs is Let Girls Learn. Led by former first lady Michelle Obama, this initiative aims to help girls around the world gain better access to education and prevent pregnancy at a young age.

The benefits of the Peace Corps go both ways. More than just providing foreign financial aid, the Peace Corps helps and instructs local populations to be healthier, more equitable and more sustainable. In turn, the volunteers that provide these services receive job and language skills in addition to an important cultural and learning experience.

President Trump cited balancing the national budget and emphasizing national security as reasons for the funding cuts. However, foreign aid funding currently takes up less than one percent of the national budget. This move is as unlikely to balance the budget as it is to strengthen national security. Goodwill missions like the Peace Corps improve U.S. relations with developing countries. And efforts that help stabilize these areas preempt extremism and other national security threats.

Assisting the Peace Corps is hardly most Americans’ top priority, but it is an effective government agency that benefits developing nations, young Americans and U.S. interests. Since the 2018 federal budget threatens the Peace Corps, U.S. citizens would do well to highlight the importance of the Peace Corps to their elected officials and urge them to secure Peace Corps funding in 2018.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr/span>

Peace Corps
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961. The group is a government program that Americans are encouraged to participate in if they are passionate about seeing a change in the world.

The Peace Corps’ “work at the forefront of change is turning the world’s challenges into shared triumphs.” Their mission is twofold: to make lasting relationships with countries abroad and to serve the international communities that need it the most.

This government agency would not be where it is today without its team of volunteers. Since the beginning, the Peace Corps received over 220,000 volunteers.

Serving as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, one embarks on a two-year journey to a foreign country in need of help. The program makes sure that each volunteer can contribute something special by utilizing his or her specific skills.

Not only do volunteers make a difference in the lives of the community members they are serving, but they also acquire self-knowledge and perspective that cannot be taught.

In the words of a Corps volunteer, “the cultural humility and wide-lens perspective I gained in Uganda will echo through everything I do in my own country.”

Each volunteer can recall different aspects of serving in the Peace Corps that were fundamental to forming their being: strength, dedication, hard work or communication.

With their team of dedicated volunteers, the Peace Corps has helped over 60 countries in many different fields. Examples include agriculture, the environment, economic development, health, education and youth development.

So, is the Peace Corps truly making a difference? Yes, on many levels. There are daily success stories, small and big, from volunteers and workers in the Peace Corps. Whether this is educating a mother about proper nutrition for her baby or eliminating malaria in African communities, each success is worthy of celebration.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Peace Corps
The Peace Corps, since its inception under President John F. Kennedy, has engaged young people in efforts to make the world a better place through international assistance. Now, a new wave of university Peace Corp partner programs is promoting academic access and opening the door for more young people to participate in poverty relief efforts.

Through the Peace Corps, college-aged volunteers are given the opportunity to live abroad in developing countries for two-year rotations. While deployed, they develop their skills with local languages and provide assistance to their host communities. While the aid they provide may take different forms, from education to health support, their goal is always to improve the living conditions of poverty-stricken people.

The history of cooperation between the Peace Corps and universities already spans decades. For 30 years, the Master’s International Program, an initiative of the Corps, offered students a chance to take part in 96 graduate programs across the country and finish their degrees while serving in the Peace Corps abroad. Though the program officially ended in 2016, the Peace Corps has created more university outreach programs.

Replacing the venerable Master’s International Program is another academic access opportunity, the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. Like its predecessor, the Coverdell Fellows Program will focus on graduate students, offering financial assistance to returning Peace Corps volunteers as they pursue degrees focused on providing assistance to struggling communities.

Graduate students in the program are required to embark on internships focused on using their Corps experience to help underserved American communities. To date, the program has already given over 5,000 returning Corps volunteers financial assistance while they serve their communities.

More exciting developments in the Peace Corps’ battery of university partner programs are initiatives focused on undergraduate students. Started in 2007, the Peace Corps Prep Program provides university students with the skills they need to obtain Peace Corps positions and make the most of their volunteer opportunities if they are able to serve overseas.

Training is focused on four areas in a certificate program: sector-specific skills, foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence and professional savvy and leadership. Students enrolled in Peace Corps Prep also receive assistance applying for Peace Corps roles.

Finally, the Campus Ambassador Program allows students to help Corps recruiters raise awareness about poverty around the world and efforts to provide relief. Students working as campus ambassadors gain valuable community engagement experience while helping the Corps educate others about volunteer opportunities around the world.

These partnerships between the Peace Corps and universities are examples of smart, forward-thinking policy. Globally-focused academic access programs in the U.S. are essential to tackling the problem of poverty abroad. Investing in education now can help produce the next generation of leaders focused on world poverty reduction.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

Moringa oleifera, the moringa tree, has been aptly nicknamed the miracle tree for its nutritional value and medical qualities. The moringa tree is native to South Asia and is known for how quickly it grows.

Many parts of the tree are edible, making it a valuable source of food in impoverished, rural areas especially in times of drought because the tree is very hardy.

Nearly every part of the moringa tree can be used. Although the wood from the tree is not very high quality, the fruit, leaves and pods are all edible.

The moringa tree leaves have a very high level of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C as well as vitamin A. One cup of moringa leaves offers two grams of protein and more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of moringa pods offers 157 percent of the daily allowance for vitamin C.

The leaves have twice as much calcium and protein as whole milk when compared ounce for ounce. Considering approximately 670,000 children die from a vitamin A deficiency every year, the moringa’s nutrients are very valuable.

Moringa oil is extracted from the seed of the tree. This oil’s special quality is that it does not quickly go rancid. In impoverished areas where refrigeration is not an option, the oil can be a very good alternative to other vegetable oils.

One of the significant attributes of the moringa tree in light of global poverty is the purification quality of the seeds. There is a coagulant found in the crushed seed that can be used to reduce turbidity and alkalinity in water. There is also an antiseptic property withing the seed that helps purify it.

The nutrition within the tree makes the moringa a valuable asset in the alleviation of global hunger. The success of the moringa tree is evident as organizations have incorporated it into their programs for hunger alleviation. The Peace Corps in specific implements the use of the tree into the programs.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Epoch Times, Fox News, International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Kuli Kuli, SABC
Photo: Flickr

The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for people of all walks of life to give back to the world and help communities develop sustainably. Founded in 1961, the mission of the Peace Corps is “to promote peace and friendship” around the world.

The structure of the Peace Corps has evolved greatly to advance with the rise of globalization and the development of new strategies and technologies that address the challenges developing nations face. Peace Corps volunteers often have very rewarding and fulfilling experiences. Volunteers gain community level development experience and new perspectives of life.

Here are just five examples of the hundreds of unique Peace Corps volunteer positions available:

1. Teach English in Micronesia– Volunteers teach English literacy to children in elementary school who speak the languages of their local islands. They work with host teachers to motivate and teach the children. While living with a host family, a volunteer in this position will experience exciting local development work.

2. Work as a Community Health Outreach Volunteer in Mozambique– Volunteers work at the community level to address needs for HIV prevention and treatment, malaria prevention and community health facility support. Volunteers live in a home with other volunteers in a rural setting with a thatched or tin roof.

3. Help Manage Coastal Resources in the Philippines– Volunteers work with local fishing communities, the government and partner organizations to implement conservation and sustainable use for marine resources. The sites are often rural and local transport is primarily small boats and bikes.

4. Work with Youth in Morocco– Volunteers teach English and help youth gain leadership skills, environmental awareness and business skills. They work in youth centers and also partner with community programs that address health and education.

5. Assist in Agriculture Development in Paraguay– Responsibilities involve working with small farming families to help them optimize their resources to ensure food security and enhance quality of life. This is a specialized opportunity to utilize Spanish language skills and also learn Guarani in order to communicate in more remote areas.

While the two-year Peace Corps commitment may appear daunting to some, there is a reason why the application process is competitive and employers love to see Peace Corps service on resumes.

The experience provides meaningful, important service to people in developing countries, while helping you to gain valuable fieldwork experience and broaden your perspective on how people live around the world. Currently, the Peace Corps has 6,818 volunteers and trainees. You could soon be a part of this dedicated group.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Peace Corps, Youth Health
Photo: Flickr

Liberia has seen some tumultuous times in the past few decades. Civil war ravaged the country in the 1990s leaving many citizens in extreme poverty and disrupting educational opportunities for children. Recently, Liberia was hit with Ebola and has suffered from the disease, including the Peace Corps, who needed to suspend their work for a time.

Yet, much good ground work has been done by the Liberian Peace Corps team to help the country overcome the ramifications of such dire events while the country and volunteers wait for the program to resume. The Peace Corps is also partnering with other entities to help rid the country of Ebola.

The Peace Corp first worked in Liberia from 1962-1990 helping with education, rural development, agriculture and health education. But volunteers left the country in 1990 because of the civil war that had broken out. In 2009, Peace Corps volunteers were asked by the Liberian president to return to the country. This time, volunteers focused on educational efforts in the country, specifically math and science at the secondary level.

The Liberian Peace Corps Educational Program defined their purpose as the following: “Liberian students, male and female, will gain access to personal, professional and academic opportunities through math and science education.”

They gave three main educational goals for their work in Liberia: Increase Student Success, Improve Teaching and Improve the School Community. In addition, the volunteers gave after school activity opportunities to the secondary students that have been broken down into four broad priorities: “1. Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, 2. Youth as Resources, 3. Stomp Out Malaria [and] 4. Food Security.” By using these supplemental goals as a guide, volunteers conducted after school tutoring, encouraged library development, organized various after school clubs, taught English and gave girls a specific opportunity to learn various life, vocational and/or math skills.

Peace Corps volunteers immerse themselves into the community, most volunteers committing two years to the Peace Corps while developing relationships with the locals.

Unfortunately, Liberia is one of the West African countries that has been hit with Ebola quite extensively.

The World Bank says that while in the last 10 years Liberia has seen great economic gains, “the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has threatened the peace and stability of the country.” The country’s gross domestic product growth has declined due to the economic repression that the country has experienced: “The epidemic is projected to have a significant impact on Liberia’s economy in terms of forgone output; higher fiscal deficits; rising prices; food security challenges, lower real household incomes and greater poverty.”

Ebola has affected Liberia so drastically that the Peace Corps was forced to remove their volunteers in 2014. But that hasn’t stopped the Peace Corps form working in West Africa with the efforts to stop the spread of Ebola.

The Centers for Disease Control, USAID, NGO partners and many more are working to improve conditions in those countries. The Peace Corps has printed educational material that has been distributed to volunteers, staff and communities in other African areas working to stop the spread of the disease. Volunteers in surrounding areas are also providing hand washing classes to the locals in the efforts to stop Ebola.

Even though Ebola has forced the program to be put on pause, the last few years of educational work has been impressive indeed. So much good has been done in the region that one can hope that local leaders will be able to stand in those communities that are suffering from Ebola. Hopefully soon, the efforts to rid West Africa from Ebola will prove effective and the program can restart. With such a strong reputation of good work in the country, the resolve looks good.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: CDC, Peace Corps, Peace Corps Liberia, U.S. Embassy in Liberia, World Bank
Photo: Peace Corps

Peace Corps
Founded by President Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps has enabled thousands of Americans to serve abroad. If you’re thinking about a commitment to the Peace Corps, here are five reasons to sign up.

To Help Others

Peace Corps volunteers are driven by the need to serve others. They are typically placed abroad for commitments of 27 months, during which volunteers assist in local development projects.

These projects may deal with issues of food security, global health or gender equality. Volunteers partner with NGOs to ensure measurable results in the communities that they serve.

For example, one of the organization’s global health initiatives is the Stomping Out Malaria program. The initiative seeks to halt the spread of malaria through Africa. Volunteers partner with organizations like Malaria No More to support those who are endangered by the deadly but preventable disease.

To See the World

The mission of the organization is to promote world peace and friendship. Volunteers serve as citizen diplomats abroad and encourage international cooperation. For those who want to see the world, the organization offers a unique opportunity to live and work abroad.

Its volunteers spend several months overseas. Almost 150 countries have received volunteers to date and there are 64 countries that partner with the organization today.

Applicants can select up to three preferred locations and work sectors. It is also possible to select a “wherever I am needed” option that places volunteers in a location that would benefit the most from a Peace Corps placement.

After 27 months of service, volunteers are also given an $8,755 stipend (before taxes). This money can be used for travel once the period of service has ended.

To Grow as a Person

Volunteers gain many different skills during their time of service. This can be useful for both personal and career development.

The organization opens new doors to other cultures that would be difficult to experience otherwise. For example, the organization provides instruction in a wide variety of languages.

This is also a great way to build a career. Volunteers learn leadership and teamwork, which are invaluable in almost every professional setting. Employers value cultural awareness and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

For those looking to start a career in international development, the Peace Corps can be a great way to gain experience and make connections abroad.

To Help Defer Student Loans

Most Peace Corps volunteers are college graduates, which means a lot of volunteers will have some student loan debt. Those who serve in the Peace Corps are still solely responsible for these loans. However, they may qualify for a deferment on federal loans while serving in the Peace Corps.

Additionally, students with Perkins loans may qualify for a partial cancellation of these loans, depending on the length of their Peace Corps service as well as other considerations.

To Join a Growing Network of Returned Volunteers

The benefits of joining the Peace Corps don’t end after 27 months. Returning volunteers join a network of over 200,000 people who have completed their service.

This network can be used to keep in touch, meet other volunteers or assist with reintegration back home. Returned volunteers who are looking for a job will find the network helpful as well.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Peace Corps 1, Peace Corps 2, Humanitarian Jobs
Photo: MIIS Communications

peace corps
The Peace Corps has recently announced that, in order to increase its number of applicants, it will be making major changes to how the organization is run. Namely, the application process will be shorter and applicants will be given the ability to choose which country and program interests them.

Since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961 by President Kennedy, the organization has drawn more than 215,000 volunteers who have served in 139 impoverished countries. Volunteers stay in their assigned country for two years where they work in a number of fields including education, health services and agriculture. As the premier international service organization in the U.S., almost everyone has heard of the Peace Corps and many aspire to volunteer with it one day.

However, the positive image of the Peace Corps has been tarnished in recent years due to some volunteers’ bad experiences, which have been shared online and seen by many.

The number of applicants, which peaked in 2009, has fallen by more than a third since. Previously, applications were 60 pages long and took more than eight hours to complete. After submitting an application, one might not hear back about an acceptance for more than a year. The new application supposedly takes less than one hour to complete and the organization is promising to reduce wait times to no more than six months.

Additionally, applicants did not have the liberty to choose which country in which they wanted to serve. Countries and programs were assigned by the Peace Corps, sending people wherever they were needed most. The new model allows applicants to list countries and programs in order of preference. While this could lead to fewer volunteers in more dangerous countries, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet says she is not worried about this, as many of the people who are drawn to the two-year long volunteer lifestyle are also intrigued by the more difficult areas and programs.

Unfortunately, the problems within the Peace Corps go deeper than the application process. Sixty-four percent of volunteers are women and in the past decade more than 1,000 of them have been raped or sexually assaulted while serving. Victims say that the Peace Corps did little to nothing to educate volunteers on self-defense, relocate volunteers who felt in danger or help victims after an attack. Many victims claim the Peace Corps blamed them for the assault and made attempts to cover up the incident.

While most volunteers have a positive experience serving for the Peace Corps, there is still a question of how safe the program actually is and what the organization can do to improve this. Women who have been raped or sexually assaulted say that the Peace Corps needs to address the issue and do all they can to help the women receive treatment for any physical and emotional damage. Hessler-Radelet, who is relatively new to her position as director, has agreed that the Peace Corps has a commitment to its volunteers and should be helping them.

Taylor Lovett

Sources: NPR, Peace Corps, ABC News
Photo: Peace Corps