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Insights From A Peace Corps Volunteer

2011 November 21

By Sandra O’Neill

It’s March 16, 2006. I’m in the back of a pick-up truck riding down a slick mixture of mud and clay. The truck’s wheels search for traction in places where the road has split into child-sized crevasses. It’s the rainy season in Madagascar, and water has transformed a savannah into a veritable rainforest in the span of one week. This is the road to the village where I will live for two years and it is in very poor condition. But for me, this is the first day of life in a village that promises work in environmental education. I’ve never seen the village before and my Malagasy language competence is equivalent to that of a 3 year old child. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.

When I reach the center of my village, I am overwhelmed. The house I will live in is comprised of a styrofoam-like material that neither block views of my neighbors from me or views of me from my neighbors. Nailed tin sheets serve as a roof for my hut and I learn that my water supply for washing dishes, cooking, and cleaning are in a neighbor’s salt-water well. And yet, I am better positioned in this village than the majority of its population.

Over 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) have served in countries like Madagascar since 1961. PCVs spend 27 months working with host country nationals on a wide array of issues relating to health, income generation, and the environment. Peace Corps provides an engaging atmosphere where volunteers are challenged to address serious issues in non-conventional contexts. During their two years abroad, PCVs learn to value American government agencies that take their mission’s seriously; they especially learn to value the environmental benefits the EPA provides in a very personal and direct way (appreciation for limits on vehicle emissions goes through the roof!)

This year, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) at EPA are organizing to celebrate the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary with a special celebration on November 29, 2011. We welcome you to join our celebration! RPCVs will share unique insights on global issues based on their Peace Corps experience and be available to discuss how their on-the-ground experiences have informed their careers at the EPA. For me, coordinating environmental projects in Madagascar helped me to realize that I wanted to work to protect human health and the environment. Five years later, I’m working at the EPA.

About the author: Sandra O’Neill joined the EPA in 2009 and works in the Office of Environmental Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia and and enjoys promoting the combined mission statements of both the Peace Corps and the EPA: world peace, friendship, and protection of human health and the environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Alan Stephens Falletta permalink
    November 21, 2011

    Dear Sandra,
    Thank You and all of Our PCV’s for all that You do and have done! In these modern times, we, as members of society must work together to prioritize human needs globally. We all could accomplish so much more in every thing from construction of transportation infrastuctures in Madagascar and Afganistan allowing agriculture and aquaculture to meet with major concentrations of population to medical treatment and medicine to do the same. Our efforts to work together to help all of humankind be able to meet, at least, their basic human needs for survival. To be able to take the funding and resources used for international security and divert them to these efforts would be so much more effective.
    Thank You!
    Sincerely,
    Alan Falletta

  2. Replica watches permalink
    November 21, 2011

    Sometimes I greatly amazed when I watched weather forecast in TV about it in U.S. In fact, Extreme heat events kills more people than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. However, the people be able to take it there. God seem to examine the people and how their reactions about that. And you are strongest be up against all disasters. Congratulations…..!

  3. Vinod from www.atlascorps.org permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Great blog..

  4. HVAC Training permalink
    November 22, 2011

    I visited Maputo once but never to Madagascar. The infrastructure there isn’t what we have in the U.S., not even close. Still you must have had an interesting experience working there, thanks for your service with the Peace Corps.

  5. UK SEO Agency permalink
    November 23, 2011

    It’s a great blog…
    ________
    Roland

  6. Sandra O'Neill permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Thanks for your comment Alan, I think the Peace Corps provides a very direct way for Americans to address these basic human needs, appreciate your support!

  7. Sandra O'Neill permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Thanks Vinod!

  8. Sandra O'Neill permalink
    November 23, 2011

    That’s very true, travelling in Madagascar can be quite challenging. Thanks for your comment HVAC Training!

  9. Sandra O'Neill permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Thanks Roland!

  10. Michael G permalink
    November 24, 2011

    Hello,

    Great work! I sponsored this week someone for a project in Thailand its called bring the elephant back.

  11. Amanda Jane permalink
    December 4, 2011

    Sometimes I greatly amazed when I watched weather forecast in TV about it in U.S. In fact, Extreme heat events kills more people than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. However, the people be able to take it there. God seem to examine the people and how their reactions about that. And you are strongest be up against all disasters. Congratulations…..! :-)

  12. Joel Klinker permalink
    December 13, 2011

    This is interesting, I’d be curious to see the social and psychological effects on communities as a result of the projects that you engage in while in these environments. My Captain in Officer Candidate School told me about a well that they put into a village in Afghanistan that kept mysteriously breaking, when they investigated in thoroughly they found that the women of the village were breaking the well in order to preserve their 2 mile commute to the next village’s well because walking allowed them to get out of their homes and take a break from what many in our Country would consider a domesticated existence. Counterinsurgency is a real interest of mine, especially how to help communities in the international arena rather than simply boil the concept of war down to a body count. Sounds like you had a bit of a culture shock just driving down the road to your assignment, hahaha. Cool though. My wife’s family is from the Dominican Republic, it gets like that down there too.

  13. seo agency permalink
    February 4, 2013

    Nice blog.thanks for share such a nice blog, I like it.Keep up the excellent work!

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