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Child Poverty in FijiFiji is an archipelago or chain of islands. Many tourists worldwide know its remote beaches as a tropical paradise. While Fiji’s geography makes it a popular vacation spot for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Tony Hawk, its geography has adverse effects on the children living there. However, organizations are taking steps to combat child poverty in Fiji.

Child Poverty in Fiji

Child poverty in Fiji is widespread throughout its rural areas. The United Nations released a report that displays rural child poverty rates at 40.92%, almost double urban rates of 22.22%. The extent of the discrepancy between those living in rural and urban areas is clear. There is a similar difference in the ages of those experiencing poverty in Fiji. The United Nations report highlights that 32.1% of children younger than the age of 14 experience poverty.

Poverty in Fiji has an unparalleled effect on young children in rural areas. This has led to a stunting rate tallied at 7.5% among infants and young children in 2004. Infants and young children are not the only ones affected by malnourishment as 22% of adolescents in Fiji were underweight as of 2005.

The Effects of Geography on Child Poverty in Fiji

In Fiji, there is a clear connection between poverty, geography and education. Fiji’s remote location impacts the price of uniforms, books and transportation. Although education is free up to the second level, the secondary costs of education present additional barriers for children living in poverty.

Even if rural Fijian families scrape together money for their children’s education, underdeveloped road and sea transportation prevent easy accessibility. Children often have to travel through three or more towns on foot to reach the nearest school.

Furthermore, children do not receive consistent protection against violations and abuse. Many children work as domestic servants and face domestic or sexual violence. Authorities underreport these conditions, and oftentimes, local authorities dismiss the crimes with little supervision from the country’s federal policing system.

Solutions to Child Poverty in Fiji

Many efforts are in place to help combat child poverty in Fiji. Several Fijian children in poverty reside in rural areas where the lack of access to quality education perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Understanding this issue, the Australian High Commissioner administered the Australian Direct Aid Program. The program seeks to help improve educational opportunities for these children. This project gifts items like new furniture, library books, water tanks and dormitory renovations that provide better education resources to students in rural Fiji.

Similarly, help from volunteer groups such as the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and student initiatives, such as Rustic Pathways, greatly impacts these Fijian communities. For example, the Peace Corps states that close to 90% of the communities improved in livelihood security and sanitation.

Another significant step in combating child poverty in Fiji occurred when Fiji joined the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership. The partnership made access to clean water a constitutional right. This led to 70.1% of Fijian households having access to clean water. Increased access to clean water means children can go to school and receive an education instead of spending time collecting water for the home.

Moreover, the World Bank has approved the Fiji Transport Infrastructure Investment Project. It awarded the Fijian government $50 million to make improvements to land and sea infrastructure. The expected outcome is easier and safer travel, which in turn, allows children facing poverty in rural areas of Fiji better access to education.

The Future of Poverty in Fiji

Fiji’s geography negatively influences impoverished children within its borders. Through improvements to the education system, increased sanitation, access to clean water and better infrastructure, children facing poverty in Fiji have a greater opportunity to attend and complete school. Through education, children are able to break cycles of poverty.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Bamboo in MalawiIn Malawi, 90% of Malawians do not have access to electricity or other forms of energy. Lack of access to energy sources forces Malawians to rely on firewood. As deforestation has become widespread, rural Malawians needed a new and improved source of fuel. The bamboo initiative implemented by Afribam, USAID and the Peace Corps provides a solution. Bamboo in Malawi provides an alternative fuel source to help millions get access to energy.

Bamboo as an Alternative

Bamboo in Malawi is a beneficial and valuable fuel source. Malawians use bamboo, a wood-like plant, for many activities such as cooking, building furniture and housing materials. Malawians, especially in rural areas, rely on bamboo because of deforestation, making it difficult for rural Malawians to access firewood. Locals must travel a great distance to reach forests that are still intact. Additionally, buying firewood can be costly.

Deforestation: Causes and Effects

Lack of access to electricity leads to overconsumption of firewood. Because of the reliance on firewood, deforestation is widespread throughout Malawi. Forests take years to replenish, meaning the consumption of wood is greater than the rate at which trees can grow back. Furthermore, the lack of access to electricity leads to an overconsumption of firewood, which leads to deforestation. Deforestation creates negative effects throughout Malawi. The effects of deforestation in Malawi include:

  • Increased soil erosion
  • Excess flooding
  • More droughts than normal
  • Decreased crop productivity
  • Lack of fuel access for rural Malawians
  • Malawians are forced to travel further to obtain firewood

Deforestation can cause many complications. It is important to ease the consumption of fuelwood and allow Malawi’s forests to regenerate to prevent harmful effects. Bamboo in Malawi provides an alternative fuel source that can counter the effects of deforestation and help alleviate poverty.

The Power of Collaboration

To solve fuel problems in Malawi, USAID’s Feed the Future Malawi Agriculture Diversification Activity program began a collaboration in February 2019 with AfriBam and the Peace Corps Volunteers to implement bamboo as a fuel alternative. AfriBam is a Malawian company that specializes in bamboo and bamboo-related technology in Africa.

Together, USAID, AfriBam and the Peace Corps distributed Dendrocalamus asper, a non-invasive species of bamboo, throughout Malawi to counteract the effects of deforestation and provide Malawians with adequate fuel. The reason Dendrocalamus asper is special is that this type of bamboo only takes five to seven years to mature, and it can be harvested after just three years. This means that the bamboo will be able to replenish itself well enough to provide an ongoing fuel supply, eliminating the fear of overconsumption. Throughout 2019, the collaboration reached 1,750 rural Malawian households and distributed more than 180,000 bamboo seedlings.

The Peace Corps revealed that its goal is for Malawians to use the bamboo, in the short term, as a source of cooking fuel, which will ease the pressure on forests so that the forests can recover. USAID believes that this species of bamboo will be more successful than some other fuel projects implemented in Malawi. Previously, rural Malawians received cookstoves that used firewood as fuel, but because of deforestation, the implementation of cookstoves was not successful. USAID is confident that by 2025 the species of bamboo will account for 20% of fuelwood for all of Malawi.

Looking Forward

The new species of bamboo in Malawi will bring a unique type of fuel to rural Malawians. This development is advantageous because deforestation of firewood led to several unforeseen complications. With the help of AfriBam, USAID and the Peace Corp Volunteers’ collaboration, bamboo will help poverty reduction in Malawi by providing Malawians with a reliable fuel source.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Today, 40 percent of its households lack basic education, heat and sanitation, and only 50 percent in both rural and urban areas have access to safe drinking water. Albania is located in southeastern Europe with neighboring countries Montenegro, Kosovo and Greece. The population estimates just over 3 million people. Albania became free from communist rule and later established a multiparty democracy holding its first multiparty election in 1991. Albania joined NATO in 2009 and became a candidate to join the European Union in 2014. In 2017, Albania received a European Commission recommendation to open EU accession negotiations. The unemployment rate has steadily decreased from 13.6 percent in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019. To learn more about its sanitation issues, here are 10 facts about sanitation in Albania.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Albania

  1. Basic sanitation services are increasing. People living in the rural section of Albania are using basic sanitation services, which is nearly a 15 percent increase from its lowest value of 82.19 percent in 2000. That means these people are using basic services that other households do not share.
  2. Sanitation conditions have grabbed the EU’s Attention. Since achieving the candidacy of the EU in 2014, Albania has made a commitment to bring its water and sanitation sector up to EU standards. The Albanian government has implemented numerous reforms, already reducing municipalities and local authorities from 300 to 61. The government is also progressively decentralizing public services, which means more decision-making responsibilities have gone to local governments and public authorities.
  3. National service providers are improving commercial and technical expertise. Albania’s water sector institutions are in cooperation with the National Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy. This partnership gives the project an outreach that extends to all cities to help communication flow between water users and the public with the institution using an online customer portal for service providers.
  4. Albania has resources for fresh water. Albania is a small country with over 150 rivers, including streams and lakes. Ninety-five percent discharge into the Adriatic Sea and only 5 percent of rivers go into the Ionian Sea. There are two periods of water flow during a calendar year. The shorter dry period runs from June through September. The wet period spans from October through May.
  5. The European Union supports clean water supply in Albania. In 2018, the EU contributed a 24 million euro grant to Albania. In the last 10 years, the grant support to its water supply exceeded 110 million euros. A large percentage of the grant goes to wastewater collections and treatment in Albania coastal regions.
  6. Albanian schools are promoting personal hygiene. A health fair occurred as part of the Vechan School Water Project and it included local nurses, students, the Red Cross and the local State Health Department. The project resulted in renovating and reconstructing bathrooms and plumbing to improve the conditions of the school due to damages from clogged toilets and sinks without running water or sinks running dirty water. The health fair gave lessons in personal hygiene to young students. It also tested students for diabetes and gave blood pressure checks. Following the fair, local experts, students and school staff took on the assistance in reconstructing the school.
  7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students provide data to remedy water issues in Albania. Each year, 24 WPI students go to Albania to work in four-person groups on six projects to address topics that include the water issues and how to solve them. These projects include documenting environmental conditions along major rivers, developing a water education program for Albanian high schools and promoting community-based tourism in villages that have previously inaccessible caves.
  8. The Albanian Water Regulatory Authority and Consumer Protection Commission developed a partnership to alleviate water and sanitation issues. The Water Regulatory Authority and Consumer Protection Commission have created a model contract between providers of water and sewerage services and their customers. The intent of the contract is to protect consumers’ interests with provisions for consumer protection and Albania’s water and environmental resources. This addresses issues concerning the access and quality of water and sanitation. This also educates both parties on ways to improve the quality of water and sanitation services.
  9. The Western Balkan Investment Framework (WBIF) supports water supply and sanitation services among other needs for Albania. The WBIF has supported 30 projects that value up to 2 billion euros which provide better schools, energy sources, modern sanitation services and supply water for its sectors eligible for rebuilding and renovation. The achieved results include wastewater systems for over 260,000 people with expectations to exceed another 100,000, in addition to improved waste services to 180,000.
  10. Water Charity contributes to rebuilding sanitation efforts in Albania. Water Charity has started a program to work on 100 water projects in Albania, including 10 school bathroom projects. The program falls under the Let Girls Learn Initiative. It is a collaborative effort from former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps, which expands access to education for girls around the world.

Efforts from organizations in these 10 facts about sanitation in Albania have been exemplary for aiding Albania’s sanitation efforts overall. Thanks to multiple team efforts, Albania is optimistic about its conditions and overall health concerns. With more work ahead, this country is on its way to reaching EU potential.

Thomas Cintula
Photo: UN Multimedia

Poverty in Fiji
Despite significant progress, poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem. In 2013, almost 300,000 Fijians or 34 percent of its population lived below the national poverty line. Interestingly, of middle-income nations, Fiji’s national poverty rate trends high whereas its extreme poverty rate—which is 1.4 percent—is comparatively lower. Still, there is cautious optimism when considering the future of poverty in Fiji. After all, as a result of wide-scale efforts by both the government and various organizations, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent in the early 2000s. In 2020, these groups continue to work towards a poverty-free future in Fiji.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Fiji

  1. Caritas Australia: An originally Catholic organization that works across the Pacific, Caritas runs a variety of programs targeting the effects of poverty in Fiji. An example of one of its projects is the Tutu Rural Training Centre, where farmers learn a multitude of skills through a four-year course relating to agriculture technology. When Cyclone Evan hit in 2012—which caused $312 million of damage and killed 14 people—the center also provided plants for people to start regrowing their farms. Another program is the People’s Community Network, which works to improve the lives of squatters throughout Fiji and promote self-sufficiency. Thus far, the project has helped 500 families secure land.

  2. The World Bank: The World Bank has perhaps acted as the primary player in alleviating poverty in Fiji. The organization has provided loans to the Fijian government since the 1970s for more than 13 large-scale projects on issues such as improving transportation infrastructure and natural disaster relief. In 2019, the World Bank announced it would start loaning over $21 million annually for such projects with 0 percent interest. This money has ultimately been invaluable in helping Fiji become a more technologically advanced country and providing critical economic opportunities to Fijian people.

  3. Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS): The umbrella body of almost 500 grassroots organizations across Fiji, FCOSS has worked throughout the country connecting different groups and their projects together while coordinating with the government to ensure maximum productivity. Some of the programs that the organization embarked on to fight poverty include the Rural Women Initiative for Development & Education, which helps women obtain economic freedom, and HelpAge, which provides services to elderly individuals who the state often ignores.

  4. Peace Corps: The Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization run through the U.S. government, has worked in impoverished communities in Fiji since 1968, sending over 2,529 volunteers. These volunteers have worked on a variety of projects throughout this tenure, working primarily on conservation and resource management, teaching sanitation and safe water practices, and helping communities with economic development. These projects have proved invaluable in these poor communities. For example, in 2010, the Peace Corps conducted a large scale study and found that 87 percent of host communities saw improvement in their sanitation practices and 90 percent reported better environmental and livelihood security. Furthermore, when teaching business practices, 80 percent learned habits that helped them in their everyday lives. Clearly, the Peace Corps is providing crucial assistance in poor communities in Fiji.

  5. Habitat for Humanity Fiji: Another international organization fighting poverty in Fiji is Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes in Fiji where almost 140,000 people lived in poor housing conditions. Habitat for Humanity has served a large number of homes. The organization is evidently mitigating the effects of poverty in Fiji, although Fiji requires more work.

Clearly, while poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem, there are a variety of organizations leading the fight against it. With these organizations’ continued aid, poverty in Fiji will hopefully become a part of the past.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About JFKIt has been over 50 years since the tragic day of former president John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Regarded as one of the greatest and most influential presidents of the United States, JFK led an astounding life. He was successful both socially and politically. He has done much for the country and most of his policies are still implemented in modern U.S. society. These are the top 10 facts about JFK.

Top 10 Facts About JFK

  1. Before his time as president, John F. Kennedy served in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant and commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. He eventually received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his astounding service during WWII.
  2. JFK served in the House of Representatives shortly after his service in the Navy for six years and would be elected to be a part of the U.S. Senate in 1952 for the state of Massachusetts.
  3. JFK was a strong advocate for foreign policy during his time in the House of Representatives, supporting the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. He also supported various other Cold War policies. This further shaped his political career, both as he ran for the presidency and during his time as president.
  4. As a senator, JFK approved President Eisenhower’s reciprocal-trade powers which give the president the power to have reciprocal trade agreements with foreign countries. He had also supported the St. Lawrence Seaway which would allow for more trade routes between Canada and the United States.
  5. JFK wrote the book Profiles in Courage (1956). It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957, demonstrating his talent as an author.
  6. He also founded the Peace Corps in 1961, which is an agency providing social and economic assistance to countries in need. This agency is a volunteer-based program.
  7. JFK suffered from Addison disease, in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient hormones for the human body causing fatigue, darkening of skin and dizziness.
  8. JFK strongly advocated for foreign aid to nations in Africa and Asia while in the Senate during the 1950s.
  9. In 1961, Kennedy visited West Berlin to protest with citizens again Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to sign a peace treaty with East Germany, which would threaten U.S. relations with Berlin during the Cold War.
  10. JFK established the Alliance for Progress in 1961, which sought to establish economic cooperation and improve social relations between Latin America and the U.S.

These are the top 10 facts about JFK. From his service during WWII to his service as president, he has greatly impacted this world, socially and politically.

Elijah Jackson
Photo: Mary Ferrell Foundation

global education solutionsEducation is a paramount issue worldwide. Many don’t realize the number of people that aren’t capable of obtaining an educational experience, and the widespread need for global education solutions.

Key Facts to Know About Education

  • About 59 million children of primary school age are currently being denied an education.
  • Almost 15 million girls in primary school will never have the opportunity of learning to read and write.
  • It would take $39 billion annually, in order for all adolescents to attend school.
  • In a third of countries analyzed in UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, there are less than three-quarters of teachers trained to national standards — which has led to 130 million students in school who aren’t learning the basics.

Children fortunate enough to go to school don’t always realize how many people wish they had the same opportunity. Access to quality schooling is a current problem for children residing in multiple countries. In Africa, specifically, all children don’t have the opportunity to attend school due to wars, weather conditions, lack of secure environments, etc. These setbacks can breed an impoverished environment, which makes children have to sacrifice their right to an education for survival.

Many schools around the world are unsatisfactory due to unsanitary environments, the lack of classroom management and the inability for students to stay engaged. The capability to read, write and communicate is so vital, especially for very young children. These skills tend to be exciting for primary school students because they are more receptive to learn at this age.

Benefits of Education

Education is a vital tool that entails obtaining knowledge through experiences, specific subject matter and relative immersion. Looking at global education solutions, everyone’s learning experience is different. Some people may be homeschooled, while others may attend public or private school.

Education has always proven to be a beneficiary for those who were fortunate enough to attend school. Language development, reading, writing, and numeration are some of the basic skills of literacy. While these may seem like small elements, they contribute to a bigger picture. Education helps reduce poverty, increase income, stress the importance of good health/hygiene, boost the economic growth, prevent disaster-related deaths, promote gender equality, combat HIV/AIDS, etc. The list is infinite and has significant global impacts.

The longer one attends school, the more knowledge one will obtain. Missing an education, especially a high school diploma, can hold one back from acquiring a job in some countries. People tend to equate education with money, and to an extent, this is often a reliable mindset to have. Without an education or some form of trade experience, it is very hard to find a job that pays enough for life’s essentials — food, water and shelter. If one lacks an education and/or these basic necessities, it can make it extremely difficult to take care of oneself and family and can lead to poverty.

What Is The Solution?

Among the multitude of things that can be done to improve school systems, change begins through a society’s attitude about the value of education. This impacts how independent nations collaborate to aid those who lack strong educational systems. Next, a nationwide level of respect has to find its way into the classroom. Teachers absolutely have to be trained and certified to properly educate the youth in every subject.

According to the Learning for All Symposium arranged by the World Bank (2014), some countries will not meet their primary school teacher requirements by 2030. Filling in teacher gaps is a challenge that can make a tremendous difference to global education. School districts have to start by hiring the best candidates for teaching positions.

Funding is the most imperative matter as far as global education solutions go. Money is necessary to maintain schools and the instructional materials needed for students. Organizations such as the Global Education Fund, Global Partnership for Education and the International Education Funders Group (IEFG) provide and receive donations for school systems worldwide.

Organizations Contributing To Global Solutions

Statistically, girls are more likely to be married before the age of 18 than they are to be enrolled in secondary school in 26 countries across the globe.

Spreading awareness and the importance of getting an education is another major factor to global education solutions. Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, began a foundation in March of 2015, called Let Girls Learn. This organization brought together the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United States Department of Labor, United States Department of Agriculture and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), as well as the United States President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS.

Recognizing the many issues that adolescent girls face when trying to pursue an education, this organization is invested in expanding educational opportunities. The agencies paired with Let Girls Learn are contributing to the cause by providing safe access to schools, helping rebuild education systems, creating alternative learning programs, improving the policy and access of schools and providing nutritious meals. Parallel to Let Girls Learn, there is a plethora of organizations with the same mission — help improve the education for the youth.

Save the Children

Save The Children is another foundation that assists children around the world by ensuring a healthy start to life, and presenting an equal opportunity for education. This organization trains teachers to engage with students through effective teaching practices and introduces children to the power of artistic expression — drawing, painting, dancing, music, etc. They fulfill their goal by implementing a strong foundation for learning, even during a crisis.

As of 2018, Save The Children has provided 13.8 million children the opportunity for an education. This organization accomplishes such an amazing feat through childhood development programs that help children survive physically and emotionally; financial services that provide and educate children on money and savings in order to break the cycle of poverty; and even youth employment.

Global Education is something that can’t be entirely solved until everyone does their part to help out. Governments, school systems and parents need to work in tandem to help children receive the learning experiences they deserve.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Google

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

Let_Girls_Learn_InitiativeMichelle Obama is making strides with her Let Girls Learn initiative.

Let Girls Learn was launched by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in March of 2015. Its goal is to unite existing agencies with programs to further global education for girls and to bring focus to the issue.

Organizations involved include the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the Peace Corps.

On March 16, Mrs. Obama published a letter about the importance of girls’ education to her, personally. The letter was published with Lenny Letter. Lenny Letter is a “feminist arts newsletter” founded by Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO TV series “Girls,” and her writing partner, Jenni Conner.

Mrs. Obama’s letter is the latest in a series of feminist contributions from well-known personalities such as Jennifer Lawrence.

In her letter, Mrs. Obama describes how her world travels as First Lady of the United States have put a personal face on the issue of education for girls. Obama’s conversations with young women around the world showed her that, despite the many roadblocks they faced (such as being required to help their parents and siblings or to marry and start families of their own at very young ages) they were hopeful about the possibilities education could provide them.

Obama says she feels a kinship with these young women.

“I see myself in these girls—in their ambition and their determination to rise above their circumstances,” said Mrs. Obama.

Also on March 16, Mrs. Obama gave a keynote address at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. She spoke of her work with Let Girls Learn and also presented a song written for the initiative. Artists like Missy Elliot, Kelly Clarkson and Janelle Monae, among others, came together to perform the song, written by Diane Warren.

According to CNN, the proceeds from iTunes sales of the song, “This is for My Girls,” will go to the Peace Corps for the work they do for the Let Girls Learn initiative.

Ms. Obama also kicked off a pledge drive for people to show their support for educating girls around the globe.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr